World Architecture Festival, WAFX, Social housing, Social architecture, Cultural architecture, Ataturk Cultural Centre, Istanbul

Sheltainer and Ataturk Culture Centre by Tabanlioglu Architects win WAFX Prize for addressing societal challenges

WAFX has announced the winners for its annual prize that awards architects and designers for projects that address the world's ecological and societal challenges.

Two projects from the Middle East have been awarded the WAFX prize this year across two categories. Sheltainer picked up the prize for the Ethics and Value category, while the Ataturk Culture Centre by Tabanlioglu Architects won in the Cultural Indentity category.

The WAFX Prize recognises future projects that identify key ecological and societal challenges which architects are actively seeking to address over the next 10 years, including diverse topics such as climate change, energy saving, water wastage and shortage, ageing populations, reusable materials, smart cities, cultural identity, as well as ehtics, power, and justice.

Commenting on the projects, Paul Finch, programme director for the World Architecture Festival, said: "We have been amazed by the standard of entries across this year’s future project categories and the prize winners in addressing some of humanities greatest concerns.

"Rather than being purely ‘pie in the sky’ conceptual work, each is firmly grounded in reality, presenting practical solutions to issues around the world. It is a very strong field of entries and we look forward to hearing more from the prize winners when the Festival convenes in November." 

Set up by Dubai-based architects Bassel Omara, Mouaz Abouzaid and Ahmed Hammad, Sheltainer is a building initiative thay targets refugees, asylum seekers, students, as well as low-income families with an intetion to provide shipping containers as a material and structure that is readily buildable anywhere in the world. 

Being both affordable and easy to construct, there is an abundance of shipping containers and recycling them enables shelter in addition to preserving the sustainability of a community. 

The design for a Sheltainer project consists of eight homes per cluster connected together through a courtyard and attached to other clusters through open corners.

The team originally highlighted two countries to focus on: Syria, where more than half the population has been displaced, and South Sudan, where the refugee population swelled from 854,100 to more than 1.4 million during the second half of 2016. This year, the team has taken the scheme further to address housing problems in Egypt. 

"The concept is based on micro-housing solutions, which target the less fortunate," the architects told Middle East Architect.

"Last year we focused on the micro-scale challenge by analysing the simple human needs that can solve the crises in third world countries. This year, we looked at the bigger picture and shifted from micro to macro. We chose to provide a new hope for the people living in the cemeteries of Cairo, where life and death are side by side. The cemetery housing phenomenon in Egypt is just one manifestation of the larger problem in Egypt, and it is our professional and moral duty to spare part of our time and effort and think of solutions."

The redevelopment of the 1960s-constructed Ataturk Culture Project in Istanbul, Turkey by Tabanlioglu Architects is set to reassert its place at the heart of the city’s arts and culture scene.

Originally built in the 1960s — and again in the 1970s following a fire — by Hayati Tabanlioglu (the father of the firm’s founder Murat), the cultural centre will overlook the city’s Taksim Square, and will house one of the largest opera houses in the world, as well as art galleries, libraries, cafes and restaurants.

Other projects that won the WAFX Prize include 10 KM by Shma Compan; Cuchi Organic Eco Farm by IF (Integrated Field); Medellin River Parks / Botanical Park Master Plan by Sebastian Monsalve + Juan David Hoyos; Highway Solarpanel Field by 70F Architecture; The Alder Center by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris; and Tower Inten city by Savage Dodd Architects with UrbanWorks.  

Other categories in the awards programme include Re-Use; Climate, Energy and Carbon; Ageing and Health; Food; Building and Technology; Power and Justice; Water; and Smart Cities.

The prize winners will be given the opportunity to present their projects live at the World Architecture Festival on 28th and 29th November, with the overall winner receiving a prize at the Festival’s gala dinner on the 30th November, as part of the three-day event at the RAI convention centre in Amsterdam.