RIBA international prize: Brazilian rural school wins award for the best building in the world

adminNovember 21, 2018

Written by Jonathan Glancey, CNN

Jonathan Glancey, our special correspondent for the RIBA International Award, is a journalist, author and broadcaster. He has been critical of architecture and design of the Guardian and the Independent of the United Kingdom. He began his career with the Architectural Review. He is a member of the Committee of International Architectural Critics. The opinions in this article belong to the author.

What and where is the best new building in the world? Today, the judges of the RIBA 2018 International Prize announced that it is a pair of school pensions (called "Children's Villages") located in a remote rural location on the margins of huge rice fields in the tropical province of Tocantins in Brazil. 370 miles northeast of Brasilia and 930 miles from the sea.

So are they two buildings? Technically speaking, yes, although these wooden structures are mirror images of each other, so a prize awarded to one is a prize awarded to both.

"The best new building in the world," said Elizabeth Diller, of the American practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro and president of the jury of the RIBA 2018 International Award, "needs to wake up from our daily stupor to something challenging that teaches us why architecture is still relevant."

"Aldea Infantil" is the winner of the RIBA 2018 International Award Credit: Cristobal Palma / Studio Palma

The new and spacious guest houses of the Canuanã School in Formoso do Araguaia, designed by Rosenbaum + Aleph Zero, exactly meet Diller's criteria. Both are intelligent architecture and a wake-up call.

"Aldea Infantil" is the winner of the RIBA 2018 International Award Credit: Cristobal Palma / Studio Palma

Avoiding air conditioning and even glazing, they open up to the surrounding countryside, a land that, apart from livestock and the cultivation of rice, cassava, corn and watermelon, houses thermal pools, white sand beaches, orchids, blues. Herons, jaguars, alligators, Amazonian trees in danger of extinction, livestock and Avá-Canoeiros indigenous tribes, who choose not to have contact with what we call civilization.

How architecture can help education.

The Canuanã School educates children from villages and local settlements, as well as remote ranches and camps, and therefore the need for dormitories for up to 540 students. The dormitories are grouped into nine groups of five adobe brick structures in each building, under vast simple white metal roofs with a gentle slope, inclined to deal with the drainage of tropical rain, supported by thin laminated eucalyptus columns that barely They seem to touch the ground.

The bedrooms are located around large courtyards with local trees and vegetation. Each bedroom is home to only six students from 13 to 18 years of age, and is equipped with storage space, bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities. Steam evaporates through perforated bricks, while rainwater spilling from the large roof is collected in a pond with small local fish in a central courtyard. The rainwater is channeled to the nearby Javaés river.

"Aldea Infantil" is the winner of the RIBA 2018 International Award Credit: Cristobal Palma / Studio Palma

Wooden staircases lead from patios and bedrooms to play areas, reading and television rooms protected from the elements by ventilated wooden screens. There are also spaces to rest in hammocks and upper corridors with views of the campus of the school, with its established classrooms, the refectory and the clinic, and towards a horizontal green landscape without limits and as far as the enthusiastic eye of any student can see.

Raising the design bar

What is so special about this pair of buildings that end up on the school campus is that it increases the expectations of students and teachers with the same certainty of the cultural attractions of a city and province where few, if any Some, the visitors had visited before. To look at the architecture.

The buildings of "Aldeas Infantiles" also belong here in Tocantins with the same security and merit as the jaguars and blue herons. As Gloria Cabral of the Architecture Cabinet of Paraguay and one of the five members of the jury of the RIBA International Prize put it in an interview, the buildings are "really pertinent, appropriate for this place, for this culture, for this climate, these landscapes and At the same time, time an example for everyone. "

"Aldea Infantil" is the winner of the RIBA 2018 International Award Credit: Cristobal Palma / Studio Palma

Funded by Fundação Bradesco, an educational charity and subsidiary of Banco Bradesco de Brasil, these new buildings are rigorous in terms of engineering and planning and completely rational in terms of structure and materials, and yet exude an air of effortless delight and even festivity.

"We tend to think about architecture," said Judge Peter Clegg of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (UK), "as a slightly arrogant, flashy and extravagant discipline." This is an example of a truly beautiful building where everything is well considered. , and it is very low cost, very low carbon, very creative and a beautiful set of living spaces for these very lucky children ".

"Aldea Infantil" is the winner of the RIBA 2018 International Award Credit: Cristobal Palma / Studio Palma

The architects, Aleph Zero, are a young Brazilian practice directed by Gustavo Utrabo and Pedro Duschenes. They have worked in collaboration, especially inside the buildings, with Marcelo Rosenbaum, the Brazilian television designer and presenter. The design of pensions is, in large part, the result of immersive discussions among architects, designers, students and teachers.

South America in the spotlight

In 2016, the inaugural Biennial International RIBA Award was awarded to the UTEC University of Engineering and Technology in Lima, Peru, "a modern Machu Picchu," the judges said, and may seem too good as a witness. a South American educational project that won the award for the second time, especially with so many fascinating buildings to choose from around the world.

"Aldea Infantil" is the winner of the RIBA 2018 International Award Credit: Cristobal Palma / Studio Palma

However, South America is an ideal melting pot for the creation of a new and responsible 21st century architecture. This is not just a country, Brazil, but a continent with relatively limited resources but with great potential, with populations that require first class education, medical attention and public services that will allow them to prosper. Imaginative and expert architects are demonstrating that the truly inspiring design that uses local skills and materials, the sun for energy and the wind for ventilation, can not only face the challenges it faces, but also generates a new generation of buildings that are being recognized as the best. in the modern world.

Long before Formoso do Araguaia was properly established as of the late 1940s, Portuguese entrepreneurs came in search of gold. Now, Aleph Zero and Marcelo Rosenbaum, architects and alchemists, have forged a new gold in modest wood instead of precious metals. And which of the lives of so many Tocantins students and their teachers is more valuable?

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