2021 European Prize for Architecture to Mecanoo

John Hill
19. August 2021
Tainan Public Library, Tainan, China, 2021 (Photo: Ethan Lee)

The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design have announced that Mecanoo is this year's recipient of "Europe's Highest Award for Architecture."

Specifically, Francine Houben and Dick van Gameren, who founded Mecanoo in Delft, the Netherlands, in 1984, were named laureates of the 2021 European Prize for Architecture. Today, more than thirty years later, Mecanoo has more than a hundred employees with offices in Delft, New York, and Kaohsiung City, China.

This week's announcement of the prize describes Mecanoo as a global firm that "has consistently and whole-heartedly pursued the highest quality of architecture for the specific location in which the project is to be built, the functions it would house, and especially for the people who would inhabit and use their buildings and spaces."

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, New York, 2021 (Photo: John Bartelstone)

Not surprisingly, the announcement from the European Centre and Chicago Athenaeum singles out no less than four libraries designed by Mecanoo, from the nearly 25-year-old Delft University of Technology Library and the award-winning Library of Birmingham to the recently completed Tainan Public Library in China and Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in New York City.

Even though Mecanoo is known for their creative and sensitive designs of new libraries and library renovations, the firm's projects span various typologies, including housing, cultural and civic institutions, large scale town planning, laboratory, education, and healthcare projects. Notable non-library projects include National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts in China, the Delft City Hall and Train Station, and Villa Vught.

National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, Kaohsiung, China, 2018 (Photo: Iwan Baan)

Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, head of the Chicago Athenaeum, said of Mecanoo in the announcement: "Preoccupied not by a focus on form, but on process, consultation, context, urban scale, and integrated sustainable design strategies, the practice creates culturally significant buildings with a human touch. Their projects are never demonstrative or imposing, but something familiar, useful, and beautiful, with the ability to quietly support the life that will take place within it. By prioritizing the enrichment of human life through a lens of generosity and freedom of use, they are able to benefit the individual socially, ecologically and economically, aiding the evolution of a city. This has made Mecanoo a pioneer in a field that has made this firm a beacon to others as they forge their exemplary professional path."

Villa Vught, Vught, Netherlands, 2019 (Photo: Ossip Architectuurfotografie)

The formal ceremony for the 2021 European Prize for Architecture will be held at a gala dinner at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens on September 10, 2021.

Previous laureates include: Bjarke Ingels, Graft Architects, TYIN Architects, Marco Casagrande, Alessandro Mendini, Santiago Calatrava, LAVA Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, Manuelle Gautrand, Sergei Tchoban, and Henning Larsen Architects.

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