Since 2008, the world’s largest architectural stage has been the World Architecture Festival (WAF). In its programming, the festival focuses both on the presentation of the international architecture scene, as well as a competition aimed at awarding and celebrating excellent works. While the main prize goes to the World Building of the Year, there are various additional categories in which the judges select their favourites. In the following article we explore not only the awards, but the many different events and facets of the WAF.

Ahead of the 2016 edition of the WAF in Berlin, its programme director Paul Finch has been writing a series of Letter from London throughout the year. The opinion pieces, which can be found on the festival’s homepage, comment on the latest news in the architectural world and narrate the always changing and progressing storyline that is modern architecture. Of course, the WAF is part of that story and Finch’s writing is in line with the festival’s motivation to once a year take measure on what has happened in the last 12 months, discuss it, learn from it and be inspired by it.

Neuer Zollhof, Düsseldorf. Photo: © Shepard4711

A communal experience

The WAF, which will take place from the 16 to 18 November, offers a programme that is as diverse as the architectural world. Nevertheless, when exploring the events, a common aspect arises in the fact that the WAF focuses on a communal experience within the festival and also beyond it.
Thus, the theme of the seminar programme on the main stage in Arena Berlin is ‘Housing for Everyone’. From Wednesday morning onwards, when the festival starts, some 15 events will take place and explore the theme from all angles. Right at the beginning of the day, housing will be put in a global perspective by Dick van Gamere, the editor of DASH – Delft Architectural Studies on Housing. Later on the agenda is ‘Temporary housing – refugee response’ and the consideration of what needs architects must address when designing for refugees. On the following day, further topics include ‘Housing, energy and construction, housing and density’ and the question of ‘How we live now, how will we live tomorrow?’

Live presentations

What would an architecture festival be without sharing actual projects and works from the field? It would be unimaginable. Due to the fact that the WAF is also a competition, visitors have the unique chance to explore all works that have been selected for the competition shortlist in intimate and insightful presentations held by the architects themselves.

© World Architecture Festival

The truly fascinating idea behind the concept is that presentations are not only held live, but also discussed and critiqued live by an international judging panel. Up to 12 presentations will be running at the same time throughout the three days, but an elegant schedule enables the audience to see as many as possible. Each presenter has ten minutes to give the listeners all the insights into the story of his building or landscape and for an additional eight minutes the juries will ask questions and discuss the project in the room. This is also the part where the competitive nature of the WAF comes in, as the presentations are not only informative for the visitors, but the discussions lead to a first stage of judging with regard to categories. At the end of the first two days category winners of the day will be announced, who will then have the opportunity to present on the third day and hence compete for the main awards.

At the following link, you’ll find a selection of the best architects and designers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria:


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