Awarded every two years, the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award recognizes outstanding architectural projects, as reflected in broader social, political, and economic changes. Since 2001, it has been the official architecture prize of the European Union.
This week the 449 nominees were announced for the 2022 edition. A look back at the last ten prize winners demonstrates the wisdom of the juries in selecting buildings and projects that serve as exemplary contributions to architecture and its related fields.
The winner in 2019 reflected the idea that good architecture involves not grand gestures but improving our collective experience. Key upgrades, including additional space and light, transformed hundreds of apartments in three residential buildings built in the 1960s. The project was a collaboration of three studios, including the French firm Lacaton & Vassal Architectes.
Renovating a 1971 residential building, the architects wanted to reveal the structure’s essence, working with what already existed. The shared areas were revamped, while apartments were left for residents to renovate at their own cost. Awarding the prize to two firms, both based in Amsterdam, the jury noted it was a new approach to affordable housing.
The Barcelona-based architects created a new monument for the Polish city, which was extensively bombed during World War II. This complex, on the site of an older one, responds to its environs while staying thoroughly contemporary with an exterior that glows at night, a commanding entrance hall, and a distinctive concert hall.
The impressive glass façade of this concert hall and conference center was a collaboration between Copenhagen-based Henning Larsen Architects and Studio Olafur Eliasson, an artist’s studio also working in architectural projects. Its design creates an everchanging play of color and light while referencing the landscape of the Icelandic coast.
The renovation and rehabilitation of this museum, destroyed during World War II, was undertaken by English firm David Chipperfield Architects in collaboration with Julian Harrap Architects, a firm specialized in the restoration of historic buildings. For the Berlin museum, original elements were carefully restored, and newer elements were meticulously built to match the old.
Awarding the 2009 prize to Snøhetta, whose practice now spans the globe, the jury said this building helped to transform public space and create new cultural life for Oslo. The structure’s form is welcoming, with a roof that is accessible to visitors. The imposing lobby areas also serve to invite people into interior spaces.
2007. MUSAC - Contemporary Art Museum of Castilla y León, León, Spain, Mansilla+Tuñón Arquitectos
The Madrid-based firm was awarded the 2007 prize for a contemporary art museum that both serves functional requirements and makes a unique and strong architectural statement. A rainbow of colored panels defines the exterior, but the inside is a spare and meditative space for viewing works of art.
OMA created a unique structure that embodies both security and openness with carefully defined spaces and thoughtful public spaces nodding toward the life of the city itself. The jury thought the building was a new concept for an embassy, embodying the future of government buildings.
This municipal project by Zaha Hadid Architects, a firm known for avant-garde work, is relatively restrained, but it makes a strong statement with minimal interventions. Materiality, along with a play of lines, defines the station and parking area. The architecture firm strove to echo the motion of cars, trams, and pedestrians — while creating a coherent whole.
Spanish architect Rafael Moneo aimed to create a building that would respond to the nearby River Urumea without overpowering it. The resulting architectural work, which serves as an exhibition hall and cultural center, establishes a strong presence formed by two asymmetric volumes. The jury noted its radical geometry while emphasizing its thoughtful relationship to its site.