Greenery-covered high-rises, a high-end music school, a wooden boarding school, and a university that blends old with new all feature in this year's RIBA International Prize shortlist. The competition honors buildings from around the world that exemplify design excellence, display architectural ambition, and deliver meaningful social impact. Just one will be named the best later this year.

The biennial International Prize is the newest major award from RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects), and has crowned only one winner so far, Peru's "modern day Machu Picchu" back in 2016. The four projects that make up this shortlist were selected from a longlist revealed in 2017 and, while they aren't the most eye-catching in that list, RIBA feels that each makes a significant contribution to their local community.

"The marker of a truly successful building is the positive contribution it makes to its local context and people," says RIBA president Ben Derbyshire. "All four of these projects thoroughly demonstrates visionary, innovative thinking and excellence of execution, and positively impacts the communities they have been designed for."

We take a quick look at each building below, or you can head to the gallery to see more. We'll be back to report on the winner once it's decided in late November.

Children Village

Children Village, by Aleph Zero + Rosenbaum, is a boarding school located in a rural area in Brazil. It offers accommodation to 540 children of farm workers who live too far away to make the journey to school daily.

Primarily built from locally-sourced timber, the attractive building includes lots of meeting spaces, such as reading nooks, balconies, and hammocks. In a nice touch, the architects sought input from the resident students during the design process.

Vertical Forest

Stefano Boeri's Vertical Forest (aka Bosco Verticale) in Milan has been collecting awards since it was revealed in 2011. Indeed, the project proved so successful that Boeri has since designed similar greenery-covered towers in China, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands.

The original is still probably the best though, and certainly the most impactful. Comprising two residential towers rising to a height of 80 m (262 ft) and 112 m (367 ft), respectively, they feature integrated concrete planters that host almost 17,000 trees, shrubs and plants, offering a pleasant greenery-filled environment in an inner-city high-rise.

Central European University Phase 1

O'Donnell + Tuomey's Central European University Phase 1 is located in the heart of Budapest and is part of an ongoing redevelopment.

The project is centered around a large new limestone-clad building that connects several nearby historical buildings and courtyards. It provides a library, an auditorium, teaching and learning facilities, study rooms, and a café. The architects managed to successfully honor Budapest's existing architecture while also creating something interesting and new.

Toho Gakuen School of Music

The Toho Gakuen School of Music is a renowned music school in suburban Tokyo. The new open-plan campus was designed by Nikken Sekkei and replaces an earlier building on the site, which had an uninspired interior layout and offered no natural light to students.

It provides a visual connection between practicing musicians and ample natural light with its generous glazing. Considerable effort was expended to ensure optimum acoustics too. The campus has an almost village-like quality with multiple independent teaching spaces and communal spaces.

Source: RIBA

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