Jurgen Mayer Architects were last named the winner of the Audi Urban Futures Award. The award is an innovation was set up by the German car manufacturer to encourage discussions around the relationship between mobility and urban planning. Mayer’s winning proposal posited a future where cars are run entirely on electricity taken from a smart-grid, known as the Electricity Embedded Environment. The visualizations of the project, consisting of rapid-prototyped models and Minority-Report-style renderings, showed a world of 2030 where the digital, virtual and real worlds have melded together – cars come with integrated augmented reality software and the flow of traffic is automated. The practice receives a prize of 100,000 euros.
Last night’s announcement was the first major event of the Venice Architecture Biennale. The Audi-sponsored awards event, held in the car-less city of Venice focused on the negative impact of cars on the environment and cities. In addition to Jurgen Mayer, the other finalists were Alison Brooks Architects, Bjarke Ingles Group, Cloud9, and Standardarchitecture. New York-based practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro were involved in the first stage of the awards, which were presented at Audi Urban Futures conference in London earlier, but had to pull out due to excessive workload.
Alison Brooks said: “I think really hard work needs to be done to reintegrate ecology and nature into cities, and to shift the priority from traffic and infrastructure to nature and people.” Rupert Stadler, the CEO of Audi worldwide, explained the involvement of the car manufacturer by saying that it was essential for the growth of the any company in the automobile to ‘understand and appreciate the culture and growth of cities in the future.’ They have certainly invested heavily in the programme. The prize money is five times bigger than the Stirling.
The event, designed to provoke debate about the future was held in the Scuola della Misericordia, designed by sculptor and architect Jacopo Sansovino. It was part-constructed in the second half of the 15th century, but never completed and has been maintain in the half-finished state for nearly 600 years. The awards were presented in its main hall, which at 21m x 49m is second only in size in Venice to the Doge’s Palace. The building has been empty and unused for the last 30 years.