About the awards
Golden Cubes have been awarded by the International Union of Architects to the most interesting projects in the field of built environment education since 2011. They recognize individuals and organizations that popularize architectural culture and work with children and adolescents to help them understand how their immediate surroundings are shaped.
The Polish selection process is organized by the National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning. It is not only an opportunity to nominate Polish projects for this international award and to promote the achievements of national built environment education, but also a chance to appreciate active educators who raise awareness of architecture’s importance among people up to 18 years of age. Golden Cubes Awards process is in line with the educational mission of the Institute as it stimulates discussion on ideas and experiences of sharing knowledge about architecture and urban planning. It is also an opportunity to summarize Polish educational efforts and to showcase the people who redefine Polish built environment education.
The awards are organized by the Architecture and Children Work Program, which aims at helping the International Union of Architects and its member organizations to explore ways of fostering cooperation between architects, teachers, and educators, and pooling resources, such as knowledge, ideas, and tools that can facilitate the education of younger generations. Since architecture accompanies man constantly and is the scenery for his activities, a joint effort to support children and young people in understanding how the built environment is shaped should contribute to the improvement of the quality of human life. This mission is shared by the Universal Built Environment Education Team established by the Institute, whose aim is to lay a solid foundation for the universal built environment education system in Poland and to spread awareness of the importance of our urban environment.
The Golden Cubes Awards cycle is organized every three years and consists of two stages: national and international. In the national process, the member organizations of the UIA select and nominate entries in the following categories: Audio-visual Media, Written Media, Institutions, and Schools. The nominees are moved to the international phase, where the jury awards one prize in each category. Since 2020, the National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning organizes the Polish selection process, which enables Polish built environment educators to participate and to present their projects to a wider audience.
Second Polish selection process
On March 2, 2023, as part of the second Polish selection process of the Golden Cubes Awards, an independent international jury consisting of Magda Grabowska-Wacławek / BOVSKA, Jan Körbes, Agnieszka Rasmus-Zgorzelska, Jakub Szczęsny and Dariusz Śmiechowski nominated 3 entries that will represent Poland during the international process and decided on 2 honorable mentions.
Audio-visual media: No nominations in the category
Written Media: City Monster and Here and Now! picture book series, by Joanna Guszta
Institutions: What Animal Is It? Co-designing in Zoochitecture Studio, by Fundacja Form i Kształtów [Forms and Shapes Foundation] / Zoochitecture / Iza Rutkowska
Schools: On the Zigzag Trail, by Katarzyna Szpernalowska / Special School No 2 in Gdańsk
Two projects with honorable mentions are: the Architecture Lab, by Architecture Museum in Wrocław, and Architecture workshop for the Ukrainian children, by Fundacja Wzornictwo i Ład [Design and Order Foundation] / Joanna Tarkowska.
There were 31 entries from individuals and organizations from all over Poland submitted, showing the jury how much is already happening in the national built environment education. Thus, the awards turned out to be an ideal pretext for observing the educators’ work and for creating a map of good practice of built environment education in Poland.
The finale of the Fifth Cycle of the international Golden Cubes Awards will be held at the (UIA) World Congress of Architects in July 2023 in Copenhagen. The same year, in September, there will be an educational exhibition organized by the National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning as well, presenting nominated entries and honorable mentions from the two national and international cycles.
The laureates and honorable mentions
The selection of the most interesting built environment education projects addressed to children and youth would not be possible without their authors. It is worth remembering that it is the adults who shape young people’s awareness of the surrounding space, their understanding of how it is shaped, and how it can meet various human needs. For their work to be effective, we should appreciate educators who pave the way and make projects that inspire new endeavors in the field of built environment education. Individuals and organizations nominated and honored in the second Polish selection process of the Golden Cubes Awards, are the ones worth following.
NOMINATED IN THE CATEGORY WRITTEN MEDIA
Joanna Guszta is a co-founder of Ładne Halo publishing house and graphic design studio, whose publications “City Monster” and „Here and Now!’ have been nominated by the Jury. She creates publishing concepts, collaborates with illustrators, writes combining text and image in her narratives. She authors or conceives books for children and teenagers – “Shops”, “City Monster”, “Halo! Sound Here!”, “Here and Now!” to mention a few. The latest, “Not only playgrounds” had its premiere in March 2023. In the years 2020–2021 she had her column about typography „ZNAK o znakach” [CHARACTER about characters] in the „ZNAK” monthly magazine. She is the author of texts and producer of publications in the Mamy Projekt [play on words: “We Have a Project” or “Mothers Project”] collective, as well the co-organizer of various educational projects for children around ecology, architecture or culture. She likes to work on the verge of education, science, art or new technologies and therefore is often active in interdisciplinary groups.
Architecture Museum in Wrocław
MENTION IN THE CATEGORY WRITTEN MEDIA
Architecture Museum in Wrocław is the publisher of “Architecture Lab”, while its authors are Patrycja Mazurek and Agnieszka Gola, with Paweł Mildner as illustrator. It is the only museum in Poland dedicated solely to researching and popularizing the history of architecture as well as contemporary architecture. It was created in 1965, initially as a branch of the Museum of the City of Wrocław and was back then known as the Museum of Architecture and Reconstruction. It is housed in a listed former Bernardine Brothers Monastery, erected in the second half of the XV and the beginning of the XVI century.
Architecture Museum runs programs and events addressed at architects, historians and wider public. It organizes exhibitions, including those around design, paintings and graphic arts, publishes books and cooperates with the municipality in the realm of conservation and renewal of the architectural heritage of the city of Wrocław. As an institution boasting the largest exhibition space in Wrocław the Museum hosts exhibitions and events organized in partnership with cultural institutions from the whole world. http://www.ma.wroc.pl/
Fundacja Form i Kształtów [Forms and Shapes Foundation] / Zoochitecture Studio / IZA RUTKOWSKA
Nominated in the category INSTITUTIONS
Iza Rutkowska is a designer and founder of the Fundacja Form i Kształtów [Forms and Shapes Foundation] as well as Zoochitecture Studio, she also teaches at School of Form. She has been nominated for the project „What Animal Is It? Co-designing in Zoochitecture Studio”.
Rutkowska conducts performative research related to space and its users. The example of her activities could be the playground in the shape of a 120-metre-long snake that she created with children in Madrid. For five years she has been leading the re-shaping of the Backyard of All Neighbours in Wrocław, initiated by a 7-metre-long hedgehog which landed in the very backyard. She designs interactive objects in order to catalyse the energy of a given community, and then cooperates with them with the aim of the permanent transformation of spaces. She co-creates playgrounds with children, and backyards with residents. She specialises in education as a process, by getting interdisciplinary groups of students involved in field activities. Later they implement independent projects related to the experience acquired during these activities. She conducts educational events and classes for numerous non-governmental organizations and community centres. She collaborates with municipal governments and art institutions in Poland and abroad. Results of her work have been presented around the world.
Joanna Tarkowska / Fundacja Wzornictwo i Ład [Design and Order Foundation]
Nominated in the category INSTITUTIONS
Joanna Tarkowska is a graphic designer, social activist and educator, as well as deputy president of the Fundacja Wzornictwo i Ład [Design and Order Foundation] which works to improve the quality of public space and animates cultural and neighborhood life in Warsaw’s Mokotów district. As part of the foundation, since 2017 she has been running Mikromiasto, which is a space for cultural and educational activities and neighborhood meetings at 27a Narbutta Street. In particular, she is responsible for the program of workshops and exhibitions held at Mikromiasto. For more than a year, she has been conducting architectural workshops for children from Ukraine, of her own design. In 2022, she co-created the “New School Street” project, which consists in arranging the immediate surroundings of Warsaw schools to provide students with greater safety and help them build relationships in non-school spaces. In addition to her work at the foundation, she does graphic design and creates illustrations. She is interested in Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetics and the culture and history of ancient Rome. http://wzornictwoilad.pl/
Katarzyna Szpernalowska / Special School No 2 in Gdańsk
Nominated in the category SCHOOLS
Born in Jasło in 1977, graduate of the Fine Arts Faculty at the Mikołaj Kopernik University in Toruń and of the „Archiculture – architectural educator” postdiploma programme, she has been arts teacher for twenty years. As part of pedagogical innovation she creates architectural education projects with the aim of teaching conscious and mindful approach to architecture, i.e. “Zaspa as Honeycomb”, „Gothic Identity of Gdańsk” – in the General Secondary School No 8, as well as „On the Track of Ornament – Architecture of Modernist Gdynia” and „On the Zigzag Trail – architecture of Przymorze” – in the Special School No 2 in Gdańsk, where she is employed.
In the Audio-visual Media category, awards may be given to film projects, audio-visual educational material, websites, and social media activities. In the second Polish national process of the Golden Cubes Awards, the jury has decided not to award a nomination.
Written media nominated for the award may include books, magazines, and non audio-visual educational tools. In this category, the jury decided to nominate Joanna Guszta for her illustrated books “City Monster” and “Here and Now!” and to mention an activity book “Architecture Lab” published by the Architecture Museum in Wrocław.
“…The jury nominates this project in recognition of the high level of artistic quality and creative narration. Both books problematize the subject of the city and use accessible everyday language which allows to learn basic notions in a playful way – for example how the city functions or what its challenges, limitations and solutions to current problems are. The series encourages critical thinking.”
“City Monster” aims at making children aware of the fact that we are all responsible for our city and we can all have an impact on whether it is a friendly and beautiful space. The book boasts accessible language and appealing illustrations by Przemek Liput, whose common denominator is humor. “City Monster” teaches the basics of aesthetics and the sense of community through a funny story and very simple rules summarised at the end. The book, along a free workshop scenario, is included among other materials for architectural education at ADE website (Architecture for Education) of National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning.
Joanna Guszta: “This book is my answer to the preface of »Wanna z kolumnadą« [Bathtub with columns] by Filip Springer, where he points out how important and neglected the arts education (not to mention the spatial awareness education) is. I have been trying to create a tool of sorts, which would become a starting point for the conversation about the city with children. It was particularly important to make the story engaging and funny.”
The theme of a friendly city, contextualized by eco-solutions and resilience to the climate change, is developed in the next volume by the same authors, „Here and Now!”. Its protagonists are children showing round a dinosaur (woken up out of hibernation in a glacier due to global warming). The children turn out to be the best experts on ecology: „Children, unlike most adults, live here and now. They look at the surrounding world carefully and are entirely devoted to what they are doing.”
The activity book boasts high quality of design and illustration, offers interactive experience and has a high potential of further implementation, as well as easy accessibility through free distribution.
“Architecture Lab” was a pilot program that had two goals: to develop proposals for activities that integrate architectural education into the curriculum of grades 1-3 of elementary schools, and to sensitize children (including those with disabilities) to the space in which they live. To meet the needs of children who could not participate directly in the project and all those interested in introducing elements of architectural education into their activities, a set of films showing the workshops and a free book “Architecture Lab” were created. The book is a set of exercises based on the structure and issues raised in the project. It can serve not only as basis for workshops, but as a starting point for conducting own experiments as well. The free publication of 96 pages was distributed among the workshop participants, as well as in libraries, schools and other educational institutions in Wrocław. The project is scheduled for development, in order to include other age group among others.
Institutions operating in the field of built environment education include, among others, museums, institutes, non-governmental organizations as well as community centers. In this category, the independent Jury nominated the project What Animal Is It? Co-designing in Zoochitecture Studio by Iza Rutkowska / Fundacja Form i Kształtów [Forms and Shapes Foundation] / Zoochitecture, and decided to mention Architecture workshops for Ukrainian Children by Joanna Tarkowska / Fundacja Wzornictwo i Ład [Design and Order Foundation].
It is an innovative educational proposal, where children experience architecture through play and architecture is perceived through children’s eyes. Work involves body experience, close cooperation and active presence in public space. Through field research participants get their first chance to learn certain creative skills: interactive urban design, community engagement, abstract thinking. The project encourages imagination and out-of-the-box approach. What is more, it displays outstanding respect for children as active participants. It is also visually attractive and highly adaptable.
– Jury’s evaluation
Zoochitecture is the world’s first mobile design studio with children as collaborators. We design buildings and public spaces. We start our process by asking: What animal is it? Blueprints are maps which make it easier to move around the place and to find the right scale. Children look for animal shapes in blueprints and use animals’ features to assign interactive functions to each space.
Iza Rutkowska: “Engaging children in design process gives them the sense of agency. Their opinions aren’t usually taken into account in the public space designing process. By inviting more participants, including adults, we »animalize« the space, we give personality to a place to make it feel different and to be able to furnish it the way we like.”
The qualities that make the project worth mentioning are: low cost, easy replicability, learning the language of masters of architecture, interdisciplinary learning experience that enables children to feel like architects. The material output of the workshops represents aesthetic integrity.
– Jury’s evaluation
Architecture workshops for Ukrainian children were organised in May 2022 in Mikromiasto Community Center, run by Fundacja Wzornictwo i Ład [Design and Order Foundation].
Joanna Tarkowska, the author: “Psychologists found that children can better face the trauma by creating architectural models. These children have fled a country where entire cities lie in ruins, so the idea of building, even on a child’s scale, gives them a sense of agency. The workshops have a therapeutic effect and allow them to believe that the reconstruction is possible, while destruction temporary. There is one more interesting aspect – Warsaw is a great example of a city that has been rebuilt after destruction. I show Ukrainian children that everything can be rebuilt. And that perhaps in the future one of them will actively participate in the design of new Ukrainian cities.”
During each workshop, children built models using recycled materials and objects. Each workshop began with a slideshow, which showed that it is possible to live anywhere and in different conditions and that even a tree house can be a wonderful place to live. Each workshop focused on a different topic (a city, a bridge, a tree house) and broadened their knowledge about iconic buildings (e.g. Pisa tower) or famous architects (e.g. Kengo Kuma).
This category awards educational projects made by teachers and students. In the second Polish national process of the Golden Cubes Awards, the jury nominated “On the Zigzag Trail” by Katarzyna Szpernalowska / Special School No 2 in Gdańsk.
This project helps increase understanding of architecture in an original way. Participants are encouraged to spot interesting forms in their surroundings and then actively play with and reinterpret them in abstract ways. Thus On the Zigzag Trail project makes participants aware of and sensitive to various shapes and structures in architecture. The therapeutic character of the method is also worth mentioning. Moreover, due to its simplicity and integrity, the project is highly adaptable and flexible
The Jury’s evaluation
Recently the community of Special School No 2 in Gdańsk was relocated into a new building in a modernist housing estate from the 1960s. The project “On the Zigzag Trail“ was aimed at taming the new place. The zigzag motif is repeated in the structures and details of the buildings. This ancient symbol of water has become a place code for students. During architectural walks, photo plein-airs, sculpting exercises, students searched for and tried to isolate this shape. 15-17-year-old students learned to look carefully, consciously at architecture. The project inspired them to individual searches, gave them satisfaction from noticing further details, documenting them and reproducing in individual projects.
The Polish nominees have been selected by an independent jury composed of architects, artists, and educators. Due to a large number of very good entries, the choice has not been the easiest. The jury consisted of five members.
Magda Grabowska-Wacławek / BOVSKA – vocalist, composer, songwriter, visual artist, illustrator. Graduated from the Chopin University of Music and the graphic arts faculty of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Nominated i.a. for Fryderyk Award in the category Music Debut in 2016 as well as for MTV Europe Music Award. She has performed at the most important festivals nationwide. She has released five studio albums: Kaktus, Pysk, Kęsy, Sorrento and Dzika.
Jan Körbes is a vital part of the Dutch artist and architect collective REFUNC and realizes sustainable design and architecture projects with an experimental character from waste materials in the context of a respective location. Körbes specializes in repurposing things and materials that seem useless, while exploring the limits of how living, housing and designing public and private space can be defined, mostly in exchange with people from the area and other specialist areas. Experimenting, trying out, inventing, exchanging ideas and learning new things and relearning old things in a playful way together in order to inspire and initiate the rethinking of what our planet so urgently needs.
Agnieszka Rasmus-Zgorzelska – graduated from the English Studies department at the University of Warsaw as well as postdiploma planning studies at Warsaw University of Technology; she also did intercultural studies at Warwick University in the UK. Co-founder, board member and publisher in the Centrum Architektury Foundation (www.centrumarchitektury.org). She is an architecture-themed books translator, author, journalist and editor, as well as curator of architecture exhibitions and events on the border of architecture and other disciplines. Co-creator of the podcast Radio Architektura
Jakub Szczęsny is the first Polish architect, whose project, Keret’s House, is part of the permanent collection of MoMA New York. His installations can be found in the public space in Poland, Israel, the USA and Kazakhstan. He is interested in popularising knowledge of space and architecture, as a result he co-created and hosted programmes around these topics at Domo+, TVP1 and Polsat televisions. 2021 saw his book debut „Witamy w świecie bez architektów” [Welcome to the World Without Architects] published by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
Dariusz Śmiechowski is an architect and lecturer at the Interior Design Department of the Academy of Fine Art in Warsaw, where he teaches i.a. Participative Design. As a designer, educator and researcher he is interested mostly in sustainable architecture. His activities involve writing, architectural critique and participation in workshops, conferences, educational programs, publications. He collaborates with organizations and media focused on architecture and spatial culture.
The Polish nominees have the opportunity to co-create the exhibition organized by the National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning and then showcase themselves internationally. The exhibition aims to popularize selected projects and their authors. Its goal is also to stimulate discussion about Polish built environment education and its most interesting practices. The exhibition will be accompanied by a public program, during which the audience will have the opportunity to meet the educators and see their ideas put into action.
The nominees are awarded a unique statuette in the shape of a K-drone – an eleventh-degree polyhedron discovered by the designer and painter Janusz Kapusta. Each nominee receives a statuette representing a fourth of a K-drone to remind us that only a joint effort in the built environment education area may allow us to build a better future for Polish architecture. The author of the statuette, Janusz Kapusta, is a versatile award-winning artist whose works can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Art in Łódź. His artworks have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, and his articles about his discoveries could be read in mathematical journals. The K-drone he invented is a shape with more than a hundred different applications, and it has already been commemorated with a monument in Koło, a town in the artist’s home county.
– UIA Golden Cubes Awards, International Commission: Heba Safey Eldeen,
Suzanne de Laval
– UIA Polska Golden Cubes Awards: Katarzyna Domagalska
– Golden Cubes Awards Polska, Polish Commission: Anna Czarnota
– Cooperation: Filip Jankowski
– Editing: Agnieszka Rasmus-Zgorzelska
– Translation: Agnieszka Rasmus-Zgorzelska, Hanna Sabat
– Communication: Dominik Witaszczyk, Joanna Krupa
– Graphic Design: Katarzyna Nestorowicz