The highlight of 2020 for the Foundation should have been the regional LafargeHolcim Awards. However, the face-to-face jury meetings and the prize hand-over ceremonies in five regions of the world had to be cancelled. What’s next for the competition? Edward Schwarz provides information.
Foundations: How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the work of the LafargeHolcim Foundation?
Edward Schwarz: The Foundation is a platform for the exchange of ideas and visions on the subject of sustainable construction, and one of our core tasks is to bring people around the globe together: architects, engineers, planners, contractors, builders, but also specialists and stakeholders of LafargeHolcim.
This year, however, personal encounters across borders and continents are hardly possible; we were unable to properly fulfil one of our most important tasks. Of course, we have done everything we can to make the most of digital communication channels, but a video conference cannot replace direct contact between experts. In networking a lot happens informally and spontaneously. The restrictions linked to the pandemic also made us leverage digital in new ways and take advantage of the openness of our network to digital exchange, for example we found new ways to communicate about the impacts of Covid-19 in terms of architecture and contributed towards a number of webinars.
F: Between August and November 2020, the regional LafargeHolcim Awards should have been handed over at five Award ceremonies.
ES: Yes, these five events would have been our most striking activities this year. However, it became clear early this year that the events could not take place. Award winners, jurors, Board members and others who should all have been present at the events, come from many different countries. Even if only a few of them restrict travel, it is no longer possible to hold our events within the usual framework. We stopped the preparatory work already in February.
F: Only the Award ceremonies were cancelled, why not the competition itself?
ES: Almost 5,000 authors or teams submitted projects for our competition – there was never a doubt that we would do everything possible to do justice to this enormous effort and to complete the 6th cycle of the competition. Doing this required a lot of flexibility. The jury meetings, for example, took place more or less on the scheduled dates, but virtually. Processes have to be completely re-thought and re- planned; in many respects we cannot draw on the experience of the first five cycles.
F: The juries have decided. What’s next? When will the prize winners be announced?
ES: Given the current situation, it is not possible to rely on a binding schedule. So far, prize winners were only announced at the Award events; the competition participants invited to the events knew that they would receive a prize, but not which one. The media and the public were only informed after the event. We must hand over the prizes in 2021.
Currently, nobody knows in what context – whether there will be small individual events or larger gatherings. We want to enable personal encounters again as soon as this is safe to do so from a health point of view. At the moment it looks as if we will not be able to hold any events in the same framework as before for quite some time to come. If travel and uncomplicated encounters are not possible, we will have to find alternatives. That would be challenging, but unavoidable.
F: And what about the global competition that has been announced for 2021?
ES: The procedure is similar to that at regional level: the meeting of the global jury planned for March will take place, either in Zurich or virtually. The global jury identifies the prize winners from among the regional winners in the Main category of the competition. This could be a bit special in 2021, as the regional prizes will probably not have been handed over when the results of the global phase of the competition have been decided. We will definitely keep the excitement alive and do our best to hand over the global prizes in person.
There are many unknown factors indeed, but these affect everyone around the globe so we have no choice but to remain equally diligent and flexible – and prepared for all eventualities!
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