Lesia Topolnyk and state secretary Culture and Media Gunay Uslu. Award ceremony Prix de Rome Architecture 2022. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn.

Lesia Topolnyk wins the Prix de Rome Architecture 2022

Lesia Topolnyk is the winner of the Prix de Rome 2022, the oldest prize in the Netherlands for architects aged 35 and younger, with an entry inspired by the wreckage site of flight MH17, in response to the theme of ‘Healing Sites’. The architect has just received the prize of €40,000 and a residency of her choice from State Secretary Gunay Uslu (Culture and Media) at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam.

With their entries, the nominees for the Prix de Rome Architecture 2022 responded to the theme of Healing Sites: diverse locations dealing with social trauma. Topolnyk chose the mining village of Hrabove in her native Ukraine, which became world news in 2014 when passenger flight MH17 was shot down, killing all 298 people on board.

With her design No Innocent Landscape, Topolnyk shows how the landscape that forms the backdrop to such an event is not innocent in itself, but represents a complicated interplay of global and local histories. In this case, Hrabove is not only the site of the attack on MH17, but also of illegal mining activities which negatively impact the region’s nature and environment. Topolnyk uses narrative and construction techniques to deconstruct this relationship in her dark, oppressive design. She argues that trauma processing and reconstruction in such a place can take place only after such a deconstruction, and that architecture can mediate in this.

“Lesia Topolnyk argues that in current conflicts architecture can no longer exercise control by relying on its conventional tools and ways of thinking. With the project No Innocent Landscape, she wants to embrace chaos: not as a distortion, but as the only means by which she can gain insight. She proposes a series of new axioms to break through the blockage of unsolvable issues. The jury considers that it is an unusual achievement to directly question her own role as an architect and designer and to analyse how her profession works.” said the jury.

“The jury praises her courage in detaching herself from the traditional instruments of architecture, especially in the context of an institution like the Prix de Rome. The created exhibition space, with all its smells, colours and sounds, positively surprised and intrigued the jury. The jury members note that this is the only exhibition space that not only represents a place in need of healing, but has itself become a place of healing.”

The jury of the Prix de Rome Architecture 2022 consists of: Afaina de Jong (founder and director AFARAI); Alessandra Covini (co-founder and co-director of Studio Ossidiana, Prix de Rome 2018 winner); Carson Chan (Emilio Ambasz Institute Director at MoMA); Dirk Sijmons (founder of H+N+S Landschapsarchitecten); Jan Jongert (founding partner Superuse Studios); Syb Groeneveld (CEO Creative Industries Fund NL, technical chair).

Toplnyk’s entry, together with those of the other nominees – Arna Mačkić, Dividual (Andrea Bit and Maciej Wieczorkowski), and Studio KIWI (Kim Kool and Willemijn van Manen) – will be on display at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam until 9 April 2023. Zico Lopes of the Rotterdam agency Spatial Codes is the spatial designer of the exhibition. Designers Alex Clay and Karin van den Brandt of the agency Lesley Moore provided the graphic design. Mals Media contributed a video about the design process of each nominee.

Prix de Rome
The Prix de Rome is the Netherlands’ oldest and most prestigious prize for architects aged 35 and younger. The Prix de Rome Architecture is organised by the Mondriaan Fund, on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, this year in collaboration with the Creative Industries Fund NL and Het Nieuwe Instituut. The Prix de Rome Architecture is awarded every four years.

The award ceremony also saw the launch of the accompanying publication of the Prix de Rome Architecture 2022, published by Jap Sam Books. In addition to texts on the nominated artists by Marieke Berkers and Mark Minkjan, Ola Hassanain wrote an essay especially for this publication. Design: Lesley Moore (NL/EN, ISBN 978-94-92852-64-9, 156 pages, €15).