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China and Sydney provide global standouts in the WAF winners list

After three days of crits, talks and presentations, the full winners of the 2023 World Architecture Festival have been announced.

China and Sydney provide global standouts in the WAF winners list

Huizhen High School by Approach Design Studio, Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group.

The World Architecture Festival (WAF) is over for another year. Once again, Australian projects – and in particular those based in Sydney – made a remarkably strong showing in Singapore. You can read about the category winners from days one and two here, but now it’s time to detail who was recognised with WAF’s top honours.

19 Waterloo Street by SJB, photograph by Anson Smart.

With Quay Quarter Tower having won World Building of the Year in 2022, it was Sydney’s turn this year in the next major category – World Interior of the Year. Adam Haddow’s (who features in Your Moment INDESIGN) 19 Waterloo Street by SJB was announced as the global winner, recognition that comes just months after the same project won at the 2023 INDE.Awards. The judges described the small, multi-storey house, originally listed in the Residential (Single Dwelling) category, as “like a wardrobe for the architect himself to live in.”

19 Waterloo Street continues to garner attention thanks to its timely approach to the home in an age dominated by crises of housing affordability and questions of density in our cities. It shows how much can be done with an apparently small, awkward plot, including a rich use of materiality and aesthetics. The judges noted how the facade’s multiple and apparently random openings “generated a satisfying alignment and play of light.”

The World Building of the Year this time went to a Chinese project located in Jiangbei District, Ningbo City, Huizhen. Designed by Approach Design Studio/Zhejiang University of Technology Engineering Design Group China, Huizhen High School was noted as a bold exploration of ‘efficiency-first’ campus design in which time can be ‘wasted’ seriously. The boarding school campus is a ‘floating forest’ with classrooms hung in each corner of the forest and joined by meandering paths. Scattered tree houses provide students with temporary escapes, while a ramp leads up to a sloping roof that also functions as an open-air lecture hall and a park with sporting facilities. In short, the project was seen as having created an altogether new typology.

Related: WAF Winners from days one and two

Back in Australia, Woods Bagot was again recognised for work in Sydney, having already taken out a category winner award for M&C Saatchi offices. This time, 55 Pitt Street by Woods Bagot and SHoP Architects took out The Futureglass Prize, a category supported by Aestech and to award the project that best demonstrates new ways in which glass and glass technology has been deployed. A New Zealand project, Fisher and Paykel Global Headquarters by RTA Studio, was highly commended in the cateorgory. Meanwhile, Hillcrest Rose Bay – also in Sydney and by Woods Bagot – was highly commended in The Visualisation Prize.

55 Pitt Street by Woods Bagot and SHoP Architects.

A notable mention for some international and imaginative inspiration goes to Design and More International, an Egypt-based architecture studio. The Probiotic Tower was the winner of The Future Project of the Year, proposing a way of repurposing obsolete water towers in the Cairo metropolis to become large algae bioreactor tanks for absorbing CO2. The building is expanded by establishing a bamboo plantation on-site and creating a bamboo cross-laminated timber (CLT) production facility that grows modular components to build a supportive scaffold around the towers.

The Probiotic Tower by Design and More International, image courtesy of Karim Mousa, founder and art director of Mozses.

Elsewhere, Landscape of the Year went to Benjakitti Forest Park: Transforming a Brownfield into an Urban Ecological Sanctuary by TURENSCAPE, Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect in Thailand.

Benjakitti Forest Park by TURENSCAPE, Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect.

The WAFX Prize is a unique category designed to reward projects that best use design and architecture to tackle major world issues, including health, climate change, technology, ethics and values. The 2023 award went to Arup for a UK project that rethinks oil rig structures as data centres to give them a new function in the fast-expanding circular economy, Rethinking Oil Rigs – Offshore Data Centres.

The 2023 World Architecture Festival took place at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore from 29th November to 1st December and is set to return to the same venue in November 2024.

World Architecture Festival


Rethinking Oil Rigs – Offshore Data Centres by Arup.
Hillcrest Rose Bay, Sydney by Woods Bagot.
Fisher and Paykel Global Headquarters by RTA Studio.

We think you might also like this story on the winners from the 2023 INDE.Awards.

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