One Photo Challenge 2020: Competition Winners Announced!

The winning photographs tell powerful stories about architecture and the people that inhabit it, sparking intrigue and inspiration in the process.

Nathan Bahadursingh Nathan Bahadursingh

Architizer is excited to announce the winners of the 2020 One Photo Challenge! After evaluating an incredible shortlist of 100 architectural photographs and their stories, our stellar jurors have selected 2 top winners — one non-student and one student entry — along with 10 commended entries. We’re delighted to present each top winner with a grand prize of $2,500, along with professional photography gear from the likes of Peak Design, Formatt Hitech and Lenovo.

One Photo Challenge juror Ema Peter — an award-winning photographer herself — reflected on her winning selections: “Regardless of the profile of the project, [these photographs] manage to stop you, make you look twice, and feel. They are anything but typical architectural shots. They have so much soul, and richly embody how architecture impacts our life. Architecture in photography cannot stay impersonal; we cannot rely on the perfect light and perfect angle, we need to show the unexpected and tell a story.”

Fellow juror Aldo Amoretti selected his winners based on both visual impact and the photographs’ power to draw in the viewer: “A well-made photo should immediately intrigue you just by looking at it. Without knowing its history. Curiosity then leads you to deepen, to understand more about the content and the author. For me, when it happens, this is a great success.”

Without further ado, we present to you the winners of the 2020 One Photo Challenge, including both photographs and their accompanying stories…

Non-Student Winner: “Women Gather” by Bruce Engel (BE_Design)

“The women’s brick making cooperative in Kayonza, the Eastern Province of Rwanda, sit and take pride in their work. They hand made the bricks that give shape to this classroom space, and produced all of the approximately half a million bricks that comprise the “Women’s Opportunity Center” by Sharon Davis Design for the NGO Women for Women International.

Here, women in this rural and poor community can find training in women’s rights, literacy, health, and valuable vocational skills. At the core of the campus are 7 classrooms / training rooms, built in the round, reflecting the traditional architecture, and meant to achieve an intimate, secure, and feminine space where women can gather.”

Nick Hufton, cofounder of renowned photography studio Hufton + Crow, said of Women Gather: “I think this is a highly evocative image which has been thoughtfully considered and carefully composed. The image beautifully combines Line, Shape, Form, Texture, Pattern and Color, which naturally form to make the ‘6 elements of composition’. It also displays a warm human quality without looking staged. Excellent.


Student Winner: “Philadelphia Wasteland” by Chris Hytha (Drexel University)

“Philadelphia was once the industrial hub of the world, until its identity was shaken be deindustrialization and suburbanization. This legacy leaves deep scars in the fabric of North Philly, where decrepit industrial complexes stretch on for miles. In their abandoned state, these buildings take on new roles in the city. They become canvases for urban artwork and escapes from the noise and activity of the city center far from the regulations and restrictions of bureaucracy.

We are far too familiar with the restrictions in occupying a building. You can’t go on the roof, you can’t paint on the walls, you can’t break a window, you can’t enter utility tunnels or back of house space. Rich with layers of meaning infused by people engaging with their space, these buildings can become more captivating and engaging than intentionally designed architecture. This photo tells the story of freedom in the built environment.”


Commended Entry: “Yangtze River Winter Swimmer With Raffles City” by Su Zhewei (arch-exist)

“Across the river is the famous big new building: Raffles city in Chongqing designed by Safdie Architects. This is a huge and ambitious commercial building.and Chongqing is the most important city in the Yangtze River Basin and also the famous fog city. On a foggy morning, we took a scene on the reef beside the Yangtze River.

A group of winter swimmers broke into our camera. They told us that some of them had been swimming here for 20 winters, and there were not so many tall buildings on the other side of the river before. As an architectural photographer, we really obsessed with the picture full of regional characteristics and sense of life. Architecture is not the owner of the city. People and the Yangtze River witnessed the change of the city.”


Commended Entry: “View from Room 1604” by Tiffany Liem (Brookfield Properties)

“For 7 minutes, between 7:05am and 7:12am, the sun aligns with my next door neighbor. I watch from my hotel room, in downtown LA, as a select row of individuals receive their vitamin D. It’s a cold January day. I retreat back into my dark room.”


Commended Entry: “The Twist Museum, Kistefos Sculpture Park, Jevnaker, Norway by BIG” by Laurian Ghinitoiu (Laurian Ghinitoiu)

“It was challenging to combine in one single frame the main particularities of the project: its sculptural shape, the structure that expands over the river, as a bridge, and at the same time to imply that ‘the object’ is actually a functional building. The context, the design and its scale, the poetry of the sinuous lines that are melting with the surroundings in a surreal atmosphere, are the elements that are making the captured image to be abstract but descriptive at the same time.”


Commended Entry: “Talk to Nature” by Ning Wang (Beijing University of Technology)

“Architecture is a piece of space that humans steal from nature. As a shelter, it protects our bodies, and more importantly, it also adjusts the relationship between nature and human. Last May, my five months pregnant wife and I paid a visit to Teshima Art Museum (Ryue Nishizawa, 2010. 607 karato, Teshima, Kagawa, Japan). There was nothing inside at that moment but only another visitor stopped and stared at the slow-moving light on the ground. I took a photo of this silently with my iPhone.

Suddenly, I realized that it was not an empty space, on the contrary, everything I need has already there. Sunlight, water, wind, my love and an upcoming life. This is a story for everyone which is not legendary but admired. People and nature were invited into this building, talked to each other and shared their the truest stories. I just heard that and recorded this touching scene.”


Commended Entry: “Turner Contemporary” by James Newton (James Newton Photographs Ltd.)

“The Turner Contemporary Margate (David Chipperfield Architects) is located right on the sea front at Margate. The title commemorates the association of the town with noted landscape painter J. M. W. Turner, who went to school there, and visited throughout his life. The new two-storey building is designed to maximise both the dramatic setting between sea and land and the extraordinary light conditions unique to this area that inspired Turner well over a century ago.

I wanted to photograph the building in suitable light, something that made reference to Turner and the and his work. I went on a foggy day; as the sun began to burn through the fog the form of the building was fleetingly illuminated. At the same time three visitors emerged walking across the beach.”


Commended Entry: “Procuratie Vecchie Venezia” by Marco Petrini (Petrini Studio)

“The Procuratie Vecchie are part of three connected buildings along the perimeter of Piazza San Marco, Venice. They were built in the 16th century by the procurators who were managing the treasury of San Marco church. They housed apartments with stores at ground floor. Its doors have been long closed to but architect D. Chipperfield will renovate it and soon will be accessible to the public.

I took this photo during my last solo trip in 2019. This moment can be captured only in the very early morning, when the water comes up and gently flows the piazza for 30 minutes, before disappearing. The reflection is perfect because the enclosed piazza is well protected from winds so the water becomes almost a mirror. It’s a truly magical moment that disappears as soon as the city wakes up.There is no better moment to enjoy the magnificence of Piazza San Marco.”


Commended Entry: “Hygge House” by Paul Turang (Paul Turang Photography)

“Warming Huts is an open competition, melding design and art with Winnipeg’s famous winters. The jury selects designs that best “push the envelope of design, craft and art.” In January, winners travel to Winnipeg to begin construction on their hut. They are then brought out to the River Trail for visitors to skate to, interact with, and enjoy.

Hygge House, by Plain Projects, Pike Projects and Urbanink, is a simple wood-framed structure, symbolic of one of the most cherished symbols of Canadiana – the family cottage. Loosely translated, “Hygge” is a Danish word for cozy, an atmosphere of people and comfort, which can only be achieved when people come together. I was drawn to its quirky and fun appearance. It raises questions: “What is happening here?” “What is this little open building doing there?” It invites the audience to create their own narrative. And that color!”


Commended Entry: “Can’t Catch Me!” by Rodrigo Bonifaz (The J Associates)

“This photo was taken during a trip I took with my architecture class a few years back in Portugal. Our professor wanted to show us Alvaro Siza’s Portugal Pavilion and walk around the area to experience the space. We were met with an overwhelming structural towering over us yet the structure felt light like a fabric draping over posts to hide from the sun.

While we were admiring the architecture, this child was admiring the shadow. He kept crossing back and forth as if he was trying to run from it and playing a game. He was interacting with the shadow as if it was an extension of the structure itself. It gave me perspective on how different people experience space. The child didn’t know or probably care it that the building was designed by a famous architect. He just wanted to play with the shadow.”


Commended Entry: “Back of House: Front of House” by John Muggenborg (John Muggenborg Photography)

“To me, this photo from the Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn acts a reminder that for all we see in life, there are many elements in the ‘Back of House’ that contribute to the performance that we experience around us. As an architectural photographer, I typically show only the ‘presentable’ side of a project.

When I scout out a site before I photograph it I’m often privileged to learn what goes on ‘behind the curtain’ at many businesses. For this shoot I finally had the opportunity to illustrate that what we see on stage from the comfort of our seats is only half of the whole picture.”


Commended Entry: “Kiosk Chameleon” by Lior Hobashi (The Oslo School of Architecture and Design)

“At first glance, one can see a small shack in the Daharavi slum, Mumbai. When looking closely one can discover a boy, lying on the counter of a kiosk, camouflaged between the candy packing, seeking refuge from the blazing Indian sun. The kiosk is his birthplace, his living space and his workplace.

The shack lines up perfectly with the trucks in the background, which are heading out of the slum, making it look like one of them. While the other trucks are on wheels, his is rooted to the ground, letting only his thoughts drift away. Perhaps he is not living in a shack, a kiosk or a truck. Perhaps it is his very own castle.”


As our two top winners, Bruce Engel and Chris Hytha will each receive:

  • $2,500 prize money
  • Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
  • Long Exposure Filter Kit
  • 20′ x 30′ MetalPrint
  • 8″ Smart Display
  • Publication in the inaugural “One Photo” eBook
  • An exclusive interview discussing their photograph, published in Architizer Journal

Additionally, the 10 commended entries shown above will receive Peak Design’s camera backpack, as well as a featured entry in the upcoming One Photo eBook. The 100 finalists will also be published in the inaugural eBook, to be distributed to Architizer’s community including 100,000+ newsletter subscribers and 4+ million social media followers. Be on the lookout for this captivating publication, coming soon!

Thank you to all participants for sharing these amazing photographs and telling such fascinating stories about architecture. If you are interested in entering next year’s One Photo Challenge, be sure to sign up for updates by clicking the blue button below.

Register for the 2021 One Photo Challenge

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