Lesia Topolnyk wins 2022 Prix de Rome for Architecture with ‘No Innocent Landscape’

Granted to architects under the age of 35 in the Netherlands, this year’s prize was centred on the theme of Healing Sites, with 53 unique proposals in the pool of submitted entries.

by STIRworldPublished on : Dec 10, 2022

The 2022 Prix de Rome for Architecture was awarded to Lesia Topolnyk of StudioSpaceStation, chosen from among the four finalists who each shared projects centred on the prescribed theme for this edition, Healing Sites. Topolnyk, who spent her formative years in Ukraine, presented a proposal titled No Innocent Landscape, which focuses on the mining village of Hrabove, a site where the devastating 2014 crash of the passenger flight MH17 took place, and also an area with a history of illegal mining activities. As the most lauded project from among the 53 entries submitted by architects, urban planners, interior designers, and landscape architects, Topolnyk’s uniquely dark and deconstructive conceptual design uses elements of narrative to formulate a sensitive approach in dealing with the intricate interactions between global and local histories, on a site that reflected the notion of a ‘guilty landscape’ in every regard. For her efforts, Topolnyk received a € 40,000 prize as well as a residency of her choice at Het Nieuwe Instituut.

  • Topolnyk was selected as the winner from a pool of four finalists | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    Topolnyk was selected as the winner from a pool of four finalists Image: Aad Hoogendoorn
  • The award is one of the oldest and most prized honours bestowed upon architects under the age of 35 in the Netherlands | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    The award is one of the oldest and most prized honours bestowed upon architects under the age of 35 in the Netherlands Image: Aad Hoogendoorn
  • Topolnyk was commended by the jury for her uniquely dark and deconstructive design which probed into the notion of a guilty landscape | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    Topolnyk was commended by the jury for her uniquely dark and deconstructive design which probed into the notion of a guilty landscape Image: Aad Hoogendoorn

Instituted in 1808 by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the Prix de Rome is one of the oldest and most prized honours granted to visual artists under the age of 40 and architects under the age of 35 in the Netherlands. With its roots in the earlier French award of the same name, which was discontinued in 1968, the Dutch edition of the prize was conferred by the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague from 1817 till 1860, when it was first discontinued. When revived a decade later, the award’s new iteration became affiliated with the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, which was also founded in the same year. Despite minor changes in its structure and scope over the years, the core principle behind the award—that of promoting young creatives—has remained unaltered, with the most recent incarnation of the prize organised by the Mondriaan Fund along with the Creative Industries Fund NL on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, with the presentation managed in collaboration with Het Nieuwe Instituut and its accompanying publication handled by Jap Sam Books. Moreover, in the run-up to the winner’s announcement and the 2022 Prix de Rome exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut, four short films were made by Mals Media about each of the finalists.

Topolnyk's proposal, titled 'No Innocent Landscape' focused on the village of Hrabove in her native Ukraine, which was the site of the devastating 2014 crash of the passenger flight MH17 | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
Topolnyk's proposal, titled 'No Innocent Landscape' focused on the village of Hrabove in her native Ukraine, which was the site of the devastating 2014 crash of the passenger flight MH17 Image: Aad Hoogendoorn

For this year’s edition of the prize, the jury included leading professionals such as Afaina de Jong (founder and director AFARAI), Alessandra Covini (co-founder and co-director of Studio Ossidiana, Prix de Rome 2018 winner), Carson Chan (Emilio Ambasz Institute Director at MoMA), Dirk Sijmons (founder of H+N+S Landschapsarchitecten), Jan Jongert (founding partner Superuse Studios), and Syb Groeneveld (CEO Creative Industries Fund NL, technical chair). After the selection of the four finalists during the first round, the second phase of the awards provided them with the chance to develop and refine their proposals further with the support of a working budget, over a four-month period.

  • The conceptual design put forth a sensitive approach to dealing with complex interactions between global and local histories | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    The conceptual design put forth a sensitive approach to dealing with complex interactions between global and local histories Image: Aad Hoogendoorn
  • The project showcased how the landscape serving as a backdrop for such an event is not innocent in itself while also highlighting how architecture can play a mediating role in healing a site | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    The project showcased how the landscape serving as a backdrop for such an event is not innocent in itself while also highlighting how architecture can play a mediating role in healing a site Image: Aad Hoogendoorn
  • Proposals by the four finalists will be on show at Het Nieuwe Instituut until November 9, 2023 | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    Proposals by the four finalists will be on show at Het Nieuwe Instituut until November 9, 2023 Image: Aad Hoogendoorn

In a statement, the jury noted about the winning entry: “Lesia Topolnyk argues that in current conflicts architecture can no longer exercise control by relying on its conventional tools and ways of thinking. With the project No Innocent Landscape, she wants to embrace chaos: not as distortion, but as the only means by which she can gain insight. She proposes a series of new axioms to break through the blockage of unsolvable issues. The jury considers it an unusual achievement to directly question her own role as an architect and designer and to analyse how her profession works. The jury praises her courage in detaching herself from the traditional instruments of architecture, especially in the context of an institution like the Prix de Rome. The created exhibition space, with all its smells, colours and sounds, positively surprised and intrigued the jury. The jury members note that this is the only exhibition space that not only represents a place in need of healing but has itself become a place of healing.”

  • Arna Mačkić's design, titled the ‘International Centre for Architectural Disaster,’ was one of the four finalists | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    Arna Mačkić's design, titled the ‘International Centre for Architectural Disaster,’ was one of the four finalists Image: Aad Hoogendoorn
  • Mačkić's work put forth a call for architects to take responsibility and heal the wounds of architectural disasters| Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    Mačkić's work put forth a call for architects to take responsibility and heal the wounds of architectural disasters Image: Aad Hoogendoorn

Among the other finalists this year, Arna Mačkić Co-Founder at Studio L A, put forth her vision of how architects can take responsibility for the fallout of architectural disasters, dubbed the International Centre for Architectural Disaster. Envisioning a restructuring of the building of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague as a new centre of healing through mediation and restorative justice, the project aims to explore and shed light on systems responsible for architectural disasters, amplifying the voice of those adversely affected by them while also generating new theories and movements in the process.

  • Studio KIWI's proposal was centred on the Dutch childcare benefits scandal | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    Studio KIWI's proposal was centred on the Dutch childcare benefits scandal Image: Aad Hoogendoorn
  • The project explored avenues to restore trust in public institutions | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    The project explored avenues to restore trust in public institutions Image: Aad Hoogendoorn
  • The proposal considered a redesign of 21 counters at the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    The proposal considered a redesign of 21 counters at the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration Image: Aad Hoogendoorn

Grounds of [In]justice was the title of Studio KIWI’s proposal, where the practice, led by Kim Kool and Willemijn van Manen, probed into the Dutch childcare benefits scandal of 2018. As a measure to restore trust in public institutions, the project advocates for a redesign of 21 counters of the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst), adopting a layered approach to connect social issues with physical architectural interventions, to heal on both material and systematic levels.

  • ‘Colonies of Benevolence’ by Dividual delves into Dutch colonialism and its relation to Dutch welfare | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    ‘Colonies of Benevolence’ by Dividual delves into Dutch colonialism and its relation to Dutch welfare Image: Aad Hoogendoorn
  • The project examines relationships between labour and nature | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
    The project examines relationships between labour and nature Image: Aad Hoogendoorn

Finally, Andrea Bit and Maciej Wieczorkowski of Dividual presented Colonies of Benevolence, whose cornerstone was the issue of colonialism, as seen in the village of Veenhuizen, a former penal colony. A site riddled with historical tensions, Dividual’s proposal offered a contemporary reflection on links between labour and nature, connecting Dutch colonialism with the subsequent seeds of Dutch welfare, to highlight how even healing is sometimes not an innocent process.

‘Colonies of Benevolence’ examines Veenhuizen and its history as a penal colony | Prix de Rome 2022 Winners | STIRworld
‘Colonies of Benevolence’ examines Veenhuizen and its history as a penal colony Image: Aad Hoogendoorn

Additionally, the jury presiding over the architecture awards also gave honourable mentions to six candidates, including Bram van Ooijen’s DISPLACED CITY, dérive’s (Kevin Westerveld and Hedwig van der Linden) Ground for Dialogue, Estelle Barriol’s Cultivating the Metropolis, Georges Taminiau’s Architect of the Natural Kingdom, Gianna Bottema’s Cooperative Resistance: Spatial Protocols for Collective Action, and Sophia Holst.

The 2022 Prix de Rome exhibition will be on display at the Het Nieuwe Instituut until November 9, 2023.

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