From a dystopian vision of Brixton to a sanctuary for quarry workers in Bangalore to new homes for a remote Aboriginal community in Australia, this year's RIBA President's Medals Student Awards, in association with Atkins, show how today's architecture students around the world are grappling with pressing social issues and, through architecture, coming up with original solutions.
The winners of the President's Medals were announced yesterday evening (Wednesday 7 December 2011) at the RIBA in London.
Kibwe Tavares, a student of The Bartlett, University College London, has won the Silver Medal – awarded to a Part 2 project (second degree) – for Robots of Brixton. Taking the existing buildings of Brixton as a starting point, and eerily prescient of this summer's riots in English cities, this startling short film combines architectural drawings and futuristic animation to comment on the social tensions of inner city life. The judges said:
'We were stunned by the research work that went into making this film: not only had an urban environment been designed, but the film itself was a complex design project. An amazing piece of work that is truly exciting and inspirational.'
The Bronze Medal – for a Part 1 project (first degree) – has been awarded to Basmah Kaki, a student at the Architectural Association. An acoustic lyrical mechanism is an ingenious design, which exploits the natural environment to create a sanctuary for workers, protecting them from damage caused by noise pollution in an Indian granite quarry. The judges said:
'This is beautifully presented, but equally impressive is the journey of architectural exploration. Prototypes have been made, and topographical models used to help analyse the impact of wind and the visual and sound environment that the building would create.'
Hannah Robertson of the University of Melbourne receives the Dissertation Medal for her work Bush Owner Builder, which develops culturally sensitive and appropriate homes for an indigenous community in the far north of Queensland. Designs that emerged from working closely with the Aboriginal community are now being built on 'homeland' sites. The judges said:
'This dissertation warmed our hearts with its social concern. A sensitive and respectful piece of work, it rethinks the world of the architect and shows people not as clients but as genuine participants in the creative architectural process.'
In addition to the three RIBA President's Medals, commendations were awarded to:
Part 1: Daniel Schinagl, London South Bank University, for Institute of Language and Knowledge
Part 2: Duncan Corrigall and Daniel Spence, University of Sydney, for Metamorphoses: Echo's Retreat; Marie Kojzar, Royal College of Art, for Human Nature; and Christopher Christophi, De Montfort University, for Ecological research and macro algae monitoring facility, North Arsenale, Venice
Dissertation: Julianne Cassidy, University of Westminster, for Arka Pana: the Church in the City without God; Costa Elia, The Bartlett, University College London, for The Buyukada Museum: building new viewpoints on the Istanbul Pogrom; and Joanna Doherty, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, for Constructing the 'Other': the role of space in continuing conflict in Northern Ireland.
Congratulating the winners, RIBA President Angela Brady said:
'The winners of this year's RIBA President's Medals show the outstanding talent of today's architecture students. With highly creative and inspired thinking they are confronting real social issues - and showing how quality architectural design improves the quality of people's lives. I am delighted to present these awards.'
Philip Watson, Design Director, Atkins, added:
'The industry needs to encourage and celebrate creativity and innovation, which is why Atkins continues to support the RIBA President's Medals Student Awards. The best entries this year tackled social, economic and environmental issues head-on, showing real awareness and a refreshing sense of optimism.'
Daniel Schinagl and Christopher Christophi also receive the Serjeant Award for Excellence in Architectural Drawing. Travelling Fellowships from the Skidmore Owings Merrill (SOM) Foundation go to three students from the University of Liverpool: Steven Kok, Sean Peel and Hannah Wilson, for Zeitgeist Archive, Berlin, as well as to Bronze Medal winner Basmah Kaki.
The awards will be presented by RIBA President Angela Brady on Wednesday 7 December 2011 and winning projects will be displayed at the RIBA from 7 December 2011 until 28 January 2012. The exhibition will then travel to Newcastle, Liverpool and Dublin, with other venues in the United Kingdom, Australia, Romania and the United Arab Emirates to be confirmed.
This year saw the highest ever number of entries for the President's Medals: 276 entries from 83 schools of architecture in 27 countries.