Earlier this week in London, the Architectural Association and Foster + Partners announced AA diploma student Yi Yvonne Weng as winner of the 2012 Foster + Partners Prize for her project ‘The 6th Layer – Explorative Canopy Trail’. The award is presented annually to the AA fifth year diploma student whose portfolio best addresses the themes of sustainability and infrastructure. The recipient is selected jointly by the AA and Foster + Partners at the end of each academic year.
Set in the context of Brazilian Amazon rainforest, the project recognizes the reciprocal relationship between humanity and the forest and sees the forest as a natural infrastructure to work with, instead of against. The design focuses on creating an ultra-lightweight, self-sustaining and easily deployable architectural system, which occupies the space at the top of the tree canopies. The extra layer of space created opens up a new territory that inspires new ways in which to perceive, occupy and experience the forest.
Yi Yvonne Weng, and the other six shortlisted candidates, will be invited to exhibit their work in the gallery in Foster + Partners’ studio in October, when there will be a formal reception and a check will be presented. An honorable mention was awarded to AA diploma student Henry Thorold.
Mouzhan Majidi, Chief Executive of Foster + Partners, said: “This is the third year we have awarded this prize, and in Yvonne Weng’s project, we see it gaining strength. We hope very much that the debate this prize generates will encourage students to address themes that are of increasing relevance to architecture today.”
Brett Steele, Director of the Architectural Association School of Architecture, said: “The AA School is delighted once again to have participated in the judging of the Foster + Partners Prize. The work of this year’s winner indicates the enthusiasm and imagination shown by AA Diploma students in addressing challenging, topical issues in architecture. We are grateful to Foster + Partners for their continued support of the prize and the innovative work it encourages.”
Yi Yvonne Weng said: “Programmatically, the project is centered on scientific exploration and harvesting medicinal plants, which provides an alternative use of the forest without destroying it. At the same time, the positive occupation of the territory it enables could provide a level of surveillance that helps to protect both the endangered environment and the indigenous population.”
The themes of sustainability and infrastructure that underpin the award were selected to highlight themes of common interest to the AA and Foster + Partners and for their significance in contemporary architectural discourse more globally.