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Each year, the European Prize for Architecture rewards architectural firms concerned less with producing spectacles, and more interested in finding solutions to social problems. This mission is gaining fans in an architectural world that is becoming more interested in "social change, social improvement, and real cultural development," rather than the "over-commercialization, over-consumption, and self aggrandizement" noted by Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine, president of one of the organizing bodies of the Prize.
This year's winners, TYIN Tegnestue, fall perfectly in line with this mission, going against the grain in their unconventional approach to the old adage, "form follows function." Since 2008, the firm has completed six projects for underserved populations in Indonesia and Thailand, including an orphanage and an education and social welfare center. Costs have amounted to as little as $10,000, a figure unheard of using more conventional building methods.
By using locally-sourced building materials, and minimalist design elements that are easy to replicate, the firm actively seeks to engage local inhabitants in actual project construction. TYIN principals, Andreas G. Gjertsen and Yashar Hanstad, state, "We don't want to give people the ‘fish' but to teach them how to fish so they can catch their own," citing the famous Chinese proverb, as Campbell-Dollaghan reports. "We start the process with a real problem, not some made-up concept of a problem."
Their pragmatic approach to architecture is both accessible and transparent. In following, the duo recently published the TYIN Architect's Toolbox, "a downloadable kit that will let other designers learn from their extensive experience building with underdeveloped communities." As Campbell-Dollaghan alludes to, the kit encourages and empowers other architects to emulate their pragmatic and refreshingly unpretentious approach to architecture.