WAF Goes Digital

John Hill
30. September 2021
WAF Building of the Year 2019: LocHal Public Library by Civic architects (lead architect), Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau, Inside Outside / Petra Blaisse (Photo © Stijn Bollaert)

The World Architecture Festival has announced that, "In response to continuing COVID-19 travel restrictions," the 13th annual festival will "migrate its 2021 event in December to a live and interactive digital format."

While the Venice Architecture Biennale was able to pull off a delayed opening of its 17th International Architecture Exhibition in May of this year, one year behind schedule, the convergence of architects from around the world to participate in and watch "three days of live conference programs, awards, and fringe events" pushed WAF into a digital format. 

Scheduled for early December 2020 at the FIL exhibition center in Lisbon, WAF was eventually pushed back to December 1–3, 2021, with "WAFVirtual" taking place across the days of the original event. While WAFVirtual consisted of live talks, panel discussions, and the announcement of three special prizes, it did not include the judging of buildings in various categories and the crowning of the World Building of the Year — what WAF is known for.

A view of the "crit pods" at WAF 2017 held at Arena Berlin. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

WAF 2021's interactive digital format will retain the international awards program that has been likened to a "best in show" format, with winners of each category eligible for the top prizes. Typically staged as architects presenting their projects to juries simultaneously in a number of "crit pods" scattered about the exhibition hall, attendees were forced to pick the categories, architects, and/or projects they wanted to hear about. This situation almost always led to a mix of overflowing and relatively empty pods, as in the photo above.

With the online format, attendees with a "digital pass" will be able to watch all of the presentations and other lectures that are part of WAF — "40 days of presentations and conference sessions," per today's announcement — for up to 90 days after the event. In turn, people with a pass do not have to worry about missing out on any of their favorite architects or projects, a bit of a relief compared with the in-person events.

As in previous festivals, this year's WAF will culminate in a World Building of the Year, Landscape of the Year, and Future Project of the Year culled from the winners of the 33 categories whose shortlisted projects were announced in July of this year. A "Super Jury" will decide these best in show winners, with confirmed judges including: Jeanne Gang (Studio Gang), Abdelkader Damani (Frac Centre-Val de Loire | Biennale d'Architecture d'Orléans), Kim Herforth Nielsen (3XN Architects), and Christina Seilern (Studio Seilern).

Stay tuned to the World-Architects Magazine for news on all the winners when they are determined across the three days of WAF 2021.

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