Below you can see past winners, starting with the fifth edition in 2020 and going back to the first edition in 2016.
This transformation of an airport into landscape works to balance the extreme climate, the design interlocks three scales: geographical, urban and local. The design meshes precisely formulated climatic and poetic goals in an inextricable way. The reflections of the office are at once complex and simple, of enormous depth, yet with childlike wonder. The design works well on all scales, from the park as a whole to a pedestrian perspective. The jury recognized the relaxed design language of the park that makes it look undetermined, as if it can change at any point. The design shows a powerful mix of a personal design language which doesn’t celebrate itself, but serves the adventures of the visitor through differentiated landscapes, climatic spaces and atmospheres.
The structure was established as a landmark, social magnet, a site part of, yet distinct from, landscape. Its intervention is a sensitive, precise study of village imagery, social life, as well as the movement through a broader landscape. It enhances village life on multiple levels while creating a gentle, internal world for women in a society where women’s public facilities are almost non-existent. The humbleness with which usual goals of public space are achieved is emphasized through the rawness and simplicity of means, such as reordering stones found on site, choreographed view corridors through a seemingly naive window, a fireplace or a simple swing in the courtyard. Ecologically, within the harsh landscape conditions, small means are used to gather rare sources of soil, water and shade, creating biodiversity, reforestation, and the climatic improvement of shade. The simultaneity of a public space with the intimacy, and almost fragility of such a needed meeting point has created a strong, unique sense of place.
Although the tiny district of Yongqing Fang still contains historical remnants, their small number limits the possibilities for a strong experience. The streetscapes successfully strengthen this quarter with a series of sensitive, highly poetic and well-measured interventions. Throwing away classical categories of old and new and the usual need to contrast these, the design playfully combines new interpretations of building techniques and materials to create a moving and powerful sense of contemporary, historic place.
Landezine team recognizes Berlin based landscape architecture and architecture office Topotek 1 as the winner of the LILA 2020 Office Award. The portfolio of Topotek 1 reflects a unique conceptual approach that is dedicated to solving social issues and practicing landscape architecture as a multilayered and creative cultural discipline. Besides their landscape projects, the editors of Landezine acknowledge their exhibition and book Creative Infidelities, which is a playful yet sober reflection on both their own work and landscape architecture as an open-ended design profession. A quote from Jorge Luis Borges featured in the exhibition perfectly illustrates Topotek 1’s approach to the notions of identity, honesty, and context in terms of landscape design: “The original is unfaithful to the translation”.
LILA Office Award 2020 goes to Topotek 1 for their ability to design layered projects and above all for their refreshing and daring colorfulness in conceptual thinking, which the Landezine team would truly wish to see more of in landscape architecture offices around the world.
The Landezine team recognizes the work of Charles A. Birnbaum as an outstanding contribution to the global community of landscape architects. His work has been focused on advocating for the cultural value of landscape heritage in the US. In 1998, Birnbaum founded TCLF – The Cultural Landscape Foundation – which acts as a bridge between American cultural landscapes and the public. Through the various complex programmes and initiatives of TCLF, Birnbaum has shown an ambitious and innovative vision, executed with great precision, enthusiasm and perseverance.
The condition for the landscape architecture community to thrive in a society lies in an understanding of the work we do. Birnbaum has been continuously working on deepening this understanding and communicating the values of the American landscape heritage, both for the places and the people that shaped them.
This on-going project was self-initiated by landscape architecture office EMF – Estudi Marti Franch – in the midst of the global financial crisis. The goal was to make it “big and cheap”, so that the model can be repeated and adapted to many sites. It began by using vegetation maintenance to design public spaces in Girona. In this case, the landscape architect is not just the designer, but also a social catalyst who enables positive change. The jury recognized not only the process, but especially the result, which is a system of low-cost, modest, poetic and above all useful spaces that greatly enrich the quality of life for the people of Girona.
As a part of a larger planning scheme for reducing traffic, Ballerup Boulevard provides a pilot project for transforming our car-oriented, oversized streets into multi-functional transit ways with human scale and character. The charming yet straight-forward design language of path geometries and planting beds allows the user to move through a coherent whole and at the same time differentiates sequence of spaces. Over time the plantings will create a lush, dense green corridor.
Folds works above all as sculpture-play-scape. While the design tools are simple, they offer a layered complexity within this simplicity, so as to cater for various uses. The play of shapes, levels and morphology makes it interesting to the various age groups of the nearby kindergarten as well as children from the area. The project is about the play between two materials which reflects geological processes that formed the Jura Mountains. In this way it establishes a unique and strong visual language and an engaging playground. On a larger scale it enriches the well-known modernist design approach of the surrounding residential area; the contrast between the orthogonal housing and more nature-inspired landscape forms.
Using simple and graceful design language, the project succeeds in creating a new interpretation of local traditional craftsmanship and history. It is in the combination of strong spatial and material uses and detailing with fulfilling sustainable goals that sets the project apart.
The project text humbly tells of the team’s aim to return the site to its rural integrity and local traditional building ways, away from the usual domination of design techniques. Yet the contemporary intervention succeeds in creating a strong independent design expression which successfully augments and strengthens the beauty of the site itself. The structures and plantings merge in creating densely atmospheric spaces.
The jury recognized a very different approach to the typology of residential landscape, where one would usually find very determined structures, designed to the very last square meter. Instead, Juul Frost Architects explored how a surrounding landscape can be brought into the residential area and how the buildings fit into the surrounding landscape. In the ‘inner’ area, small patches of what looks like local vegetation are placed in a very relaxed design language, emphasizing the qualities of the surrounding landscape and translating it excellently to a smaller scale.
The jury recognized the approach of embracing time to make a comfortable living space. The project successfully combines soil reactivation, food production, water management and recycling of the material found on site. This simplistic, smart and visually interesting landscape reaches beyond what is expected of a residential area.
The jury recognized the tension and the atmospheric density that was achieved by well-known tools of garden design. The use of historic structures successfully establishes different ambiences and opens views that change the perception of the space, orientation and the scale of this relatively small plot. The garden was designed to catch changing seasons and light and synthesize them into a dramatic display of change. Ellipse garden is also a gardener’s laboratory, and reflects the joy in cultivating, playing and experimenting with plants and their characteristics.
The garden successfully builds on the relation between the surrounding landscape and the site. On one side of the house, it uses the approach of borrowed landscapes, establishing a connection between the garden and the pastorality of the adjacent agricultural land. On the other side of the plot it makes a clear differentiation, a contrast between the meadow and the lush woods. The garden also offers a sequence of various interesting ambiences.
The project Objets Trouvés convinces with outstanding artistic quality and visible historical awareness. Moving the bunker from its ancestral place and letting it re-appear in a new one is both astonishing and effective. This blunt dislocation, which first reacts to infrastructural requirements and finally turns the bunker into a ready-made, creates a whole new quality of visual perception. It is in this aesthetic space of resonance, where contemporary infrastructure development ultimately becomes conceivable as a possible instalment of the European warfare history. Consequently, the actual traces of history are kept visible with a genuine purpose – although this required such an action as moving a bunker. As a bold and even radical gesture, the project inscribes itself in the infusible tension between past, present, and future on the one hand, and between absence and presence on the other. In doing so, it formulates a notable reference point for the contemporary discipline of landscape architecture as an artistically informed cultural practice.
A beautiful and extremely subtle design, Scenic Path is a gesture drawn so as to offer a discovery of ‘what is already there’ and ‘what has been there’ a long time ago. A clever, precise design of a path, with a sophisticated geometrical set of shifting positions, where platforms, seats or walls organize the views far away, and with the same movements build a very strong sense of place. The materiality of the realization continues and reinforces the design with a great coherence, forming this precise architectonic play with a restrained number of materials. A presence arises – a collision of space and time – and you experience a landscape at the same time very old and very new.
Studio Vulkan is a Zürich based landscape architecture practice. They are not bound to finding a formula for their projects, but rather seem to be more interested in re-questioning everything a project might bring: context, ambience and all available tools for solving problems and making an experience. They are not committed to finding a style, although there is a notion of ‘relaxed aesthetics’ present in most of their projects that is well-anchored in the project narrative.
Toni Areal, for example, is a roof garden, an urban oasis that uses only time to make itself more defined by natural forces, and one in particular – decay. Exposing the beauty of decay, or decay itself, is still a taboo across our profession; oddly enough, in an age when nature is in focus. Similarly, Park Naturmuseum St. Gallen is dealing with ‘artificial naturalness’. It aims to question the occurrence of nature in an entirely artificial/urban context. Studio Vulkan seem to enjoy introducing intentional imperfections, knowing that in this way, their works are far more interesting. For Park Naturmuseum they wrote in the project narrative: “In addition to the predominantly native plants, exotic hydrangeas stand for the paradox of the place.”
In times, when our profession still produces a monoculture of ideas resulting in sameness, Studio Vulkan is showing the way to keep landscape architecture interesting. Their work provokes an endless curiosity while also featuring a catalogue of solutions to a range of relevant issues.
The work of Michael van Gessel (b. 1948) spans over several decades and is comprised of landscape architecture, urban planning, and supervision of large scale developments. After his studies at Wageningen University in 1978, he was employed in Bureau B+B for 18 years, the last seven as its director. He presided over many juries, among others for the Rosa Barba Prize and Landscape Architecture Europe editions. He retired in 2015 and lives in Amsterdam.
His landscape projects are all about silent change. In his book Invisible Work, van Gessel states his objective is to design spaces in a way that they feel as if they’ve been there since always. While his approach is about mastering restraint and subtle creativity, he was never afraid to chop down some trees in order to make the view. His works are precise, subtle, minimal, timeless, but at the same time bold, playful and always interesting!
His approach is the perfect antidote to formalism and to projects wanting too much. His body of work is a library many can learn from now and in the times to come.
The Noordwaard project is a new 4450-hectare flow area that will prepare The Netherlands for the rising waters in the ‘Room for The River’ project. With its 12 pumping stations, hydraulic structures, and a large number of bridges, it is a bold but also humble design that respects the water landscape. The bridges have many different functions such as dikes, resting areas for birds, and introduces water in a spectacular way. They also facilitate public access and provide new opportunities for recreation in the de-poldered area. This is a clear statement that design matters because it adds value for people, birds, and water landscape.
The Prins Hendrikzanddijk deals with a dynamic landscape system – a waterfront that faces rising and unpredictable waters. They introduce a dialogue with the native forces, involving them in the emergence of the ‘islands’. The project addresses the interaction between liquid and solid, the still and the moving. It invites biodiversity, offers a beautiful space for recreation and, most of all, excellently illustrates an alternative way of design by working with time, instead of working against it.
Often landscape designs for hotels and resorts are too full of everything and enclosed, gated, disconnected from the outside world. There is a pressure that landscape needs to be perfect all the time. The Hospitality award was introduced to promote a project that can welcome visitors, tourists, and temporary residents differently. ‘Clouds’ establish the experience not by looking into its own created pocket arcadia, but by absorbing and framing the surroundings. It creates a space of confrontation between visitors and landscape.
Coteau Saint Barbe is a smart and beautiful ‘stitch’ of the urban and the natural. It offers the link between the two and also effectively uses water dynamics from higher up the slope. With a simple gesture it adds an immense value to the living outdoors at Coteau Saint Barbe.
If we can say that a private garden is an experimental place for domestic life, Rooted in Clay is just that. As the name suggests, the project is about taming a very dynamic topological context and at the same time keeping the feeling of the place wild. Considering the ordinary Canadian suburb, this garden is a surprise. Furthermore, the project reuses city’s leftovers, mainly wooden slabs. Rooted in Clay is about engineering, recycling, and, above all, experience. It accomplishes its goals effectively and gracefully through a sequence of shifting situations. Nature is an ambiguous term, but in a context of suburban residential gardens full of order, Rooted in Clay introduces a relaxed, more natural atmosphere. As such it is a poetic statement and a convivial critique.
Sonoma Mountain Garden represents a rigorous approach to minimalist landscape architecture that has a strong collaborative dialogue with the architecture. The garden’s material pallet is contextual, as it pulls in the surrounding landscape through its use of textures, forms and colors. The strong and clearly human-made geometrical patterns offer a complement to the surrounding landscape through contrast. Each space and corridor within the garden are well scaled and present a well-crafted and eloquent suite of details and materials that offer the user a quiet and contemplative landscape that will bring friends and family together.
Jury members recognized Catherine Mosbach as an outstanding and talented creative force who pushes the profession beyond excellence, revealing hidden layers of designing and also thinking about landscape. The result is a portfolio of unique and strong conceptual works. They remind us that there will always be infinite opportunities to find and express an original personal vocation whilst practicing environmentally and socially responsible work.
Strelka KB is not a classical design office, but a bridge between Russian society and the global design profession. They stand out due to their role as facilitator, initiator and project driver. They do not claim to be design experts. but help make projects reality through their local expertise, willingness to navigate through the local environment, and a desire to change things. Strelka KB is not defined by a unitary design vision but by a collective of hundreds of young professionals hungry to transform their city and country. In doing so they have managed to affect change to an extent never before seen in the design profession.
The project answers questions related to reintroducing nature into artificial landscape and dealing with landscape in rural-urban fringes. It reactivates the old river channel for visitors, masterfully combining new modest elements and simple structures into a powerful experience. The most poetic element is the grid of sand – a platform for the river – a natural force that expresses itself through decomposition. Designed as a ruin, the project is the process; full of play between the grid and the river, man and nature. Renaturalisation is not brought in by force; it occurs. One can imagine the river entering the grid for the first time, like an animal released from captivity, figuring out which way to go and where to settle. The power of this work lies in its honesty, taking us to a much deeper thinking about the relation between man and nature in the age of the Anthropocene.
Jury members acknowledged this garden as an outstanding way of bringing residents to nature, due to its simplicity and the way it allows for exploration. An ordinary site was curated and transformed by Coen+Partners into a dramatic landscape comprising various ambiences with a unique character. The jury noticed the presentation of the project, focusing away from the house into the garden as the place of dwelling and coexisting with the site.
This intervention raises the question of what ‘garden’ is and what it represents. Salaam house is a ‘hard-core’ landscape architecture project sending a message that with subtle approach, simplicity and a modest budget we can create a garden by maintaining and appreciating what we already have.
H+N+S has through an engineering approach successfully developed large scale thinking about landscape, integrating aspects concerning energy, environment, well-being and aesthetics. They feature a consistent opus of brave interventions in landscape, often with ingenious and innovative solutions. H+N+S is a relevant force in our common task to find and develop new tools for overcoming the challenges concerning landscape today and in the future.
Agence Ter stood out for their ‘motion and evolution’. Motion, for entering unchartered territories and solving problems from multiple directions, and evolution, for constantly responding to changing demands concerning climate change and social issues. With this approach, Agence Ter designs unique, smart and convivial landscapes.
Members of the jury recognized SLA from Denmark as an office that demonstrates the ability and adaptability to successfully design a wide scope of different tasks. They developed an effective approach to bringing nature into the urban environment, whilst working with its processes in cities, especially dealing with large quantities of water.
In terms of bridging regenerative infrastructure and public landscapes, the jury also acknowledges SCAPE studio from NYC. SCAPE combines research and practice to conquer cross-scale spatial challenges, whilst blurring the lines between neighbourhoods and habitats.
Saint Ouen – Park at The Docks is a complex landscape system that offers optimistic answers to questions concerning social equity and water resilience. Agence Ter demonstrated excellent skills to design a multifunctional, generous and inclusive social platform that offers various uses (including growing food). At the same time, it works as a sponge, providing space for water during heavy rains and floods. Jury members agreed passionately that this project will send the right message to the professional community on how to design liveable urban spaces for the future as well as to everyone else on how we should all be able to use open spaces in the times ahead of us.
The jury members also acknowledge Chicago Riverwalk (SASAKI + Ross Barney) as a high-quality urban space, extremely well structured and built. The new horizontal layer in the birthplace of the skyscraper will certainly have a positive impact and will transform the city into a more liveable and pedestrian-friendly urban environment.
Park am Gleisdreieck (Atelier LOIDL) was also debated as one of the most effortlessly beautiful and comfortable projects. Placed four meters above the city level, Gleisdreieck is an urban oasis and a vital link between neighbourhoods, featuring smart interventions, such as a(?) placing programme under the bridge, revealing layers from the site’s past uses and exposing the contrast between soft park tissue and S-Bahn trains buzzing over the main meadow on the elevated rail-yards. One jury member commented: “It’s so Berlin!”
Marti Franch is in his projects not only successfully solving spatial, environmental and physical problems concerning the sites he works on but with very respectful interventions manages to nurture landscape architecture also as a cultural discipline. His landscapes offer educational and experiential richness, often in fragile environments.
EMF designed landscapes are a result of a curious design approach that emphasises the curiosity also in the visitor by leaving landscape features and stories hidden enough to be discovered rather than just put on display. The narrative in Cap de Creus projects awaits the user in suggestion and not in the direct message. This way the user interacts with the meaning, making the experience far more intense and memorable.
La Tancada Salt Fields and Cap de Creus, are blending ecology, natural and cultural memory into harmonious and at the same time very powerful experience. The grounds of Can Framis museum illustrate EMF’s ability to intervene in dense urban fabric. A green, almost forest like ambience in the middle of Barcelona, again with a direct connection to the site’s past and ecological measures for cooling down the site with dense planting.
With Les Echasses project Marti Franch is effectively using natural processes to create a lake for a nature like resort. Instead of just creating a lake the landscape is proposed that first creates natural conditions for a lake to take place as a consequence.
EMF is practicing excellent scientific and technical work, but most importantly also proves well manifested paradigm that visiting landscapes must mean a culturally fulfilling experience. In the times when ecosystems are constantly being challenged by the consequences of human activity preservation and restoration of nature are vital for the wellbeing of all species. Marti Franch is aware that promoting subtle change in order to emphasise overwhelming natural forces and features left ‘as they are’ in nature plays a very important role in establishing a bond between the user and the landscape – people and environment.
Felixx is a young office for proactive landscape architecture, founded by Michiel Van Driessche, Deborah Lambert and Marnix Vink. The office designs public spaces, works on urban development plans, engineers landscape transformation strategies, and is involved in spatial research projects.