Seminal is a key quality for any OBEL AWARD nominated work, according to the trust deed.

The OBEL AWARD has therefore held a workshop for the jury in order to clarify what is meant by “seminal” in the award context. Carsten Thau, professor emeritus at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, was invited to give his input.


New fields of experience

Etymologically, the word seminal derives from ‘semen’ and ‘seed’. It is something that contains the beginning of a new development. The seminal is different from the iconic in a crucial way, according to Carsten Thau.

»Iconicity risks overexposure, becoming so well-known that it blends in, becomes invisible, and thus turns into empty signifiers and becomes harmless. The seminal, on the other hand, creates a situation of before and after. The seminal is uncompromising. An essential dimension in seminal works is that often – at first sight – they may appear a little strange, unpleasant, or even disturbing. But once uttered, they become evident – One realises that they had to be construed exactly the way they are, and uncompromisingly so. The seminal work of art gains a sort of sovereignty and self-evidence,« he explains.

The seminal (…) creates a situation of before and after.

»The nominated works should be, in a sense, deeper than the mere tabloid – an event. The nature of the event is among other things characterised by the ability to open up new fields of experience, new ways of seeing,« he says.

This means that submitted works must demonstrate ground-breaking, original, powerful, and influential solutions spearheading future architectural developments. To be considered for nomination for the OBEL AWARD, an architectural work has to be original and transformative, bringing a promise of change and a better future.