2021 Jencks Award to Anupama Kundoo

John Hill
17. August 2021
Anupama Kundoo (Photo: Andreas Deffner)

The Jencks Foundation and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have announced that the 2021 recipient of the RIBA Charles Jencks Award is Indian architect Anupama Kundoo.

Established by the late critic Charles Jencks in 1992 as an exchange program between British and Japanese architects, since 2003 the namesake award has been given annually to "an individual (or practice) that has recently made a major contribution simultaneously to the theory and practice of architecture," per RIBA

Edwin Heathcote, one of the five jury members* for the award, said of Kundoo in a statement: "Anupama is a rare example of an architect who has managed to achieve a huge amount in a difficult arena, housing for the poor in India and, specifically, in the settlement of Auroville in Tamil Nadu but has also established a significant body of work in research into material and craft and how locally-made products can be reimagined to become elements of architecture. At its best her architecture is elegant, ecological and always intriguing."

Kundoo, whose lauded work was the focus of the latest "The Architect's Studio" exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Art, titled Anupama Kundoo – Taking Time, was selected over an impressive shortlist of nominated architects: Emilio Ambasz, Alexander Brodsky, Nigel Coates, Beatriz Colomina, Francis Kéré, MASS Design Group, Peter Salter, Marina Tabassum, and Eyal Weizman.

Sharana Daycare, 2019 (Photo: Javier Callejas)

Anupama, who will receive the award on November 2 when she delivers a lecture to an online audience, said in a statement: "Our built environment is the physical stage on which all human stories are lived out. This physical stage is the historical and ongoing manifestation of human imagination operating within real (or, imaginary!) constraints. I have tried to advance the idea that architectural imagination must transcend design and enter the realms of materials science and economics where some of the bigger questions reside. The thrust of my inquiries has been to find practical ways to fulfill the universal human aspiration for refuge, purpose, and social engagement. I am grateful to the Jencks Foundation, RIBA and the Charles Jencks Award Jury for recognizing that the resulting body of work is no less a theory than a theory expressed in words. My hope is that this work inspires others to ask yet more questions so that together we can build an environmentally and economically responsible stage on which more uplifting human stories can be told."

Library of Lost Books, 2014 (Photo: Javier Callejas)
Previous winners of the RIBA Charles Jencks Award:

  • 2020: [No award; canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic]
  • 2019: Débora Mesa and Antón García-Abril, Ensamble Studio
  • 2018: Alejandro Aravena
  • 2016: Níall McLaughlin
  • 2015: Herzog & de Meuron
  • 2013: Benedetta Tagliabue
  • 2012: Rem Koolhaas
  • 2011: Eric Owen Moss
  • 2010: Stephen Holl
  • 2009: Charles Correa
  • 2008: Wolf Prix
  • 2007: Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, UN Studio
  • 2006: Zaha Hadid
  • 2005: Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Farshid Moussavi, Foreign Office Architects
  • 2004: Peter Eisenman
  • 2003: Cecil Balmond

Residence Kanade, 2013 (Photo: Javier Callejas)
*The jury for the 2021

  • Simon Allford, architect and RIBA President Elect
  • Edwin Heathcote, architect and critic
  • Dr. Adrian Lahoud, architect and Dean of the RCA
  • Lily Jencks, founder of the Jencks Foundation
  • Benedetta Tagliabue, architect and 2013 Jencks Award winner

Wall House, 2000 (Photo: Javier Callejas)

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