A new architecture contest urges entrants to explore the potential of Italy’s Torbiere del Sebino Reserve. Winners may be awarded up to 7,000 Euros, a prestigious prize from a prestigious international jury.

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TerraViva Competitions, the sponsor of the contest, is a branch of TerraViva Workshop.  The workshop has been active since 2015, thanks to professor Richard Ingersoll at the Politecnico di Milano University. The competition celebrates unconventional design and is mostly aimed at students, young creatives and professionals.

Related: Welcome to Nemo’s Garden, where plants grow under the sea

A landscape of green trees that is reflected onto the body of water in front of it

Torbiere del Sebino Reserve

The Sebino Nature Reserve in Italy’s Lombardy region covers 360 hectares and mainly consists of reeds and expanses of water surrounded by fields and small urban settlements. It’s located in northern Italy between the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia, an area known for gorgeous landscapes, history, heritage and wine.

Torbiere del Sebino is situated in an area where an ancient glacier retreated, forming a natural amphitheater and laying the groundwork for an extraordinary ecosystem. The reserve is considered Brescia’s most significant wetland.  It features peaty lagoons and deep pools of water. The reserve’s three paths are designed to leave flora and fauna as undisturbed as possible.

The reserve is important for nesting and migratory water birds. Many stay for the winter. Thirty-one protected species call the reserve home. Many of the animals here are small, like shrews, bats and rice paddy mice. There’s also a vast fish population.

Who will design the best wildlife pavilions?

The architectural contest is all about designing wildlife pavilions. As the contest guidelines explained, “The goal of the competition is to think out of the box and to imagine inhabited structures designed for flora and fauna: micro-architectures where man meets wildlife just as a passing guest, as a respectful visitor or simply as an observer.”

Currently, the reserve has only a few structures used for bird watching. The winners could potentially inspire and help reshape the architecture of the whole reserve, if their pavilions are built. The contest requires entrants to design three small-scale pavilions, which would fit in the peat bog landscape.

A bird with a long beak standing in a swampy area

Judges and prizes

The international jury includes luminaries from Europe, China and South America. Three of the judges are from Italy: Nicola Russi of Laboratorio Permanente in Milan; Alessandro Bonizzoni of Fosbury Architecture, also in Milan; and Stefania Capelli of Torbiere del Sebino in Brescia. Other European judges are Samuel Gonçalves of Summary  in Porto, Portugal, Giulia Pozzi of Fabulism in Berlin and Jan van Dijk of Van Dijk Architects in Dundalk, Ireland. Zhang Ke of ZAO/standardarchitecture will be judging from Beijing, and Ana Babaya of Pesa Arquitectura is from Rosario, Argentina.

Projects will be judged on criteria like environmental impact, graphic representation, sensitive use of materials and textures, originality and integration with the context. Special sensitivity toward landscape design and respect for wildlife will be rewarded more highly than technical details.

While winning money is nice, the international acclaim will be even better. Contestants will initially be winnowed down to 30 finalists. The first prize winner will receive 3,000 Euros. Second and third prize winners will receive 2,000 Euros and 1,000 Euros, respectively. Four golden mentions will win 250 Euros each and 10 people will receive honorable mentions.

Contest guidelines

The contest invites designers interested in “challenging anthropocentric architecture and with the idea of experimenting a new creative process focused on nature” to design three small-scale wildlife pavilions.

As the contest guidelines explained, “The intention is to go beyond the mere act of designing an observation cabin. In fact, it means much more than that: Wildlife Pavilions is about providing supports for bird nesting, new shelters to reptiles, containers to help the proliferation of autochthonous plants, insects hotels, sunbathing platforms and many more. The key lies in being able to conceive a design proposal centered on nature, which, as a secondary function, allows visitors to observe wildlife in total respect of the ecosystem.”

Sounds good, huh? And it’s open to anybody. Architects, engineers, urbanists and designers, of course. But also students, makers, artists, activists and anyone else interested in architecture and landscape design. So if you’re an armchair architect who dreams of creating awesome spots for wildlife, this is your moment. You can join the contest as an individual or as a team.

Refer to contest materials for exact details, such as where the micro-pavilions would be placed within the park, restriction on height of pavilions, etc. The contest emphasizes that when it comes to building in nature reserves, small is more.

A murky landscape with a bird flying low on the river

Schedule and more info

Registration is now open, and runs through March 17, 2023. If you submit your entry by January 20, 2023, you’ll qualify for the 69 Euro early registration. The entry fee goes up to 89 Euros until February 24, then jumps to 119 Euros until the deadline. The results will be announced a month later, on April 17, 2023. You are welcome to submit more than one project, but must pay a separate entry fee for each.

The competition is design-only, meaning that the winning project won’t be built. The competition aims “to promote economic, social and environmental sustainability for the development of new architectural approaches,” according to the website. Winning proposals will be appear on websites and be published in architectural magazines. In spring of 2023, TerraViva will organize an exhibition in partnership with Torbiere del Sebino and the local municipalities, who will find a local event space to display the designs.

Images via Andrea Facchinetti, Giovanni Corsetti, Sergio Di Giacomo and Stefano Bonalumi

+ TerraViva Competition