Each year on 20 August (the late Henning Larsen's birthday), the Henning Larsen Foundation awards grants to people who have contributed to the development of Danish architecture.
The program alternates between direct grants to people who have contributed to the field of architecture and open international competitions that deal with architecture's relationship to related disciplines. This year’s edition was the latter, and invited applicants to reflect (in images and text) on the relationship between architecture and the idea of Utopia.
“When the jury met for the first time about the many good suggestions on how we should approach Utopia today,” wrote the Foundation 2021 competition jury, “we agreed to prioritize proposals that inspired and encouraged us to dream further, i.e. ideas that you did not just finish, but that caught your thoughts. It furthermore became clear that the projects we preferred were concerned with how we can land the nowhere we live in on Earth. The projects…encouraged us to get closer to the world that is and that we have not created ourselves. We were fascinated by a willingness to reread history and to look back in order to move on.”
Dutch architect/cartographer Carlijn Kingma was awarded first prize for her magnificent work, “On Navigating the Continents of Utopia.” The proposal, a beautifully coherent hand-drawn map surrounded by detailed drawings and texts about ancient and future utopias, challenges the notion of utopia as a place we might reach - it is, in Kingma's vision, a place that we must explore in our imaginations.
“Society needs Utopia,” writes Kingma in her project brief. “…a utopia nourished by imagination. By traveling through the past, … we will set sail to explore the endless possibilities for a better tomorrow.”
“Carlijn Kingma’s proposal looks back at the diverse history of utopias and dystopias,” wrote the jury in their citation. “Both in its own vision – but also in its generous tributes to others, such as Buckminster Fuller, Dante, and Le Corbusier – Kingma’s work is inspirational in its bringing together of divergent classical, religious, mechanistic, colonialist, and astrological utopias in an intricately detailed, impressively researched, and beautifully unified hand drawing.”
The second prize was awarded to Ryan Tung and Wai Yin, for their work entitled “Phygital Habitats”, an artfully rendered vision of augmented reality laid over the physical architecture of two famed – but largely failed – modernist utopian projects. “As a preservation strategy, Phygital Habitat proposes a superimposed virtual reality that revitalizes the social desires of the original project in a contemporary social reality,” wrote the jury.
Third prize was jointly awarded to Lorenzo Abate for his work “There is a B(etter) Planet” which imagines how we can better share resources across the globe, and Gustav Kragh Jacobsen for his work “Engstrøget”, which imagines a different, greener future for one of Copenhagen’s most beloved public spaces.
Two honorable mentions were also designated, to Alberto Roncelli’s “Perpetual City – Time” and Jiarong Yao’s “The Babel of Desire”.
The 2021 competition jury included Henrik Oxvig (cand mag. Et mag. Art), Jytte Rex (artist) Kathrin Susanna Gimmel (architect and partner at JAJA Architects), Ben Clement and Sebastian de la Cour (benandsebastian artists), and Troels Troelsen (architect and jury chair).
Explore the winning work in further detail here.