by Pooja Suresh HollannavarAug 03, 2023
The W Awards 2020 held on March 6, 2020 announced Francesca Torzo and Tracy Meller as the winners of Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture and the MJ Long Prize for Excellence in Practice, respectively. Francesca Torzo is the founder of Francesca Torzo Architetto and Tracy Meller is a partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Mariam Kamara was Highly Commended under Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture category. The awards were announced by The Architectural Review and The Architects’ Journal at a ceremony held in London .
Since its inception in 2012, the W Awards have continued to raise the profile of women in architecture worldwide, inspiring change as a united voice of a global call for respect, diversity and equality. Formerly known as the Women in Architecture awards, W Awards celebrates exemplary work of all kinds - from the design of the world’s most significant new buildings to contributions to wider architectural culture, and lifetimes of achievement to the work of women with bright futures ahead. The awards have promoted role models for young women in practice and encourage respect, diversity and equality in architecture.
Chaired by The Architectural Review editor Manon Mollard and The Architects’ Journal editor Emily Booth, the W Awards 2020 were judged by Biba Dow, Dow Jones Architects; Eva Jiřičná, AI-DESIGN; Meneesha Kellay, Curator, V&A Museum; Stephanie Macdonald, 6a Architects; Takero Shimazaki, Takero Shimazaki Architects; Catherine Slessor, Architectural editor, writer and critic; Amin Taha, Groupwork; Olly Wainwright, architecture and design critic, The Guardian and Sal Wilson, Atelier Ten.
The Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture
In memory of the late Moira Gemmill, the director of design at the V&A and later director of capital programmes at the Royal Collection Trust, the award recognises excellence in design and a bright future for women designers under the age of 45, with an emphasis on a portfolio of achievements and completed projects.
The winner Francesca Torzo, the founder of Francesca Torzo Architetto, is based in Genoa, Italy. Her architecture is careful, persistent and showcases unyielding will. The extension to the Z33 art house in Hasselt, Belgium, is informed by a memory of the beguinage in which it sits, creating a ‘silent’ façade of red brick along the street and a Kasbah of rooms nestled behind. The practice’s future projects include two residential projects in Italy and two in China, including a dance school in Bishan near Huangshan and a tea house in Yangshuo.
Praising her work, the judges commented, “Each of Torzo’s projects is a complete reinvention of what architecture can be, with maze-like plans or strange constructional logics. Z33 is both beautiful and poetic, Torzo setting a scene for characters to animate, like a theatre director. She occupies the same space as Olgiati or Zumthor, but she goes even beyond her mentors – achieving a level of completeness in an industry that doesn’t often allow for it.”
Mariam Kamara, who received the Highly Commended prize, is based in Niamey, Niger. The founder of Atelier Masōmī concerns her practice with the use of locally derived resources and the representation of women and young people in public life. Recent projects include the Niamey 2000 housing development, conceived in 2016 with united4design, and Hikma religious and secular complex in Dandaji. This consisted of a new mosque along with the restoration and conversion of the former mosque into a community space and library, designed in collaboration with Studio Chahar and opened in 2018.
The previous winners of Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture are Xu Tiantian, founder of DnA (2019); Gloria Cabral, partner at Gabinete de Arquitectura (2018); Rozana Montiel (2017); Gabriela Etchegaray, co-founder of Ambrosi Etchegaray (2016); vPPR founders Tatiana von Preussen, Catherine Pease and Jessica Reynolds (2015); sole practitioner Julia King (2014); Spanish architect Olga Felip (2013); and John McAslan + Partners’ Hannah Lawson (2012).
Other shortlisted architects under this category were Simona Della Rocca, co-founder of BDR bureau, Turin, Italy and Stefanie Rhodes, co-founder of Gatti Routh Rhodes, London, UK.
MJ Long Prize for Excellence in Practice:
Named in the memory of inspirational American architect Mary Jane Long, this award celebrates architects excelling in their practice. With London being the home for these awards, the prize considers UK-based architects working for UK-based practices, and is judged on an overall body of work with a further emphasis on a recently completed project.
Tracy Meller, partner at -- has been awarded the MJ Long Prize for Excellence in Practice 2020 for her work on Centre Building, London School of Economics, UK. Won in competition in 2013, the project sets a new block of teaching spaces, lecture halls and staff offices into Holborn in the heart of London. The urban realm extends into the ground floor, leading in to a great meandering staircase that is designed to catalyse spatial and social connection – student enclaves are convivial and civilised, while staff areas, with a mixture of cellular and open-plan offices, are intended to tactfully dissolve departmental silos.
Judges are all praise for the winners. “Tracy Meller is gutsy and humane at the same time. She’s a real leader, working collaboratively while still pulling the whole thing together. It’s a very difficult thing to do in a corporate culture, going against a general tendency of having a solo leading voice.”
The other shortlisted architects were Emma Fairhurst of Collective Architecture, for Calton Hill City Observatory, Edinburgh, Alice Hamlin of Mole Architects, for Marmalade Lane, Cambridge and Nicola Rutt of Hawkins\Brown, for Here East, London.
Alongside the W Awards 2020, further celebrating lifelong contributions of women to architectural pedagogy, the winners of the Jane Drew and Ada Louise Huxtable Prizes 2020 were Pakistan’s first female architect Yasmeen Lari and architectural historian and theorist Beatriz Colomina, respectively.