The jury of ECAA

Each jury, together with the President of the juries, designates through electronic voting five nominees for each of the five sections of the contest.

President of the Juries

The 2016 East Centric Arhitext Awards contest is representative for the lively architectural scene in Central and Eastern Europe searching for identity within a global contemporary approach. The diversity and overall high quality of the projects is remarkable, inspired by the existing situations and responding to the desire of a harmonious environment. The sensual work with materiality in an assumed modern expression has become a shared theme. Architecture as a reflection of an open, equal and tolerant society is a major concern.

Residential Buildings Jury

Watching the houses

Watching a house, one could imagine the people wanting it, picturing it and finally living in it. People are different, yet their aspirations are alike and able to group along the time in several categories. There are the people wishing for a universe of objects and feelings or an elegant and refined story of what their life will look like. There are people imagining their house like a museum or a gallery. There are also houses carefully placed in a plot somehow separated from its neighbors, yet with unlimited perspectives. It’s like their watching the rest of the world, especially when in front of it lays the blue glass of a lake or the sea. Sometimes it’s just perspectives; other times, building means hiding the house in its landscape, so when watching it feels like it disappears in the whole picture. Dissimulation could go so far as using mirror illusions. There are also the people wishing for “something small and inexpensive, but mine”. Surprisingly simple solutions have helped architects along time to draw spaces more likely for clothing, than for living, due to their closeness to the body. Apparently, dimensions are less important than quality and coherence. Of course, there is the category of people considering the house a statement, just like a cantilever or more, defying gravity itself. Collective dwelling is not to aim for those dreaming of the house of a life time, yet it is an option for people keen on living downtown, in the heart of the city. Several projects – a few, yet resourceful – have showed that creative solutions applied to the collective program are far from being over. Nor the real estate developers are pioneering the architecture of the future, yet there are a few exceptions among them, too. A penetrable assembly carefully inserted in the nature could very well adopt subtle games of similarities and differences.

What about drifting? It is a show in the open, created especially for public. It is the ultimate solution to explore possibilities through greatness. The splendor of a finished house according to a fulfilled dream and wish, perhaps with sacrifices and witty gestures – this is the drifting we talk about. Houses are for living; how much are they for being seen and shown? From both perspectives, combined with the architect’s desire to be part of every project’s adventure, the houses emerge.

After having the chance to see so many projects coming from different Central and Eastern European cultural spaces, what is the future of dwelling architecture, I wonder? Of course, the answer belongs to each and one of us, because we are so different ourselves! Still, the human condition maintains over and over again the same drifting on a given assignment, despite its differences, which are more likely variations than actual divergences.

Public Buildings Jury

Comments on the East Center Arhitext Awards 2016, the Public Buildings section

The process of evaluating projects has been a real joy to me, as I have seen so many good works and even quite brilliant. Therefore, I tried to comment most of them separately. Comments are mainly short and meant to emphasize the originality. 5 projects are missing my comments, not because they lack quality, but my lack of ability to fully understand them.

  1. Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages – an interesting idea, not thoroughly completed architecturally.
  2. Vucedol Culture Museum – obvious value, with an inspired disposition in site; austere architecture in a modern line (late modernism, to copy Charles Jencks); the museography has no spectacular inventions and proves to be efficient and chaste.
  3. Central Veterinary Laboratory: correct, economic, decent architecture.
  4. Călțun Refuge: apparently a light subject, yet a difficult exercise of architecture. The authors managed to create – probably in austere conditions of execution and financing – the proper solution. The interior design is fresh and resourceful and answers the function in a minimalist note.
  5. M4 Fovam Ter Underground Station: the complexity of the program – subway station, tram lines and pedestrian passage – has generated an interesting structure, sometimes at the limit of complicated.
  6. Campus WU for the Vienna University of Economics and Business: complex program and spectacular architecture, in a good old fashion Viennese tradition.
  7. Sancaklar Mosque: authors offer an interesting reading of Coran – “First time in mosque architecture, women have the chance to pray just in the same row as the men”. The courageous interpretation of the sacred texts and the clear, correct architecture are worthy of appreciation.
  8. Bath on the Shore of Tineretului Lake: a very beautiful and inspired dialogue with poetical nuances between nature and architecture; the main chosen material for construction – the wood – is flawless in sustaining and completing the philosophy.
  9. Paleontological Museum in Dorkovo: a very good relationship with the site; the shape is simple and adequate, subtly avoiding the ludic; the museography is efficient, not very innovative yet.
  10. Tartu Nature House: good relationship with the geography and the built environment; the arm geometry protecting the greenery is identical with the other 2, yet it deserves a different architectural approach, not only in materials used – glass instead of wood. The project is missing in eloquence.
  11. Viljandi State High School: correct architecture, wittily framed in the surroundings; I have certain doubts on the formal solution of the access displayed between the new wing and the old wing of the building.
  12. «top!» Store in Salacgriva: the general geometry determined by arteries in different degrees is justified, yet not reproduced in the interior space; probably, architects had to respond to beneficiaries’ pressure to have a main rectangular shaped space, easier to decorate; the result was an interior architecture inadequate to the plan as a whole.
  13. Administrative Buiding of the Hydroelectric Plants on Drina: austere architecture, adequate to the function; beautiful solution of access in the loft continuation; the building has a classic balance, proper to its environment.
  14. Concert Hall, Blaibach: remarkable project; maximum results with economical means, requiring a substantial conceptual effort.
  15. House C and House D – Cultural-tourist complex “Terra Panonica”: accurate project and solution; perhaps missing “un clin d’oeil” reminding of the local spirit.
  16. Urban Module: interesting and thoroughly studied volumetric solution; it fits in site by its contrast, just like presumably the authors intended.
  17. Golden Hall: simple and efficient project; a very pleasant and functional interior space.
  18. Barbouni Restaurant: accurate volumetric solution, yet the project faults by an excess of interior design.
  19. Phoenix Zeppelin Headquarters: accurate deployment in site; a subtle inflexion of volume, generated by the presence of the street; a serious and expressive architecture, with detailed solutions carefully studied.
  20. DEM Power Engineering Demonstration Center: seductive minimalism; I haven’t quite understood its functioning mechanism, though.
  21. Scientific Information Centre and Academic Library: austere and spectacular project in the same time; the material used for façades and its manner of utilization are well justified, enhancing and nuancing the project’s idea.
  22. Museum for Architectural Drawing: interesting searches, sometimes excessive, especially for interiors.
  23. Etyeki Kúria Winery: neat project that, carefully studied at the local scale, could offer the solution to the theme.
  24. Gardening center: interesting project, with subtle allusions to a “regional-critic” architecture, in the manner of Kenneth Frampton
  25. Proiect interesant, cu subtile trimiteri la o arhitectură “ regionalist-critică” în sensul în care ne-o propune.
  26. Kemenes Volcanopark Visitor Center: an interesting exercise of volumetric composition.

After going through these projects (and the above mentioned 5 not commented), I find Arhitext’s initiative to organize this Triennale quite remarkable. Bringing together so many valuable projects from the “Eastern of our naiveties” Europe is not only useful, but quite NECESSARY. Congratulations!

The list of projects in the category Public Buildings was quite long – we jurors were able to choose among thirty interesting projects, completed in recent years. All projects embody the thought and the image of contemporary East and Central European architectural culture, and together they represent a complex review and information about the dynamic architectural scene. My criteria in judging were, among others, contribution to the general culture of space, sustainability of the design, integrality of execution of the architectural idea, approach to the defined problem, prospects for the building to serve as a model, rationality, and conceptual design. Of course, the social and economic context and the general level of architecture in specific state or community was also important; it is not the same, if one new building is located in German town or in Bulgaria countryside. Public architecture has social responsibility. The advancement of architecture is not a goal in itself but a way to improve people’s quality of life. But the ultimate criteria were poetic values of single architectural work. Let me conclude by quoting Tadao Ando:

“To think architecturally is not merely deal with external conditions or to solve functional problems. We must create architectural spaces in which man can experience – as he does with poetry and music – surprise, discovery, intellectual stimulation, peace and joy of life.”

Interior Design Jury

In the first stage of competition the jury had the assignment to choose ten of twenty-five entries, of which five enter the final presentation. In the interior design section, it was interesting to see a recent production overview of Central and Eastern Europe countries and their differences and similarities as well. An insight to the interior design projects shows that most production refers to hospitality, then residential, retail, and in the end space for culture, giving us a good view into the investment in certain areas, private, commercial and public spaces. The total impression of all submitted projects shows the spirit of optimism and creative atmosphere that can form a relevant and strong upcoming scene. It is visible that the different European countries have a different budget range for architectural idea implementation, which does not affect the creativity of the solutions. Certain projects show a great effort of involvement in the transformation of living, social interaction and culture spaces. Evaluating the entries, in this stage of competition, that differ in project tasks and purposes, space sizes, available financial assets, was a great challenge: to compare completely different tasks. It was important to set clear criteria that could be applied to such broad topics. Selection criteria in the first round were primarily a quality, innovative project solution to a program in spatial and functional terms, the originality of an idea and consistent concept implementation through all stages of design: from concept to the realization. Particularly interesting is the use of material and finishing in the relation to the design concept. Almost all of the shortlisted works show a subtle and thoughtful usage of the materials in their basic appearance and color in a way to emphasize the characteristics of the material, almost as a general return to the natural. And in the end, there is an immeasurable value, the overall atmosphere that exudes space, that makes a difference in architecture, and that is impossible to define as a rational component.

The projects competition was dominated by those aiming and succeeding to maintain continuity and homogeneity between the whole and the details, to find unexpected connections between the strictly functional solution and the expressivity and to confer uniqueness to the created spaces, while being preoccupied in the same time by the simplicity of gestures and the economy of means. It was this complex attitude that made a difference in the case of at least 2 out of the 5 nominated participants.

The uniqueness of the authors’ personality transposed to their work was sometimes sensed in a solitary affinity by some of the jurors, making one wonder if this eternal and implacable system of designating the most points project as the best and therefore the winner is the only valid and valuable judgment measure in this situations …

The projects of the Interior Design section reveal the interior life of the East-Centric world that Arhitext aims at discover, through its contemporary architecture.

Constantin Gorcea

The earnestness of the concept, the projects’ quality and complexity are truly remarkable. They are thoroughly elaborated and clearly reproduced. My gratitude and congratulations to all the participants and especially the organizers of this great event.


Conceptually speaking, the 25 projects entered in competition share a common vision, revealed by the option of dynamic modulation of spaces, recognizable finish and assembly work, or even relation with certain referential typologies of design that are no longer specific to a certain area, but rather to an actual European status-quo. Based on this hypothesis and without knowing the origin of any of these spaces, it is difficult to identify the source: Poland, Russia, Greece, Turkey and so on. Such a homogenous approach does not exclude the nuances according to project or the adequacy of chosen formula to the content.

Considering the details, though, these interior designs are difficult to compare, as they are solutions to different programs and necessities. 7 of them are showrooms of diverse goods, 6 are cafés combined or not with purchasing options (bookstore, for example), 2 are creative, innovative spaces, 2 are designed for expositions and 6 are private spaces, apartments. In all this diversity of functions, some solutions use well known formulas subtly adapted to necessities, others use design concepts completely inadequate to the program; some try daring formulas more or less successful, and some create interesting solutions, even quite appealing. No matter the program, I have noticed and awarded the sensitive solutions, able to confer an adequate and nuanced response to the destination and needs of the beneficiaries; on the other hand, I have penalized the attempt to astound with eccentric design, meant to promote the designer’s ego rather than the project’s destination.

Exterior Design Jury

I am honored to be part of the 2016 East Centric Architecture Triennale’s jury.

The participation in our section was quite numerous and I was terribly impressed by the high quality of the projects. I have appreciated most projects, yet I awarded the works where the accuracy of the volumetric composition and the manner of harmonizing materials and textures were able to create architectural spaces with a certain atmosphere, significance and identity.

Marian Moiceanu

Regeneration Jury

The “Regeneration” section of this year’s ECA Awards – «Drifting» Triennale, presents itself more as a process, than as a finalized state. Indeed, the old/new projects are somehow always stuck in that in-between mode; they are never finished, there is always that notion of pre/post state, hence the exciting potential of the process in which the building exists. Materializing that effort of transformation of space without use, into something new, is actually the reanimation process of giving it a new life and letting it receive new terms and principles of functioning. In many instances, we can see a genuinely fresh identity being established, with traces of history engraved in its skin, presenting a complementary and pleasant dialogue. While observing the presented projects, I was searching for that wonderful spark that encouraged the architects to generate new spatial events. A notion of initial gesture that defined their (re)action. We can see a variety in size, budget and treatment, but the scale was not an issue here, the challenge imposed to the architects was seemingly more important.

Thoughts on the projects’ evaluation
Regeneration section // East Centric 2016

I must first and foremost emphasize the diversity of the projects from all possible points of view: function, location, size, etc. We have judged highly qualitative works and it was not an easy task. Any evaluation of this type has a certain character – they are relative, especially in the situation where the jurors are unable to visit or inhabit the works. As a consequence, a series of value parameters cannot be evaluated. The alternative would probably be to add further documentation to the usual submitted materials (photography, drawings, text) which in fact express the views of the authors, in the form of written points of view from the clients/users or other expertise. It would indeed make things more complicated, so we proceed as usual. Maybe for the next triennial, my old proposal to have a competition section for 7-10 years old architectures will be taken more seriously.

Regarding myself, I have evaluated with the highest grade the Landesarchiv NRW, by Ortner&Ortner Baukunst, which is not among the 5 finalists after the first round of evaluation. I can only deeply regret this fact, since it is the only work that obtained the highest grade from two of the jury members. If not all large and complex works are necessarily valuable, I had no choice but to appreciate this work and its atmosphere, as it is showcased in the photographs. The subtle gradient of the old and new building employing the texture of the old and new brick, the sculptural and monumental character enhanced by preoccupations for sustainability have truly convinced me. In general, I have also appreciated the quality and brevity of the written text, and in this case it is clear and enlightening.

The second work which attracted my attention, on the opposite side of the size scale, is the Garden House – Hertl Architekten. This assembly of spaces dedicated to creative work and small scale cultural events has a particular atmosphere, a specific presence, as it interprets in an intelligent manner the topology of the place and of the existing building and thus creating an ingenious device to „look at” and capture the sunlight. Not in the least, I was convinced by the accurate manipulation of materiality, by the well-tempered contrast between the texture of the old building and the character of new infill materials – exposed concrete, frameless glass, wood floorings inside and gravel pavement in the exterior courtyard.

I was also interested in the Steirereck restaurant of PPAG architects, the refurbishment of the Stanislavsky theatre, by Wowhaus architects, the Rietavas Manor Coach House conversion by Aketuri Architektai and the rehabilitation of the Art and Design School in Riga by Zaigas Gailes Birojs. I will not insist on their subject, as they are not among the finalists after the first round of evaluation.

I have, on the other hand, appreciated a work that has been graded as a finalist: Ptuj Performance Center in Slovenia by ENOTA, a luminous and charming work.

Vlad Gaivoronschi

Review overview


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