The SOM Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the 2022 European Research Prize. One team from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) will receive a €20,000 prize to conduct original research that contributes to this year’s topic, “Shaping Our World Through Air.” The European Research Prize was created in 2021 to cultivate new ideas and meaningful research that addresses the critical issues of our time.
The project “Air de jeux: Protecting Children from Air Pollution by Designing Urban Environmental Installations” will form a partnership between the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain), academics from Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), the NGO Les Chercheurs d’air, the BuildWind enterprise, and municipal representatives to propose urban environmental installations to mitigate outdoor air pollutant exposure for children. The project’s principal investigators are Maider Llaguno-Munitxa, Chiara Cavalieri, Beatrice Lampariello, Damien Claeys, Gérald Ledent, Christine Fontaine, and Geoffrey Van Moeseke.
The jury was led by SOM Foundation Executive Director Iker Gil and Kent Jackson (Partner of SOM, London and Secretary of the SOM Foundation), and included Ivan Blasi (Director of Prizes and Programmes at the Mies van der Rohe Foundation, Barcelona), Mina Hasman (Sustainability Director at SOM, London), Aseem Inam (Professor and Chair in Urban Design at Cardiff University; Director of TRULAB: Laboratory for Designing Urban Transformation; 1999 CIAU Fellow), and Olga Subirós (Architect and Curator, Barcelona).
“’Air de jeux’ incorporates air quality into the academic curriculum in schools of architecture, expanding the academic field by creating networks with public institutions and nonprofit associations committed to public health to work together on the redesign of one of the most vulnerable urban spaces: school environments,” reflected Olga Subirós. Aseem Inam commented: “The SOM Foundation is to be commended for focusing the 2022–2023 European Research Prize on ’Shaping Our World Through Air,’ and its attendant question, ’How can air be considered while exploring new architectural environments, structural solutions, ecological strategies, and urban policies?’ ’Air de jeux’ is an interdisciplinary research project that also proposes design strategies in partnership with universities, enterprises, local government, and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, it investigates the vital intersection of air quality, urban settings, and children’s health. I certainly look forward to the outcomes of this project.”
Maider Llaguno-Munitxa mentioned that they “are very excited to have been awarded the SOM Foundation European Research Prize to reflect upon the role architectural installations can play in urban air pollution mitigation and children’s well-being. Air pollution in cities is often taken as a given, and what architecture can do to improve local air quality is often overlooked. The SOM Foundation European Research Prize is one of the few grants allowing the exploration of design-oriented research projects within architectural teaching coursework.”
European Research Prize recipients are expected to collaborate with students, faculty, and leaders from various disciplines to pursue their research topics. They will be required to document their findings and develop suggestions for application to professional practice. The outcome of the research will be shared publicly on the SOM Foundation’s website as well as other mediums identified by the winning team.