Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias wins Royal Academy Architecture Prize 2020

Conferred to an artist for the first time, the Royal Academy award recognises Iglesias’ work that invites people to look not just at the buildings, but also at the spaces between them.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Jan 20, 2020

Cristina Iglesias, the Spanish installation artist and sculptor whose work comprises suspended pavilions, latticed panels, passageways, mazes and riverbeds, has been announced as the winner of the Royal Academy Architecture Prize 2020.

The annual architecture award by the London-based Royal Academy recognises those who push the idea of what architecture can and should be, and its place in the world. Now in its third edition, the prize has been awarded to an artist for the first time. The previous winners are architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio (2019) of New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Japanese architect Itsuko Hasagawa (2018).

The award recognised Madrid-based Iglesias’ contribution for inspiring and acting as a reminder for architects on the crucial role of public spaces within our cities. Her collection of works from the Rivers and Public Spaces series (2006–2018) has been showcased across cities like Valencia, Toledo, London and Antwerp. The works introduce running water and naturalistic imagery reminiscent of fallen leaves within urban spaces, creating a dialogue between the built and natural surroundings.

Deep Fountain (2006), Leopold de Waelplaats, Antwerp, Belgium | Cristina Iglesias | Royal Academy Architecture Prize 2020 | STIRworld
Deep Fountain (2006), Leopold de Waelplaats, Antwerp, Belgium Image Credit: Kristien Daem

The series include Desde lo Suberraneo (2017) – an installation circling Renzo Piano’s dramatic Centro Botin building in Santander, Spain; Tres Aguas (2014) – a public space sitting within a reclaimed water tower, a convent and the town hall square in Toledo, Spain; and Threshold-Entrance (2006-2007), an interface between the outside space and the interior of the Prado Museum.

Threshold-Entrance (2006-2007), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain | Cristina Iglesias | Royal Academy Architecture Prize 2020 | STIRworld
Threshold-Entrance (2006-2007), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain Image Credit: Attilio Maranzano

Iglesias uses materials such as steel, glass, bronze, concrete, mirror and straw in her works to create immersive environments that open new ways of looking at spaces between buildings.

Expressing her excitement on being conferred the award, the artist said, “I am very happy to be the recipient of this recognition by the Jury and the Royal Academy of Arts in particular, because it values what I believe is the integral role of sculpture in the city, in the public space. I am interested in the crossings between architecture and sculpture, creating spaces and moments for contemplation and reflection in the midst of contemporary urban life.”

Tres Aguas (2014), Town Hall Square, Toledo, Spain | Cristina Iglesias | Royal Academy Architecture Prize 2020 | STIRworld
Tres Aguas (2014), Town Hall Square, Toledo, SpainImage Credit: Attilio Maranzano

An eminent international jury, chaired by the Royal Academician and founder of Foster + Partners, Norman Foster, consisted of London-based architect Alan Stanton RA, artist duo Jane and Louise Wilson RA, Pondicherry and Berlin-based architect Anupama Kundoo, and Professor of Urban Studies at the London School of Economics, Ricky Burdett.

“Successive generations of urbanists and artists have enhanced open civic spaces with public art in the form of statuary and fountains. The Royal Academy Architecture Prize pays homage to that enduring and vital tradition in its choice of Cristina Iglesias,” cited Norman Foster, whose Bloomberg Headquarters in London overlooks Iglesias’ permanent installation, Forgotten Dreams.

The jury also selected four practices for the Royal Academy Dorfman Award, which celebrates global talent in architecture. The finalists are - AAU Anastas (Palestine), AOR Architects (Finland), BCKJ Architects (China), and WHBC Architects (Malaysia). The winner will be announced on March 17, 2020, during the Royal Academy Architecture Awards Week that will take place from March 16-19, 2020, in London.

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