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Sheila Kennedy, Adèle Naudé Santos, and Debora Mesa recognized by LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Two projects led by MIT faculty—a greenhouse in Massachusetts heralded as a “virtuosity of integration” and a plan to weave together working and living in a neighborhood in Cartagena, Colombia—were recognized in this year’s LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction.

Sponsored by the LafargeHolcim Foundation, the prominent international competition recognizes “innovative projects and future-oriented concepts” in sustainable design in fields including architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. Two projects led by MIT alumni were also singled out for honors, out of a field of more than 5,000 submissions. 

The Global Flora Botanical Conservatory

Sheila Kennedy, a professor in the Department of Architecture, and her firm Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA) received a Bronze award in the North American section of the competition for the design of the Global Flora Botanical Conservatory at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The project was carried out in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team from the college including Wellesley professors Kristina Jones and Cathy Summa.

The project’s architecture integrates innovative passive and active sustainable systems that aim to meet the Net Zero Water and Net Zero Energy criteria of the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous contemporary criteria for measuring sustainable design. The elegant, curved form of the Global Flora Conservatory follows the east-west arc of the sun to maximize solar heat gain in winter. In summer, the architecture’s environmentally responsive ETFE skin allows the biomes to be cooled entirely through natural ventilation. 

“Sustainable design is at the very core of the structure, form, and system,” noted the competition jury. “The project meets sustainability metrics as a matter of course and then goes much further to achieve a virtuosity of integration.” 

A plan for affordable housing in Colombia

Adèle Naudé Santos, professor and former Dean of the School of Architecture + Planning, and Debora Mesa, research scientist in the Department of Architecture, were awarded an Acknowledgment prize in the Latin America section of the competition for a plan for an affordable-housing neighborhood with integrated workspaces in Cartagena, Colombia.

Weaving together working and living spaces into a neighborhood, the project encourages community building, the livelihood of its inhabitants, and social interaction within an urban plan designed to maximize shading. The regional jury reported an exceptionally well-resolved project, citing “a richness of interpretation and a level of detail ripe for implementation.”

AT MIT, Santos and Mesa co-taught an architectural design workshop, A New Neighborhood: Cartagena, Colombia, in which students from the Department of Architecture developed design proposals for an affordable housing neighborhood with integrated workspace. This workshop was part of a broader research collaboration with Fundación Mario Santo Domingo, that has been examining urban resilience for low-income housing. Santos will exhibit this work as part of the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism’s third biennial theme on affordable housing in 2018.