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RIBA names eight new International Fellows


10 February 2011

Press office contact:

Beatrice Cooke
T: +44 (0)207 307 3813
E: beatrice.cooke@riba.org

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) will tomorrow [Thursday 11 February] present eight new International Fellowships of the RIBA. RIBA International Fellowships reward the particular contributions non-UK architects have made to architecture. The lifetime honour allows individual recipients to use the initials Int FRIBA after their name.

The 2011 RIBA International Fellowships will be presented by RIBA President Ruth Reed at a ceremony at the RIBA in London.

The RIBA’s 2011 International Fellowships will be awarded to:
• Abdel Wahed El-Wakil (Egypt)
• MVRDV (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs & Nathalie de Vries - The Netherlands)
• Snøhetta (Kjetil T Thorsen - Norway and Craig Dykers - USA)
• Ma Yansong, Mad Architects (China)
• Edouard François (France)

Speaking today, RIBA President Ruth Reed said:

‘The RIBA is delighted to honour these individuals who have each made a significant contribution to the world of architecture. They come from six different countries: Egypt, The Netherlands, Norway, USA, China and France but their work is internationally inspirational and influential. The RIBA’s eight new International Fellows join an impressive and growing list of the best non-UK architects.’

This year’s RIBA Honours Committee was chaired by RIBA President, Ruth Reed with architects Edward Cullinan, Eva Jiricna and Chris Wilkinson, engineer Max Fordham and client Laura Lee.

Notes to editors

1. For further press information contact Beatrice Cooke in the RIBA Press Office on 020 7307 3813 or email beatrice.cooke@inst.riba.org.

2. The RIBA International Fellows honour was created in 2006. It replaced the RIBA Honorary Fellowship for non-UK architects whose outstanding work the RIBA wishes to mark. All existing non-UK architect Honorary Fellows were invited to become International Fellows. Odile Decq, Kazuyo Sejima, Herman Hertzberger, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Alvaro Siza, Kenzo Tange, Yoshio Taniguchi and Peter Zumthor, amongst many others, have all been previously awarded this honour.

3. The full RIBA International Fellowships citations follow:

Abdel Wahed El-Wakil
Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil’s work is an extension of the ideas of the father of modern Egyptian architecture Hassan Fahty. El-Wakil is widely thought to be the leading authority on Islamic Architecture
In El-Wakil’s work the Arabian ideas of brick domes and arches is extended to large buildings. The attraction of this form is that it generates buildings with a very robust separation of inside from outside that is necessary for sustainable buildings in extreme climates. For large spans domes and arches have to be tall so considerable temperature gradients can develop allowing hot air to collect above the occupied zone while cooler air pools at low level.

Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil graduated from Ain-Shams University in Cairo, where, from 1965 to 1970, he lectured in the Department of Architecture. He set up his own practice in 1971. He has built 15 mosques in Saudi Arabia and others in Bahrain, Brunei and Johannesburg, as well as private houses and commercial buildings across the world.

When he won the first Aga Khan Award in 1980 for his Agamy Beach House he generously shared the award with his mason Ala-el-Din Moustafa (who was one of the master masons who built Hassan Fathy’s village in Gourna). He won a second Aga Khan Award for the design of the Corniche Mosque in Jeddah in 1989.

El-Wakil has received many other awards for his contribution to traditional architecture and sustainable building technology in developing countries. He was one of the first architects to understand the issues of sustainability, particularly in hot climates. His other awards include: The King Fahd Award for Research in Islamic Architecture (1985), he is an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (1986); he was made a Professor by the International Academy of Architecture and the International Union of Architects (1988); he received the Prize for the Design of Contemporary Mosque Architecture at the International Congress for Mosque Architecture in Riyadh (1999); and he was awarded the Richard H Driehaus Prize for his contributions to classical architecture in 2009.

His latest building is in England: the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, a £75m student residence with teaching facilities which uses load-bearing brick with no steel or concrete in the structure. It blends the architecture of the Oxford college with that of the classical period of Islam: the quad with the Islamic garden, the bell tower with the mosque. It stands as a symbol of reconciliation between two religions and two ancient traditions of scholarship. The commission owes something to the fact that the Centre’s patron is HRH The Prince of Wales, who is an avowed admirer of El-Wakil’s work and who wrote in his book Visions of Britain that his house on the Greek island of Hydra epitomized the qualities of traditional architecture.

Edouard François

Edouard François was born in 1957 in Paris. He is one of the chief international protagonists of green architecture and his work focuses on matter, context, use, economy and ecology, following the preoccupations of sustainable development. His multi-national team of architects and urbanists also work on landscape design and graphic design projects from their studio in Montparnasse.

François is equally interested in the science of architecture and the art of architecture. He is a technologist and an artist who studied town planning at the prestigious Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, and architecture, landscape architecture and engineering at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris and the Architectural Association in London.

For him there are many elements to architecture: technical, economic and legal. Beyond the pragmatic he believes it is necessary for the architect to consider how both society and individuals work. But he also revels in complexity. ‘Man can live solely within architecture,’ he says, ‘he needs a complex building which must be decorated. Only in this way can he be happy.’

He became widely known for his Chateau de Lez in Montpellier (2000) - ‘the building that grows’. Its exterior walls feature rocks held in place by a stainless-steel net covered in plants and its seven staircases are clad with vegetal walls which are automatically irrigated. It was used by the Ministry of Culture in its campaign to promote quality in architecture. There followed his Tower Flower in Paris which overlooks a park and is completely veiled in white bamboo and typifies his decorative approach to architecture. The walls were poured randomly, one batch of concrete being grey, the next white, giving a hazy appearance to the building. The balustrades are decked with huge flower pots made of a lightweight concrete planted with bamboo.

In 2002 he collaborated with Luc Vincent to design a maze in a field of maize near Colmar in eastern France, which was later realized as the ‘moquette-maquette': a rug of the same design and colour.

In 2006 he tackled the problem of how to humanize car parking with a 1600 place underground car park in the Place des Ternes in Paris’s 17th arrondissement. Coloured light washes the floor to aid way-finding and glass sided stairwells help with issues of security. Characteristically ‘trees’ push up through all five floors, clad with jungle-like plants.

His work responds in a chameleon-like way to its surroundings, so that when he was asked to design an ecological 80 room hotel on the Champs Elysées in Paris, he responded to the lack of a natural context, producing a grey concrete replica like the ghost of the monumental façade of the nearby old Fouquet Hotel. He describes the resulting Hotel Fouquet’s Barrière (2006) as a ‘silent and free’ building.

His latest project is Edenbio, a Parisian housing block of 100 social apartments and ateliers for artists, with community rooms and a restaurant. The buildings are faced with a timber scaffold colonized by thousands of wisterias.

MVRDV – Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs & Nathalie de Vries

MVRDV stands for Maas, van Rijs and de Vries, the three Dutch architects who founded the Rotterdam-based practice in 1991. They are one of the group of Super-Dutch practices and they epitomise the changes in Dutch society in the 1990s. Their work explores the tensions between the interests of the buildings’ clients and their users, and the laws that govern the process. The resulting buildings - such as the early Wozoco housing in Amsterdam - are at once challenging, anarchic, pragmatic and humane. In the Dutch tradition of theoretical projects intended to challenge the politicians and stimulate debate are Metacity/Datatown which proposed a series of what-if? scenarios.

Early projects include offices for the Dutch broadcaster VPRO in Hilversum (1993–1997), Wozoco housing, Amsterdam (1994–1997) and the Dutch Pavilion at the Hannover World Exhibition Expo 2000 (1997–2000). Later work includes a business park 'Flight Forum' in Eindhoven, Gemini Residence in Copenhagen, the Silodam Housing complex in Amsterdam, the Matsudai Cultural Centre in Japan, the Unterföhring office campus near Munich, the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, an urban plan and housing in The Hague, Ypenburg, the rooftop - housing extension Didden Village in Rotterdam, the cultural Centre De Effenaar in Eindhoven, the boutique shopping building Gyre in Tokyo, and Veldhoven’s Maxima Medical Centre.

Current projects are a masterplan for Greater Paris; a public library in Spijkenisse, the Netherlands in which the books will be stacked vertically on brick-clad terraces and be clearly visible from the outside through the glass shell; the firm is working with Brad Pitt´s Make It Right Foundation designing houses to replace those lost in New Orleans through Hurricane Katrina; and with Living Architecture, an organisation initiated by writer Alain de Botton which has persuaded a series of great architects to design houses to be available for holiday rental, thus introducing people to the joys of modern architecture. Currently onsite is Rotterdam Market Hall, a public market and apartment building due to complete in 2014. They have recently won a competition to design a House of Culture and Movement which aimed to engage the population of Frederiksberg, Denmark in a healthy and active life-style. And they have proposed Pig City, high-rise accommodation for some of the country’s 15 million pigs, aimed at saving precious countryside from the polluting bio-industry.

Winy Maas was born in Schijndel in 1959 and founded MVRDV in 1991 with Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries. He has taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Delft University of Technology, the Berlage Institute, Ohio State and Yale University. He is City Architect of Almere, charged with developing a new vision for the Dutch boom town.

Jacob van Rijs was born in Amsterdam in 1965. He has taught at the Technical University of Delft, the Architecture Academies in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the AA London, Cooper Union New York, Rice University in Texas, TN Probe in Tokyo and the Universities of Madrid and Barcelona.

Nathalie de Vries was born in Appingedam in 1965. She has taught at the
Technical University of Berlin, the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, the ABK in Arnhem, the Technical University of Delft and the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Snøhetta - Kjetil T Thorsen and Craig Dykers

In 1987 Kjetil Thorsen and Øyvind Mo set up a collaborative studio with a group of landscape architects with the aim of incorporating architecture and landscape architecture into one design process. The firm took the name Snøhetta arkitektur landskap, after one of Norway’s highest mountains.

Independently Kjetil Thorsen in Oslo and Craig Dykers in Los Angeles joined together to win the competition to design the Egyptian Library of Alexandria beating off 1400 other entries. The Alexandria team then joined Snøhetta, which now had eight equal partners with diverse backgrounds. This collaborative notion remains a key feature of the practice. Snøhetta’s Scandinavian heritage provides Snøhetta with a special understanding of social and environmental issues which form the intellectual basis of all their work.

The Alexandria library houses eight million books and has a main reading room beneath a 32 metre-high glass-panelled roof, tilted out toward the sea like a sundial that is 160 metres in diameter; walls are of gray Aswan granite, carved with characters from 120 different human scripts. The project also includes a conference centre; specialized libraries; four museums; four galleries for temporary exhibitions and 15 for permanent exhibitions; a planetarium; and a manuscript conservation laboratory. For a first project it is a remarkable achievement and one which took 14 years from competition to completion.

Their next major scheme was completed in a mere ten years: The Oslo Opera House, with a main auditorium of 1,350 seats and smaller theatre with 400 seats. The project was finished ahead of schedule, and under budget. The Opera House won the culture award at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona in October 2008 and the 2009 Mies van der Rohe Award, the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture. It is the largest cultural building in Norway to be built in 600 years. It is also one of the few public buildings in the world to be made to be skateboard-friendly.

Kjetil Trædal Thorsen was born in 1958 on the Norwegian island of Karmøy. He studied architecture in Graz, Austria and worked in England and Germany before returning home in the early ‘80s to Scandinavia to work for Espen Tharaldsen in Bergen, Ralph Erskine in Stockholm and David Sandved in Haugesund. Since 2004 he has been a professor at the Institute for Experimental Studies in Architecture at the University of Innsbruck

Craig Edward Dykers was born in Frankfurt in 1961 and studied architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. He worked in Texas and California before co-founding Snøhetta arkitektur landskap in Oslo, Norway in 1989 and in New York City in 2004. Active professionally and academically, Craig has been a member of the Norwegian Architecture Association (NAL), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in England. Within the firm Dykers specializes in urbanism and public art projects.

Ma Yansong, Mad Architects

Ma Yansong is a young Chinese architect – just 35 – who has come to architectural maturity at a time when his country is beginning to allow the freedom of expression so vital to the artist and sufficient freedom to the economy to allow his ideas to be realized as buildings. His work expresses the tension between the individual imagination and the needs of society as a whole.

Ma Yansong was born in Beijing in 1975 and studied at Yale University School of Architecture. His brilliance was recognized at an early stage in his career with a series of scholarships and awards. He graduated with a Master’s degree in 2002 and did an internship with Peter Eisenman in New York and then worked with Zaha Hadid in London. He then moved back to Beijing in 2004 where he set up MAD as a design office dedicated to innovation in architectural practice.

MAD's design philosophy integrates futuristic architecture with a contemporary interpretation of the eastern spirit of nature. All of MAD's projects - from residential complexes, the workplace to museums and cultural centres - aspire to protect the sense of community and orientation toward nature, offering a new architecture which sees buildings not as isolated objects but as part of human life and the natural environment.

The firm works include the Hutong Bubble 32 in Beijing, a museum in Erdos, Sinosteel’s Headquarters in Tianjin, three cultural buildings in Harbin and Fake Hills, a residential complex in Beihai.

His Absolute Towers in an expanding suburb of Toronto was the first project in the West commissioned from a Chinese architect. Reaching 50 and 56 storeys respectively it is a residential landmark that strives for more than simple efficiency. Journalists subsequently dubbed the scheme the Marilyn Monroe towers because of their slinky forms.

In 2006 Mad produced its first solo exhibitions: Mad in China at the Venice Architecture Biennale and Mad under Construction at the Beijing Tokyo Art Projects Gallery in Beijing. In 2007 Mad’s floating city was showcased at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen and their first monograph, Mad Dinner was published. Mad’s concept proposal titled Superstar - a Mobile China Town was exhibited in the 11th architectural biennale in Venice in 2008. Most recently Ma Yansong collaborated with Olafur Eliasson on a large scale installation 'Feelings are Facts' which was seen at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing.


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