Zhengzhou Greenland Plaza, Zhengzhou, China
Si-ye Zhang for SOM Zhengzhou Greenland Plaza, Zhengzhou, China

One of the most important aspects of the Design Awards review process is the jury discussion. It gives the assembled design colleagues an opportunity to explore ideas and to debate issues raised by the projects at hand. It is as important as the award selection itself.

Each year, different projects invariably play the important role of being the catalysts for discussion: reviewed, scrutinized, and debated until the end of deliberations. Ultimately, for a variety of reasons, this work is not recognized with an award. It may not provide much solace for the designers involved, perhaps, that their project was so hotly debated, but this work nevertheless makes an important contribution to the larger discourse. This year, two projects played this role: the Zhengzhou Greenland Plaza Tower in Zhengzhou, China, and the Baku Flame Towers in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Baku Flame Towers, Baku, Azerbaijan
Florian LichtLicht & Soehne Baku Flame Towers, Baku, Azerbaijan

Massive multi-use towers in Asia with elaborate façade lighting strategies, these projects were completed over the course of several years. As such, they had to deal with the challenges presented by changing economic scenarios, evolutions in lighting technology, differing attitudes toward power consumption, and even changes in aesthetic preferences.

Most importantly, these projects sparked a serious debate about how we illuminate our cities. Designers in different parts of the world face different cultural and contextual issues when it comes to façade lighting. While brightly colored and animated façades are the norm in some parts of the world, elsewhere this approach is not considered fashionable. How then do you create something that will stand the test of time? And what is the designer’s responsibility in shaping the built environment? These questions—and answers—are greater than any one award.