The year’s most innovative architectural concepts revealed

CNN  — 

A wooden tower in Nigeria, a community food center in Hawaii and a hydroelectric canal in Boston have been named among the most innovative architectural proposals of the year.

They join eight other winning projects in a new prize recognizing the biggest challenges facing architects over the next decade, including climate change and aging populations.

Created to mark the 10th edition of the World Architecture Festival (WAF), the inaugural WAFX Prize honors concept designs and proposals rather than completed projects. As well as addressing sustainability, award categories include smart cities, building technology and cultural identity.

“Everything architects do is about the future, even if it’s a restoration project,” said WAF’s program director, Paul Finch. “We wanted to identify the issues that architects seem to be habitually interested in as being important for the future.”

“We came up with 10 areas that we thought were important for architecture – ones which are going to affect architects, but which architects, in turn, may be able to affect themselves,” he said.

Sustainable urban planning

The overall prize was awarded to US firm Paul Lukez Architecture for its proposed hydroelectric canal, which also won in the climate, energy and carbon category. Designed to protect Boston’s low-lying harbor area from flooding, the project would restore almost 25 million square feet of salt marshes to create a sustainable neighborhood.

In the case of rising tides or storm surges, the canal system would channel water toward recreational parks which double up as reservoirs. Hydroelectric turbines would also provide clean energy to residents, explained the firm’s founder, Paul Lukez.

The Hydroelectric Canal by Paul Lukez Architecture

“The development would use tides and new infrastructure as a way of capturing renewable energy – using that as the basis for a new kind of urban design,” he said. “The idea is to make this area of Boston more resilient to climate change.”

While there are no immediate plans to make the proposal a reality, Lukez hopes that it can generate discussion in the architectural world and beyond. He believes that the design concepts can be applied to other cities at risk from rising sea levels.

“It will work best in inland cities with harbors, where water can be controlled and where there aren’t large waves – places like Philadelphia might be a candidate, even parts of the DC area or Florida,” he said. “These kind of projects try to propel – and put into focus – the things on the drawing board that can be valuable.”

“The problems posed by climate change are overwhelming for most individuals, so what we’re trying to do is demonstrate that there are opportunities and solutions available,” he said.

Other WAFX winners came from across Europe, America, Africa and Asia. The prizes will be formally awarded at the closing gala of the World Architecture Festival, which takes place in Berlin next month.

Scroll through the gallery above to see more winning designs.