Architecture & public space

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Architecture: The art of creating something that is not an artwork

What architecture can and also has to achieve today becomes obvious when you look at some of the amazing examples included in the “Architecture and Urban Design” category of Red Dot 21. Virtually no other creative discipline is able to shape habitats – and therefore also our environment and cultural identity – as much as architecture and urban design. The Austrian architect and theorist, Adolf Loos, once wrote in an essay on architecture, “A house has to please everyone, contrary to the work of art which does not. A work is the private concern of the artist. A house is not.“ Indeed, buildings can never be seen independently of people’s perception. They are not a private matter as we constantly encounter them in the street-, city- and landscape. Their size alone means they always relate to their environment and can either blend in or stand out. Both approaches can be justified. However, ultimately, architecture first and foremost sets out to define and create spaces in which we can live or learn, work or manufacture something, store things or party. Architecture must therefore get to grips with the environment, but primarily also with the intended use of the building and should take into account functional, technical, social, ecological as well as emotional, cultural and aesthetic considerations. When the jurors of the Red Dot Design Award evaluate entries in this discipline, they initially differentiate submissions based on the purpose of the building. Is it an educational facility, a church, an office or a residential building? Does the formal design address this need in the best way possible? Was the design of the building planned so as to improve the experience of the user or inhabitant? Does it ensure he or she feels at ease and can focus on what brought him/her into the building in the first place? The aesthetic merits and practical use of a building play an equally important part in architecture. Add to that considerations such as position and integration of the building into its immediate surroundings, its proportions, the design of the façade, in other words the face the building shows the public, as well as construction, choice of materials, energy consumption, environmentally-friendly construction methods and sustainability. All these are further aspects that jurors take into account in their assessment. In our image gallery, you will find impressive buildings by renowned and still relatively unknown architectural firms for residential and education buildings, amongst others, that meet these criteria for good architecture.

Public space: design for a better quality of life

Designing public spaces is extremely complex. Here on Red Dot 21, we present successful examples of outstanding urban design from around the world. Design takes on one of the most difficult challenges when planning and design concern our surroundings. They shape our cultural identity at least as much as our contact with industrially manufactured goods. The design of streets, squares and buildings, as well as residential, office and business areas exerts an influence on our quality of life that should not to be underestimated. In no other area do humans interfere more with nature through the creation of artificial objects than in urban spaces. It is therefore all the more important for urban design to founded on a keen sense of responsibility towards nature and the environment. What matters is to create open spaces, buildings, streets, etc. in short surroundings in such a way that the use of non-renewable resources and raw materials is reduced and harmful influences on the environment are minimised. Another important aim is to create urban surroundings that are worth living in, that offer space for relaxation, for coming together, for celebrating and for going out, but also for working and shopping, for visits to the authorities, for learning and for culture. Frequently, it is only possible to tell decades later whether planning was successful or not. But there are smaller components that shape public spaces where acceptance by the inhabitants reveals itself much more quickly. They include installation of urban furniture such as benches or rubbish bins, carefully considered signposting systems or robust and welcoming playgrounds. Take the time to explore our “Urban Design” image gallery at leisure to find out which approaches cities around the world have taken when attempting to make inner-city life a little more pleasant.