Obel Award rewards young scientists for developing a zero carbon emission concrete solution.

As the number of practicing architects has increased, so too has the number of awards. Today, almost every architectural organization, magazine, and website now hosts its own, to the point where the prevalence of trophies threatens our ability to pay attention. This oversaturated awards environment means that lower-tier awards lend less legitimacy to a firm’s reputation, but that is hardly a reason to declare them useless.

The OBEL AWARD is an international prize for architecture, but not exclusive to architects. It seeks to promote and encourage excellence in the built environment by recognizing not only individual personalities and buildings but also exemplary collaborative efforts between other professionals involved in the design and construction of a project. What makes this award unpredictable, is that it is not only looking at the role of the architect or the building, it is looking at architecture as a collaborative and multidisciplinary endeavour. Unlike other awards, the OBEL AWARD looks for the best practices and innovative ideas for positive change, regardless of where they originate.

Carbon neutral projects and products were the theme of the OBEL AWARD 2022. Architecture Hunter was invited to cover the Ceremony event and had the opportunity to interview the jury members and the winners. Sam Draper and Barney Shanks presented their company, called Seratech, in which they developed a zero-emission concrete while using existing production processes, being the award winners for this edition.

This is a unique award in many ways. In conversation with Martha Thorne, previous Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize and current Senior Advisor of the OBEL AWARD, she shared that “the prize is very much forward-looking. It is granted to a project or an initiative that can positively impact the world and provide knowledge and inspiration for others. By looking at all types of interventions that can contribute to our built environment, the OBEL AWARD puts the emphasis on how we can do things better. We know that our buildings, spaces, cities have a great impact on people and our planet and, the OBEL AWARD, tries to highlight examples of best practices and encourage positive change for the future.”

For her, “architecture is so much more than pretty buildings. It is an approach to making healthy, vibrant, fair, and sustainable places for people to live.” Following the same line of thought, the award stands out by its ability to shape-shift at the pace of global debate making it unpredictable. It is clearly a valuable prize that helps to promote excellence in architecture and encourages people to think about the role it plays in our world.


_written by Daniela Moreira Silva
_film by Architecture Hunter
_cover image by Emilie Koefoed (featuring Barney Shanks [left] and Sam Draper [right] from Seratech)

  1. Low-carbon construction, photo by Helene Sandberg
  2. Seratech won the 2022 OBEL AWARD, photo by Emilie Koefoed
  3. OBEL AWARD 2022 Ceremony, photo by Emilie Koefoed
  4. Carbon-neutral concrete solution, photo by Emilie Koefoed
  5. Technology that can eliminate the CO₂ footprint of concrete, photo by Helene Sandberg
  6. Material researchers and Ph.D. students, Sam Draper (left) and Barney Shanks (right) from Seratech, photo by Helene Sandberg
  7. Mass concrete production, photo by Emilie Koefoed

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