The International VELUX Award is a competition for students of architecture that runs every second year. We challenge students from all over the world to work with daylight as an ever relevant source of light, life and joy. The award is one of the most important global student competitions of its kind.

Submission is now closed. The jury will review the projects in July and the regional winners will be announced in August.

“The future of architecture should be filled with daylight,” Li Hu Interview

“Light is unlike any other material we work with. It is mysterious,“ says Li Hu, founding partner of OPEN Architecture and one of five jury members of the International VELUX Award 2018. The jury will meet in June and evaluate all the student daylight projects and elect 10 regional winners.

The light cannon sculpted by the path of the sun beams soft refracted daylight into the Dune Art Museum by the sea. Image Courtesy of OPEN Architecture.

“Light is something you can’t really simulate with a computer because it changes all the time. It is probably the most dynamic substance we work with as architects. In that sense, it is also the most difficult one,” says the architect. In addition to his work at OPEN, Li has been a partner of Steven Holl Architects, and director of Columbia University GSAPP’s Studio-X Beijing. These experiences have given him the opportunity to develop some ideas about the role of daylight in architecture.

“Light sculptures space. There is no life where there is no light.”

Eternal light

The theme for the International VELUX Award is “the light of tomorrow”; however, like his fellow jury member Saša Begović, Li advises students taking part in the competition to look back to the basics of architecture when searching for inspiration. “Light is an eternal topic. There is no past. There is no tomorrow. The light we see today is the light from the past. I see it as a fundamental issue,” says Li.

Li Hu is one of five jury members who will be judging all the projects submitted to the International VELUX Award 2018.

“People always talk about the future and are occupied with looking forward. But I think the future is a chance to go back to the very fundamentals and the origin of light.”

Inspiration from art

As a visiting professor and speaker at Tsinghua University in China and various other institutions, Li Hu understands what is important for the next generation of architects.

“This competition plays an important role in bringing awareness of light to the students in an early phase of their career by showing them how important light is. It teaches them about the relationship between light and design and the physical environments. It is a very important starting point of the conception of architecture - especially for students,“ he says.

HEX-SYS, a reconfigurable and reusable building system designed by OPEN, is an industrialized building prototype filled with poetic light. Image Courtesy of OPEN Architecture.

When asked about where students taking part in the International VELUX Award could draw inspiration from, his answer is clear:

“From nature. From observing the natural phenomenon. There is so much to explore. Light existed before human beings. Light existed before all creatures, before life. Light is always there.”

“If I were a student taking part in this competition, I would start with nature and science. Light exists in all art forms – in literature, in film, in photography, in paintings. Everything deals with light. I would take inspiration from poetry and art. From things outside architecture.”

Solving modern problems

According to Li, one of the contemporary challenges faced by architects is incorporating daylight in a way that promotes human health. He argues that many modern buildings do not sufficiently consider the wellbeing of the people who use them.

A semi-outdoor concert hall at the bottom of a valley, a Chapel of Sound. The large opening on the top together with small openings of varied shapes on the sidewalls, bring in light and stunning views. Image Courtesy of OPEN Architecture.

“In contemporary development, buildings have become a commodity. Commercial driven development places other things above human needs. It’s been too greedy. We need more buildings that put people first. The spiritual needs of people, not just the financial needs. We need to build cities that are filled with poetry and inspiration. Not just buildings.”

“I think the future of architecture should be filled with daylight,” says Li.

“Dramatic daylighting, poetic daylighting, daylight that lifts your spirit. We often see the importance of daylight being downplayed. Finding ways of bringing the drama of daylight in and making it part of your life is where I see the future of architecture going.“

A Youth and Cultural Center in sunshine and nature for children to discover and create their own experiences and stories. Image Courtesy of OPEN Architecture.

This summer, when Li and the four other jury members meet in Copenhagen to evaluate the student projects submitted by 15 June, Li is expecting something he has not seen before.

“I am looking forward to some surprising ideas from the students. I hope to learn a lot from them.”

By Mariann Eliassen