Counter Investigations, an exhibition of work by Forensic Architecture, an independent research agency based at Goldsmiths University London, has been named the winner of the Beazley Designs of the Year 2018.
The agency works to uncover miscarriages of justice and international war crimes through the architectural analysis of imagery. From official news and smartphone footage to satellite images, minute clues and fragmentary evidence are painstakingly analysed to create full 3D reconstructions of events, allowing the team to verify disputed information.
Like a war crime CSI, Counter Investigations staged Forensic Architecture’s modes of analysis through the use of maps, screens, text, films and other evidence.
Forensic Architecture is also nominated for Tate Britain’s Turner Prize in 2018.
"In a field of such diversity and brilliance it is invidious to choose the 'best' but Forensic Architecture has invented a new paradigm in the search for the truth," says judge Robert Devereux, Chairman, The Conduit. "Their application of architectural skills to the re-creation of past events is extraordinarily innovative, intellectually rigorous and will make a significant contribution to justice. Their presentation at the ICA was stimulating, engaging and accessible."
Elsewhere, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town won the category for Architecture. The building strikingly repurposes a former grain silo made obsolete by containerised shipping.
For this post-industrial project, designer Thomas Heatherwick carved out a dramatic, skylit central atrium from within the original 42 tightly packed concrete silos to reveal startling geometries, while also converting them for gallery use. Faceted glass windows were also punched out of the building’s grading tower to create a kaleidoscopic effect.
As well as being named the overall winner, Counter Investigations by Forensic Architecture was also the Digital category winner. In Fashion, costumes for The Royal Ballet production of Corybantic Games by Christopher Wheeldon scooped the category prize.
Womenswear designer Erdem Moralıoğlu created 24 costumes for a new ballet set to Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade, after Plato: Symposium. Inspired by the Classical Greek themes of the piece, Erdem juxtaposed armour-like ribbon detailing with ethereal sheer tutus, while the champagne-coloured satin bodices and careful pleating evoked the 1950s era of Bernstein’s original score.
For Graphics, the winner was Trash Isles for LADbible and Plastic Oceans Foundation – a campaign to declare the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" a country.
An accumulation of plastic waste covering an area the size of France is currently floating in the Pacific Ocean – though little is being done to address it, as it occupies international waters. Involving the creation of a ‘national identity’, complete with passports, stamps and currency, the Trash Isles campaign was launched to enlist citizen-petitioners to persuade the United Nations to recognise the waterborne mass of debris as an official country, forcing the global community to deal with it as a member of the UN Environmental Charter.
Paperfuge won Product. The hand-powered centrifuge is made of string, plastic and paper, and can spin biological samples at thousands of revolutions per minute, separating pure plasma from whole blood.
This is a critical step in the diagnosis of infections such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis. The device costs just 20 cents, weighs two grammes, and can easily be carried in a doctor’s pocket, making point-of-care diagnostics possible virtually anywhere.
The Transport winner was Falcon Heavy, a reusable rocket for commercial space travel by SpaceX.
On 6 February 2018, SpaceX successfully launched the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy. Capable of lifting 64,000 kilograms into low earth orbit, it is more than twice as powerful as its two main competitors. It is also considerably cheaper to launch than other rockets its size: among other reasons, its empty launch boosters are retrieved after lift-off for future use.
In addition, exhibition visitors voted for their favourite design in the exhibition gallery, and Surgibox, an operating theatre that fits into a backpack, received the most votes – winning Beazley Designs of the Year 2018 People's Choice.
The six category winners along with the further 81 other nominations are on display at the Design Museum until 6 January 2019. Find out more: designmuseumshop.com.