Our commitment to architecture: the International Highrise Award

Deka, the City of Frankfurt am Main and the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) have been awarding prizes to forward-looking highrise buildings since 2004.

Designing, creating and constructing buildings are the tasks of architecture. Architecture impacts the environment, shapes cities in their appearance and structure, and can create a sense of home and identity. Architecture is an important part of people’s everyday lives and one of the priorities among Deka’s sponsorship commitments. In cooperation with our partners, we award the International Highrise Award (IHA) to buildings with exemplary sustainable construction, which make use of innovative technology and which offer exceptional conditions for visitors and users. The award winners combine these and other criteria with extraordinary design and promote highrise architecture internationally
The IHA is the top prize for highrise buildings worldwide. Since 2004, it has been awarded every two years by the City of Frankfurt am Main at a ceremony in the Paulskirche. The award is promoted, curated and organised in cooperative partnership with the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM, German Architecture Museum) and Deka. The next IHA will be awarded in 2022.
Dr. Matthias Danne, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Management

With our commitment to the International Highrise Award, we wish to draw attention to forward-looking, sustainable and efficient construction.

Norra Tornen: IHA 2020 for affordable, sustainable housing

The winner of the IHA 2020 was the Norra Tornen twin towers project in Stockholm, Sweden by Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam and the developer Oscar Properties in Stockholm.
The Norra Tornen development embodies a contemporary, forward-looking vision. Due to their location beside a major arterial highway, the “Northern Towers”, as the name translates from Swedish, form a gateway to two newly developed districts, Hagastaden and Torsgatan. At the same time, the colour scheme of the residential towers blends in well with the existing buildings in the immediate vicinity, which were primarily built in the 1930s. The Norra Tornen are the tallest residential buildings in the city. Even during Sweden's long, dark winter months, the large windows let what little light there is into the interior, while creating a connection with the environment at the same time. Balconies alternate with cube-like modules to form a façade with an almost sculptural look due to the many projections and setbacks. This was made possible by the use of high-quality precast concrete elements that were not poured on site. The serial production of prefabricated elements saved time and money, as it permitted one storey to be completed per week.
Norra Tornen is an example of an elegant, pragmatic, affordable and sustainable residential solution for the big cities of the future and a symbol of an open equal society. The towers therefore symbolise an important characteristic of the Swedish culture while also expressing a universal message.
The Covid-19 pandemic made it necessary to prepare and award the IHA in a completely new way. Due to the restrictions on travel and personal contact, the jury met digitally to select the winner. The meeting was chaired by Anett-Maud Joppien (Architect, Dietz Joppien Architekten AG, Frankfurt/Potsdam) and was also joined from Mexico by Benjamín Romano (Architect, LBR&A Arquitectos, Mexico City, Mexico), the winner of IHA 2018.

The other members of the jury were:
  • Klaus Fäth (Civil Engineer, osd – office for structural design, Frankfurt am Main/Hamburg)
  • Ina Hartwig (Councillor responsible for Culture, City of Frankfurt am Main)
  • Andreas Moser (Architect, ma cyrus | moser | architekten, Frankfurt am Main)
  • Peter Cachola Schmal (Director of the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), Frankfurt am Main)
  • Victor Stoltenburg (Managing Director of Deka Immobilien Investment GmbH, Frankfurt am Main)

The award ceremony took place on 29 October 2020 in the Paulskirche, Frankfurt, without an audience. Due to coronavirus-related restrictions, the winners could not be present in person. In a digital ceremony, Dr Ina Hartwig, Dr Matthias Danne and Peter Cachola Schmal symbolically handed the winning statuette and prize money to Reinier de Graaf, Architect and Partner of Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), and developer Oscar Engelbert of Oscar Properties. The award ceremony was broadcast by livestream and recorded.

The Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) presented an exhibition dedicated to IHA 2020 until 6 June 2021. The exhibition showed models, films, photographs and drawings of the winning building, the finalists and the nominees. A catalogue is available for the exhibition.
Reinier de Graaf, Architekt und Partner bei Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) aus Rotterdam (Foto: Karl Nordlund)

Norra Tornen are very different from the conventional idea of a skyscraper. They are not monumental but homely, and their aesthetics are informal. At the same time, they embody diversity and not repetition.

Prize statuette by Thomas Demand (Photo: © Wolfgang Günzel).

International Highrise Award - the first award for highrises worldwide

The IHA honours highrise buildings that stand out from the crowd for more than just their height. In addition to sustainability, technology and economic efficiency, important criteria include innovative design or the particularly successful integration of the building into the cityscape. The alternating jury consists of four internationally renowned architects, engineers and architecture critics as well as one representative each from Deka, the City of Frankfurt am Main and the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM).

The award was given jointly to the architect and developer. They received a sculpture by the renowned artist Thomas Demand and EUR 50,000 in prize money that the winners donate to institutions in the field of architecture and urban development.
The prize money went to the “Archis” cultural organisation in Amsterdam in 2020. Archis is a think tank concerned with the significance of architecture for people and its role as a cultural medium. Its Architecture of Peace research project investigates how cities can be rebuilt after conflicts and wars so as to create social cohesion. “Archis” is also a publisher. Its publications include the “Volume” magazine. 
The goal of the IHA is to create public awareness of the importance of architecture. Responsible planning and a design that prioritises social and environmental sustainability criteria are important factors for the IHA. As co-founder of the award, Deka therefore supports the role of the winning buildings as models for construction in the future.

Unusual forms and outstanding concepts: The IHA honours the best highrise buildings in the world. (Photo: © Hufton + Crow)

All IHA award winners at a glance

Thus far, eight architects and developers have received the International Highrise Award. The Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), Deka and the City of Frankfurt award the prize jointly.