SAWA, designed by Mei Architects and Planners, won the Experimental Future Projects category in the World Architecture Festival 2021. The apartment building drips with green roof and balcony plantings. It is also Rotterdam’s first 50-meter-high residential building. The design beat out seven other nominated projects for the top prize in the category.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
A slanted-looking building with greenery at every level

The residential building focuses on circular timber construction, biodiversity and the creation of healthy communities with ample planting space. The designers wanted to reduce CO2 emissions and help achieve national and international climate goals.

Related: University under a hill in India has a green roof

A pathway that is lined with a community garden

The building is called the healthiest building in the Netherlands. It is designed to prove that humans can live and build in a sustainable way. The plan for the building intentionally reduced the approved volume of the zoning plan model with a stepped exterior.

Inside an apartment there is the back of a man sitting on a couch facing a young girl's back who is standing on an outside balcony

SAWA will house about 100 apartments, with a large communal deck on the first floor plus numerous terraces. The column structure within the building allows apartments to be rearranged in the future, which helps future-proof the building for multiple uses.

The inside of the living room of an apartment where a man is standing outside on the balcony

The apartment building is unique in preserving as much wood surfaces in the apartments as possible. Only hidden walls will be finished with plaster. In fact, SAWA is built 90% out of wood, which sets an example for future apartment building projects looking to use non-traditional materials and construction methods.

A person is standing on an outside balcony that has a glass barrier

In addition, the cross-laminated timber used for SAWA stores CO2 and reduces emissions while creating a warm and comforting living space. In fact, the construction time is also shorter compared to concrete construction. SAWA was built with Open Building Principles in mind. The principles focus on pillar supports, floor beams and columns to create flexible and open interior spaces.

There is a sunset that casts the apartment building in the corner in a silhouette

This is the sixth award for the SAWA building. The building already won first prize at the Green Good Design Awards and was also awarded the ARC20 Innovation Award. SAWA was recognized as highly recommended at the MIPIM/AR Future Project Awards. The design was awarded a Special Mention at the Architizer A+ Awards and was selected for the Iconic Awards for Innovative Architecture.

+ Mei Architects

Images via Mei Architects