Dutch Housing Project Wins EU Mies Award

John Hill
12. May 2017
De Flat Kleiburg (Photo: Marcel van der Burg)

Today in Brussels the European Commission and the Fundació Mies van der Rohe announced the winners of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award: Amsterdam's DeFlat Kleiburg by NL Architects and XVW Architectuur wins the 2017 Prize, and the 2017 Emerging Architecture Prize goes to MSA/V+ for the NAVEZ social housing project in Brussels.

Today's announcement comes two months after five finalists were announced for the 2017 Prize and the jury subsequently visited each building in person. The jury was chaired by Stephen Bates and consisted of Gonçalo Byrne, Pelin Derviş, Dominique Jakob, Juulia Kauste, Małgorzata Omilanowska, and Peter Cachola Schmal.

De Flat Kleiburg (Photo: Marcel van der Burg)

DeFlat Kleiburg marks two firsts for the EU Mies Prize: the first time the main award has been given to a collective housing project, and the first time it has been awarded to a renovation. Winners since the inaugural award in 1988 have tended to be museums, concert halls, and other cultural facilities, while all of the fourteen predecessors were new buildings.

The DeFlat project by NL (the 2005 Emerging Prize winner) and XVW for client Kondor WesselsVastgoed involved the renovation of one of the largest apartment buildings in the Netherlands. Located in Amsterdam's Bijlmermeer neightorhood, the 400-meter-long bend slab has 500 apartments across 11 floors. The project saved the building from demolition by turning it into a so-called Klusflat, whereby the tenants renovated the apartments themselves. Therefore the main structure was renovated but the apartments were left unfinished in order to minimize up-front costs. The project also included the reversal of 1980s renovations that were not in keeping with the CIAM-inspired original.​

De Flat Kleiburg (Photo: Marcel van der Burg)

Jury chairman Stephen Bates said of the 2017 Prize winner:

It challenges current solutions to the housing crisis in European cities, where too often the only ambition is to build more homes year-on-year, while the more profound question of what type of housing should be built goes unanswered. Kleiburg helps us imagine a new kind of architectural project, which responds to changing household patterns and lifestyles in the twenty-first century. A revitalization of typologies of the past is as relevant as experimenting with new, untested models in this quest, just as radically transforming existing buildings is.

De Flat Kleiburg (Photo: Marcel van der Burg)

The jury further commended DeFlat Kleiburg:

​The project inspires reflection on the new and complex reality of contemporary living. It proposes new forms of “affordable housing”, adding to what is universally a complex and multi-layered offer (ranging from fully subsidized rent to shared ownership and rent-purchase schemes) by providing options for the large majority who have a little money but cannot afford to get on the conventional property ladder. This is low-cost habitable space (€1,200 per m2) – a fantastic new option that does not currently exist.

NAVEZ (Photo: Serge Brison)

On the award of the 2017 Emerging Architect Prize to MSA/V+ for the NAVEZ project, which was one of the 40 finalists announced in January, the jury "felt that MSA/V+ understood well and solved brilliantly the constructive and economic constraints of the program and its site: 5 flats in a very small corner at the northern entrance of the city of Brussels." Furthermore, the jury "appreciated the high quality of the flats, which are unique and all provided with natural light from all orientations, outdoor spaces, impressive views and dynamic spatial experiences both in common and private spaces."

NAVEZ (Photo: Serge Brison)

Michel Magnier, Director for Culture and Creativity, DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission, and Daniel Mòdol, President of the Fundació Mies van der Rohe, will grant the winners the prizes of 60,000€ (main prize) and 20,000€ (emerging architect prize) on 26 May at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona.

In a treat to the general public, from 20 to 26 May the buildings of the four finalists, the Prize winner and the Emerging Architect Prize will open their doors and organize other activities.

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