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During a ceremony held today in Barcelona, the European Commissioner responsible for Culture, Ján Figel’, and the mayor of the city, Joan Clos, presented the Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas, with the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture.

The biannual prize, established in 2001 on the initiative of the European Commission and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation, rewards excellence and innovation in the conceptual, technical and constructional qualities of European works. Created within the framework of the European Culture 2000 programme, and with a prize of €50 000 and a sculpture by the Catalan artist Xavier Corberó, the competition is aimed at both experienced and novice architects. In total, 242 works of architecture were nominated for the prize that was open to projects completed between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2004, by experts in the field and national architecture associations throughout Europe. An international panel of judges comprising nine members[1] and presided over by Zaha Hadid (who was awarded the prize in 2003) chose the winner from a list of five finalists that included – besides the Dutch embassy in Berlin – the headquarters of Swiss Re in London, the Selfridges & Co department store in Birmingham, the Forum 2004 esplanade in Barcelona and the Braga municipal stadium in Portugal.

At the award ceremony, Commissioner Figel’ said that: "the projects nominated for this prize illustrate the cultural importance of architecture to the everyday lives of Europeans, as they combine functionality with beauty. They play an essential role in the creation of a harmonious and practical environment".

Also awarded was a special prize for up-and-coming architects, whose winner receives €10 000. This went to the BasketBar project in Utrecht, run by the architects Pieter Bannenberg, Walter van Dijk, Kamiel Klaasse and Mark Linnemann.

A total of 28 of the works nominated for the award will be displayed together in a travelling exhibition.

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