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World Architecture Festival: World wide talent

Croatia’s Arena Zagreb claimed top honour for structural design at this year’s World Architecture Festival. Jessica Rowson reveals why.

The Arena Zagreb by Upi-2m was the outright winner of this year’s structural design category at the World Architecture Festival (WAF) Awards for its simple, elegant and efficient structural concept − the external inward leaning ribs or columns, braced by a ring beam, supported the suspended roof.

The prestressed prefabricated columns, which were between 27m and 39m in length, were a huge undertaking in their own right.

Upi-2m had to design an erection system for the large cast on site members, working with local contractors, who at first had said it couldn’t be done. The judges felt the finished stadium transformed the area, providing a catalyst for development.

Bamboo was prominent in this year’s structural design category with three of the eight projects shortlisted using bamboo as their main structural form. The judging panel was impressed by the research and experimentation that had been done with this material, particularly demonstrated by the wNw Bar in Vietnam by Vo Trong Nghia Co. Using bundles of bamboo, jointed with bamboo pegs, the team created a vast circular gridshell dome with a phenomenal span of 70m.

Also highly commended was the Richmond Olympic Oval Roof, designed by Fast & Epp structural engineers.

The roof features composite glulam-steel arches spanning some 100m with specially constructed secondary panels made from readily available timber planks spanning around 14m between. The judges liked the use of a discarded material − the timber had been killed by a recent epidemic of the mountain pine beetle − and the intelligent design of both the main span and secondary unit.

Other projects shortlisted for the structural award were

  • Bamboo Wings Vo Trong Nghia, Vietnam
  • Heart of School PT Bambu, Indonesia
  • Mode-Gakuen Spiral Towers Nikken Sekkei, Japan
  • The 18m All Glass Walkway Malishev Wilson
  • The Yellow Building AHMM, United Kingdom


Structural design is just one small part of the World Architecture Festival.

At the festival projects from all over the world competed in categories from cultural and commercial to transport and production over two days, presenting their projects in front of a panel of judges and a public audience and facing tough questions.

On the third day the winners from the 25 different categories, including Kengo Kuma, Farshid Moussavi, Suha Ozkan and structural engineer Tim Macfarlane, presented their projects in front of a superjury, chaired by Rafael Viñoly, to win the title of World Building of the Year and Future Project of the Year.

South African architect Peter Rich won the World Building of the Year award for his Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in South Africa, a building on the site of an ancient civilisation which is also designed to highlight the fragility of the environment.

Spanish architect Miralles Tagliabue EMBT won the Future Project of the Year Award for Shanghai Expo pavilion.

World Architecture Festival

World Architecture Festival

World Architecture Festival: World wide talent

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