The prestigious Alvar Aalto Medal program has announced Chinese architect Zhang Ke as laureate of its 2017 prize. Established in 1967 and presented by the Alvar Aalto Foundation, the Museum of Finnish Architecture, the Architectural Society, the Finnish Association of Architects SAFA, and the City of Helsinki, this is the 13th time the Medal has been awarded.
Born in 1970, Zhang Ke is a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and established his practice ZAO/standardarchitecture in Beijing in 2001. His work has been winning and nominated for numerous architecture prizes (recently on Bustler: a 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture for Hutong Children’s Library and Art Center in Beijing) and exhibited at the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the MAK Museum Vienna, and the Aedes Architecture Forum in Berlin.
The jury, chaired by Japanese-born architect Toshiko Mori, emphasized its focus on up-and-coming young architects for the Alvar Aalto Medal's 50th anniversary year and expressed four criteria: creativity in the architecture, sustainable development in its execution, excellence of design and the ability to place the architecture in a frame of reference that honors Aalto’s legacy.
The jury also comprised Tina Saaby (City Architect of Copenhagen; chair of the Royal Danish Academy of Arts advisory board), Asmo Jaaksi (co-founder of JKMM Architects), and Vesa Oiva (co-founder of Anttinen Oiva Arkkitehdit Oy).
The jury had this to say about Ke's work:
"In his work, Ke prefers to use local building materials and techniques, while he favours recycling over demolishing. [...] Ke’s work uses historic references to serve the preservation of traditions. By combining landscape elements in his work, Ke is able to subtly fit his architecture into the surrounding terrain, creating harmonious relationships between landscape and architecture. His vision of architecture is motivated by the satisfaction the user experiences and the sense of architecture at a human scale."
"His architectural language is contemporary yet quiet and considerate of its environment. The jury also wishes to emphasise that in a time of worldwide political unrest, the medal’s jubilee year should be dedicated to humanism in architecture. The legacy of architecture is to serve the reinforcement of communal values. Aalto’s timeless idea of architecture as a unifying force in society remains worthy of attention, particularly in the present day."
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