The Zumtobel Group Award is an important accolade for the leaders of sustainable architecture. It divides into two sectors: “Built Environment” and “Research and Initiative”, and this year attracted 40 entries from all over the world. The basic requirement for the award is that technical and technological contributions must foster a humanistic side to architecture, as being an essential component of sustainability.
The Bregenz Kunsthaus, designed by Peter Zumthor, was the venue for prize-giving 2007. The jury was an international one including Stefan Behnisch as president, Kazuyo Sejima, Enrique Norten, Peter Head, together with philosopher Peter Sloterdijk (Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe), Anna Tibaijuka (director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme UN-Habitat) and Andreas Ludwig for Zumtobel.
In the “Built Environment” sector the winner was Thom Mayne, Pritzker prize-winner for 2005, with the dynamic group of Morphosis (Los Angeles) and their San Francisco Federal Building. “Research and Initiative” was won by Jörg Schlaich and Rudolf Bergermann (Stuttgart), for their Solar Updraft Tower.
The recently completed Federal Building is a lofty multi-purpose construction in the dense urban context of San Francisco. The project combines sustainable avant-garde technology and a search for aesthetic quality, within a “compact” urban environment. The jury proved particularly sensitive to sustainable architecture in cities, owing to the seemingly unstoppable process of urbanisation. Cities absorb 70% of global energy and produce 70% of the waste. It becomes imperative to improve conditions in urban environments by sustainable architecture, above all in countries with high energy consumption and high pollution rates. Thom Mayne’s Federal Building employs technological roofing and cladding, appropriately high ceilings, system to control environmental conditions and optimise micro-climate conditions indoors: sunlight and natural ventilation are harnessed to contain energy consumption to 33% of normal buildings. The Federal Building shows “humanistic” architecture through the variety and quality of its spatial layout enhancing the workplace and quality of life.
Awarding Jörg Schlaich and Rudolf Bergermann, with their Solar Updraft Tower, Stefan Behnisch remarked that the project “uses simple but efficient and sustainable means of producing energy, a tower that may also be built in technologically less developed countries”.
The Solar Updraft Tower is based on common technologies of glass and concrete which most countries are competent to handle, without recourse to high-tech plant. The technical solution in the Solar Updraft Tower is to draw on local materials and potential to transform solar into electric energy.
Were it adopted on a widespread scale, it might reduce pollutant emissions in continents with major desert areas; it could help desalination, producing pure water and conditions for growing food beneath the perimeter of the glass roof, and create the basis for ‘quality’ living in areas undergoing climate change.