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DETAIL Prize 2012 – atmospheric awards ceremony in Berlin

This was the first year that the DETAIL Prize (for 2012) was awarded in Berlin. The two prize-winners, Lischer Partner Architekten (Luzern) and Pitágoras Arquitectura e Engenharia (Guimarães), received their awards in the context of a formal gala event held in the Schlosshotel im Grunewald. Among the distinguished guests were well-known international architects as well as the other nominees for the DETAIL Prize 2012 and representatives from the areas of research, politics, culture and industry. A highly controversial presentation by Hanns Zischler (author and actor) on the subject of architecture and society opened the evening, which came to a climax with the handover of the prizes and ended with an informal get-together.

Architecture is an art that is not only best experienced with all the senses but is also best designed with them.  This maxim is by no means new, of course, and may even sound banal at first. And yet it can almost be regarded as the quintessential message of the awards ceremony for the DETAIL Prize 2012, which was organised jointly with World leading trade fair BAU 2013 and, this year, awarded again under the patronage of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, albeit for the first time in Berlin.  It was not just that the two prize-winners – Lischer Partner from Switzerland and Pitágoras from Portugal – emphasised the relevance of material aesthetics and contextuality in their buildings but also that author and actor Hanns Zischler enlarged upon this aspect of holistic perception and design in a very personal and poetic way in the address he delivered.

Zischler provided some detailed insight into the architectural experiences of his own life story: from the farmer's cottage in his place of birth in Franken to the Walhalla and Peter Zumthor's expo pavilion in Hanover. He supplemented his remarks with a look at some literary reflections on architecture but also made critical comments on current construction activities, in that he referred to the ambivalence of a Rem Koolhaas, who privately lamented the demolition of Peking's old city in the shadow of the CCTV tower designed by OMA, but publicly described it as unavoidable in the sense of the "dirty realism" Koolhaas has himself proclaimed. Holistic design, said Zischler, does not allow such inner disjointedness. Architecture as a tangible experience of creative ideas and as a phenomenon that interacts with its users and surroundings was at the centre of his speech.

Whereas the architecture that Zischler advocated – and that manifestly corresponded with the architecture of the prize-winners – spoke with a simple, clear and natural voice, the approximately one hundred guests at the gala event were pampered with the opulent sensuality of the rooms and cuisine they were able to enjoy in the Schlosshotel Grunewald. Dr. Reinhard Pfeiffer, managing director of Messe München and co-organiser of the competition from the very beginning, emphasised that the property, built in the neo-renaissance style in 1914 by Munich architect German Bestelmeyer for the Munich lawyer and art collector Walter von Pannwitz, was – in spite of its authorship –well suited as a backdrop for the DETAIL Prize 2012 awards ceremony, which was "exterritorialised", as it were, for the first time.  In the former music room, an exhibition of the two prize-winning buildings and 25 nominations (from almost 600 entries) was to be seen, while the around one hundred hand-picked guests from the areas of research, politics, culture and industry were able to take refreshments in the adjacent salon or in the fireplace room of the hotel.

The holiday home in Vitznau designed by the winner of the DETAIL Prize, Lischer Partner (Lucerne), and the "Platform for Arts and Creativity" in Guimaraes, Portugal, designed by the winner of the Readers' Prize Pitágoras architects and engineers (Guimaraes), were at the centre of the exhibition. Here, it was possible to study the unusual construction of the holiday home in Vitznau – the interior structure made of wood is used as the (so to say) lost shuttering of the outer, load-bearing concrete shell – as well as the unconventional spatial routing through the building and the clean, reduced details. In the presentation of the cultural centre in Guimaraes, one of the oldest cities in Portugal and European capital of culture in 2012, the central significance of this "platform" for the urban context was revealed as well as in its role as a social mediator for the structural transformation being undergone by the region, which was once characterised by its textile industry.

Under the attentive eyes of the numerous internationally active architects among the guests, the hotel manager did not leave out any details during his anecdote-filled guided tour through the former Pannwitz palace before everyone gathered in the spacious lobby at the start of the actual evening programme, the highpoint of which was the prize-giving. First of all, DETAIL editor in chief Christian Schittich presented the Readers' Prize (introduced in 2012) to the Portuguese architects' office Pitágoras – Arquitectura e Engenharia Integradas, Lda for its project entitled "Platform of Arts and Creativity". Also present during the prize-giving was Portuguese ambassador Almeida Sampaio, who gave special thanks to the initiators and congratulated the architects. The prize, said the ambassador, sent out a positive signal for the further development and international perception of Portuguese architecture.

State secretary Rainer Bomba stressed the fruitful cooperation with the BMVBS and pointed out the impending challenges for everyone involved in building. Frank Köster from part of main sponsor Joseph Gartner also emphasised the high value of collaboration with DETAIL for the facade company. Acting on behalf of the entire jury, Jürgen Mayer H. handed over the DETAIL Prize 2012, worth 5,000 euros, to Lischer Partner Architekten. The Swiss architects had travelled to Berlin together with their clients. In his acceptance speech, Daniel Lischer also paid tribute to those without whom implementation of the project on such a high level of outstanding quality would simply have been impossible. He thus showed his appreciation of the close cooperation and relationship of trust between clients and architects in this case.

The evening came to an atmospheric end with stimulating conversations and interaction between the guests.

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