Architecture That Reacts

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Bettina’s Interview with 
Damian Przybyła, the person beyond the Laka Reacts Competition

Dear Damian, many thanks for taking the time to talk to us. First of all, tell me a bit about yourself.

I am an architect, co-founder of Laka as well as the initiator of the Laka Competition “Architecture that Reacts”, and the Laka Accelerator – two programs which aim to promote social change via the concept of responsive architecture. I am passionate about architecture that mimics nature, evolves, reacts and learns just like all living organisms which develop themselves in a strict relation to their environment, and because of it.

1st prize 2015: Fluid Architecture
Author: Calvin Fung. Research with Victor Huynh. (Canada)

Intriguing, tell me more about the Laka competition?

The Laka Competition is in a relatively early phase (at the moment we are in the middle of the second edition) but its theme originates in much earlier thoughts about the aims of architecture nowadays. In 2015 I gathered a team of architects and editors in order to develop the competition and prepare it for the international call for proposals under the title: “Architecture that Reacts”. Based on the assumption that architecture should react in response to external circumstances just like all living matter does, we prepared the promotional strategies which helped us to reach experts, partners and participants from around the world. 


Setting up such a competition is a lot of hard work. What was the motivation behind it?

From the very beginning we have believed that the theme of the competition may be interesting for a wide audience of creative designers who can provide a number of valuable designs that solve important global challenges through architecture and technology.

We are really excited because of the international aspect of this project. The competition is attended by hundreds of designers from around the world, distinguished experts decide to evaluate the submissions, international partners and media sponsors provide us extremely valuable support, educators from the best architectural schools conduct the competition with their students as their semester projects – all these aspects give us an enormous amount of energy and motivation. There is still a lot of work ahead of us in order to develop tools within the Laka Competition that will provide additional support for the best designers but we will do our best to translate the Laka’s vision into a practical impact. The Laka Accelerator is an extension of the competition since it is focused on preparing the best designs for their implementation.


I was very impressed that in your first year you attracted over 100 submissions from nearly 200 participants from 5 continents and 30 countries! Why do you think such competitions are so important in today’s world?

Architectural competitions can provide an opportunity to unleash creative and interdisciplinary thinking about possible solutions to important social and environmental challenges. The international aspect of such challenges can stimulate innovative discourse about the aims of architecture but it also underlines that the best solutions usually emerge from combining a variety of disciplines through a comprehensive approach to the problem. In the Laka Competition we encourage interdisciplinary teams to attend the challenge, since we believe that the new architecture should be developed from such disciplines as social science, mechanics, robotics, biomimicry, biotechnology and related.


What happens to the winners, do you stay in touch with them?

We stay in touch with each team of participants (not only awarded ones) and if any additional opportunity of promoting their work appears, we contact and connect them with people who are interested in their work. We encourage participants to share with us information about their further successes and we promote their works during Laka’s exhibitions, lectures and projects which we conduct with our partners. What we develop in Laka, is an international network that creates interdisciplinary room for discussion and presentation of the most interesting examples of architecture and technology. We rather think about this network as of a global design team that consist of people who share similar values and have a strong need for improving their surroundings. During further development of our programs and projects, we will be providing more and more opportunities for such creative collaboration.


 2015 Honorable mention: OYSTOWER
Team: Christopher James, Jori Erdman, Giovanni Coakley (USA)

From your perspective, what was the most exciting entry in past rounds?

There were a number of exciting entries, some of them very ideological while other feasible and ready to built. The authors were analysing the emerging technologies but also the easy to obtain solutions which are based on natural and local materials.Laka-Competition-2nd_prizeFor example, we have received a project of a building which was designed to prevent spreading of endemic diseases in tropical regions caused by insects, or a design of a conceptual skyscraper that works as a colossal urban air purifier, capturing pollutants, such as smog, from the atmosphere (see image right). In the group of honourable mentions there was also a design of a foldable paper-made shelter for emergency situations, or a modern interpretation of the African vernacular architecture with the goal to provide a better house for the villagers of the rural community and many more interesting submissions. The winners of the 1st prize proposed a valuable conclusion, that in order to find architecture that is able to respond, we need to deeply change the way of thinking about structural materials of the building. The transition between a typical building solution and the new architecture requires redefining the structure of the building since the building cannot be “designed” anymore but it should be “initiated”. The authors presented a self-assembling structure which was made of granular and modular elements.

We are aware how much work it requires to develop and present an architectural design. In 2015 we received about 100 submissions from nearly 200 participants and we are very thankful to each participant for their effort and engagement.


Any final thoughts?

Laka-Damian-PrzybylaEvery day new solutions of architecture and technology emerge and provide us with tools that can vividly improve the quality of lives of the global society, while maintaining the principles of sustainable development, respecting the environment and future generations. Architecture and technology become important tools in the process of social regeneration. There are many urging challenges to solve. At Laka we deeply believe that thanks to common efforts of designers, thinkers, researchers and entrepreneurs who work together in aim to solve these challenges, the future will become increasingly safer  and more fulfilling to each person.

Thank you for the opportunity of presenting the Laka’s mission to the followers of the Innovation Leadership Forum.

Ah, the pleasure is all ours :-).

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