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Swiss Architectural Award 2022: Honouring Xu Tiantian’s etchings in China

The biennial award, organised by Switzerland-based Teatro dell'architettura Foundation, recently revealed Xu Tiantian as the winner of the Swiss Architectural Award 2022.

by Almas SadiquePublished on : Dec 28, 2022

Fondazione Teatro dell’architettura, organiser, and promoter of the Swiss Architectural Award (SAA), recently announced Xu Tiantian, founder of DnA_Design and Architecture, China, as the winner of the eighth edition of the prestigious award. The Swiss Architectural Award is known for honouring architectural practices that sensitively address ethical and ecological issues and enable public discourses, whilst according tasteful and elegant solutions to extant issues. It aims at recognising pertinent contributions that enhance the contemporary architecture and design culture, while also exhibiting an awareness of the environment. The international architecture prize, conferred on designers and architects biennially, is decided by an advisory committee comprising renowned architects and critics from around the globe. The winner of the Swiss Architectural Award 2022 was determined from a shortlist of 26 candidates from 14 countries. The award ceremony, along with an exhibition of works by the shortlisted candidates will be unveiled at the auditorium of Teatro dell'architettura Mendrisio of Università della Svizzera italiana on May 4, 2023.

Founded in 2007, the Swiss Architectural Award is a culturally and geographically agnostic prize, apportioned to architects who are under the age of 50 and have completed at least three appurtenant architectural projects. In selecting a winner, from amongst the younger generation of architects, the prize helps bestow prominence on emergent architecture studios, which, in turn, serves as an inspiration to their contemporaries—to develop consciously-driven projects. While the previous editions of the award were handled by the BSI Architectural Foundation, Switzerland-based Teatro dell'architettura Foundation has undertaken this responsibility since 2018. The award is also supported, guided and promoted by Accademia di architettura dell’Università della Svizzera italiana.

  • The Jinyun Quarries were converted by Xu Meng into exhibition and reading spaces | Swiss Architectural Award 2022 |Xu Tiantian | STIRworld
    The Jinyun Quarries were converted by Xu Meng into exhibition and reading spaces Image: Wang Ziling
  • View of the refurbished Jinyun Quarries  | Swiss Architectural Award 2022 |Xu Tiantian | STIRworld
    View of the refurbished Jinyun Quarries Image: Wang Ziling

Xu Tiantian, who hails from Fujian, China, and was born in 1975, was conferred the most recent iteration of the Swiss award for three of her projects: the reuse of the Shimen Bridge over the Songyin River, the tofu factory in Caizhai Village, and the reuse of the Jinyun quarries. Tiantian earned a bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University of Beijing and a master’s degree in Urban Design from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. After gaining experience in the architectural field, under OMA, Tiantian went on to establish her own practice DnA_Design and Architecture, in Beijing, China. DnA_Design and Architecture is an interdisciplinary practice that struts between small-scale and large-scale projects, while remaining cognizant of their respective physical and social contexts. The Chinese architect pays special attention to the context and requirement of each project, as well as the interaction between the two, allowing her to define the crux of each project.

  • Tofu Factory by Xu Meng | Swiss Architectural Award 2022 |Xu Tiantian | STIRworld
    Tofu Factory by Xu Meng Image: Wang Ziling
  • Exterior view of the Tofu Factory | Swiss Architectural Award 2022 |Xu Tiantian | STIRworld
    Exterior view of the Tofu Factory Image: Wang Ziling

Tiantian’s projects are located in the Songyang and Jinyun counties—in the Zhejang province in China—which are wild, rural, and unadulterated locales where landscapes are untouched and vernacular architecture and crafting methods persist against contemporary influences. However, much like most rural regions that continue to remain stoic against modern urban developments, these regions, too, remain under the threat of depopulation, with most people from the younger generation migrating to urban centres for better means and modes of earning and living. DnA_Design and Architecture, under the helm of Xu Tiantian, designed solutions to the civic inadequacies in the region, with a bridge connecting two villages, a tofu factory enabling the upgradation of its traditional production, and the revival of several quarries to accommodate ascetic spots for reading and studying, staging performances and presenting expositions. In doing so, the architect not only managed to offer infrastructural support in the region, but also sought a cultural revival in the area. The dominance of natural entities despite Tiantian’s structural additions retain the charm of the space, whilst accommodating pragmatic services in the niches and nooks of the landscape. These factors sat well with the objectives enlisted by the Swiss award, since the projects manage to offer unique and sustainable solutions to prevailing issues, and in the process, improve the quality of life and ink a firm presence in the contemporary architecture scene.

  • Shimen Bridge on the Songyin river | Swiss Architectural Award 2022 |Xu Tiantian | STIRworld
    Shimen Bridge on the Songyin river Image: Wang Ziling
  • People walking on the Shimen Bridge | Swiss Architectural Award 2022 |Xu Tiantian | STIRworld
    People walking on the Shimen Bridge Image: Wang Ziling

The 2021-2022 iteration of the award comprised a panel chaired by Mario Botta and composed of Stéphanie Bru, winner, with the Paris-based studio Bruther, of the seventh SAA edition; Walter Angonese, Director of the Accademia di architettura, USI; Dieter Dietz, Director of the Section d’Architecture, EPFL-ENAC; and Tom Emerson, Dean of the Departement Architektur, ETHZ. Additionally, the panel was advised by a committee comprising Manuel Aires Mateus from Lisbon, Portugal; Solano Benitez from Asunción, Paraguay; Angelo Bucci from São Paulo, Brazil; Marianne Burkhalter from Zurich, Switzerland; Sean Godsell from Melbourne, Australia; Junya Ishigami from Tokyo, Japan; Shelley McNamara from Dublin, Ireland; Valerio Olgiati, from Flims, Switzerland; András Pálffy from Vienna, Austria; Elisa Valero from Granada, Spain; and Paolo Zermani from Parma, Italy.

A few candidates shortlisted for the Swiss Architectural Award include Atelier Masōmī - Mariam Kamara from Niger; Bernardo Bader from Austria; Manuel Cervantes from Mexico; dekleva gregoric architects from Aljoša Dekleva,Tina Gregorič, Slovenia; Go Hasegawa from Japan; Tropical Space from Tran Thi Ngu Ngon, Nguyen Hai Long, Vietnam; and Raphael Zuber from Switzerland, among others.

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