Ms. Simanova, Xella Czech just held its 28th competition for architecture students. How has Xella been attracting the interest of young people for so many years?
Simanova: The selection of the theme and the location is important for this. The task must captivate the students, which is not always easy. This year, it was about an Elbe harbor project for smaller as well as larger pleasure boats, the Marine Ústí nad Labem with accommodation, restaurant, information center and a refueling station for smaller boats. The students love to solve challenging problems. In the competition, they can give free rein to their imagination.
What does the competition look like in detail?
All the necessary information about the project, such as the complete project, documents from the land and cadastral map, photo gallery of the location, are available online for the participants. Xella organizes lectures on the task and excursions to the site in the architecture faculties in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In fact, from our point of view, cooperation with universities is also very important. It often comes about through the student competition, and then continues at other levels. The participants then have to submit their designs by the end of February.
And who is on the jury?
Famous Czech and Slovak architects meet in March and April to judge the designs. The evaluation and awarding of prizes follows in the summer. By the way, some jury members have won the competition themselves.
What was the challenge this year?
This year the theme was: Interventions - How to continue in the Czech-Slovak border area Kopčany? It was about returning from the present to history and how local tourism can be supported there with construction projects of different sizes.
And who won the prize?
It was Petra Ďurišková and Šimon Voštinár, students of the University of Fine Arts, Department of Architectural Design in Bratislava. The award ceremony took place at the Faculty of Architecture in Bratislava in the former boiler house.
The effort was worthwhile for all students. Not only because the first place is endowed with 4000 euros and also the second and third place still with 2000 and 1000 euros, as well as non-cash prizes up to 6th place. The students also win their first contact and first recognition among the renowned Czech and Slovak jury members. At the same time, they gain important experience for their professional lives: already with the competition, they learn how they will then compete for real contracts as "finished" architects and project developers. Their names appear in trade journals along with their designs. This is an important reference for them in later applications.
Have any designs already been implemented?
The student designs directly have not been implemented because they are only the students, not graduated architects. But sometimes the designs give idea or cause for a new project in the city. For example, a bicycle bridge was built in Český Krumlov or a hotel in Janské Lázně.
What is the professional future after the successful participation in the contest?
Some winners achieved significant success in their professional life. They are involved in interesting projects not only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also abroad. A good example is architect Michal Krištof. He won the 11th year of our competition, in the 13th year he was on the 2nd place. He later told us that his professional dreams have come true, and he is glad to have participated in the competition. Furthermore, he said that the first victory or evaluation is always a great thing, one is then full of energy for the further course of studies, for further work. He has been working with renowned architect Ondřej Chybík since 2010.
How sustainable is this project for the students and for Xella?
The competition is a meaningful support for the future generation of architects and project developers. Xella, as a manufacturer of YTONG, thus easily enters the consciousness of the new generation. The competition also leaves a clear mark on the Czech and Slovakian regions. The students' designs are available to the cities and territorial units as a source of ideas and ideas on how a particular task could be solved.
The fact that this commitment is long-term can also be seen in the history of the competition. The first year of the competition took place in 1995, and in 2003 Czech and Slovak organizers joined forces and ideas to create the first international year. This international, Czech-Slovak character of the competition has been preserved until now. Both countries regularly alternate with the event.
And does Xella also learn from the students?
It's a give and take. We learn how they think and they get to know our Ytong, Silka, and Multipor materials in practice through the competition, rather than just as subject in a lecture. Moreover, they know how to use them later on. Supporting students through the competition is one of the socially highly recognized activities in our countries. We are pleased about this, because we have been organizing it for almost 30 years out of conviction.