RIBA McAslan Bursary

Photograph below © Nicola Antaki, recipient of the 2012 RIBA ICE McAslan Bursary
Nicola Antaki

2015 RIBA McAslan Bursary launched

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), John McAslan + Partners, and the Environment Agency have launched the 2015 RIBA McAslan Bursary. 

Funded by a contribution of £10,000 from the Environment Agency, the 2015 bursary scheme will support an individual or team of architecture and engineering students, graduates and newly qualified architects and engineers to develop and realise a design research project.

Projects will be expected to demonstrate progress towards a sustainable solution that improves the physical environment for communities and tackles the challenges posed by climate change or weather extremes. Applicants are welcome to apply for grants of up to £5,000 to support their project.

The Government Chief Construction Adviser will support the Bursary scheme as an advisor; the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) will continue as partners.

The judging panel comprises Jo Ashbridge (AzuKo), David Balmforth (ICE), Sir Phillip Dilley (Environment Agency), Peter Hansford  (BIS), John McAslan (John McAslan + Partners), and John Waldron (RIBA Education Trust Funds Committee).

The deadline for applications is 9am on the Thursday 1 October 2015.

The application form can be downloaded below:



Applicants must:

  • Be enrolled in a RIBA validated Part 1, 2 or 3 course or with candidate course status, in the UK or overseas or have been granted a place of study in a validated or candidate Architecture course by the beginning of the period covered by the Bursary (Part 2 only), or

  • Be enrolled in a JBM-accredited undergraduate or JBM-approved postgraduate programme, or

  • Have graduated from a RIBA validated Part 1, 2 or 3 course or with candidate course status within the past 5 years or

  • Have graduated from a JBM-accredited undergraduate or JBM-approved postgraduate programme within the past 5 years.

Preference will be given to applicants who are RIBA or ICE members.

Please contact Hayley Russell via email or on 020 7307 3678 if you have any questions.

About the Bursary

The RIBA ICE McAslan Bursary was established in 2004 and aimed at architectural and engineering students and graduates, committed to the progress of environmental and social issues. Since then the bursary has enabled a diverse range of successfully realised design projects. In 2012 following generous support from John McAslan + Partners, the RIBA ICE McAslan Bursary was relaunched, with a focus on the power of design as an instrument for positive change.

Past recipients

Background information about the bursary can be found in 'Beginnings' - a booklet of previous bursary-nominated projects, and from the brief descriptions below.

PDF Beginnings - bursary projects
File size: 500 kB

2012 - Healthier learning spaces for municipal schools in Mumbai: A design-led research project  

Nicola Antaki Awarded £7,500 in 2012

Nicola Antaki studied Architecture at Oxford Brookes and The Royal College of Art. After graduating from the RCA, she worked for a number of years at Cottrell and Vermeulen Architecture, designing sustainable schools and nurseries, where she completed her part 3 RIBA professional certificate, at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Subsequently she has been working on a research project in Mumbai, India since February 2011, looking at how architecture can affect learning outcomes in primary school children. The focus of this project is on healthy environments for children who live in informal settlements. She started a PhD course on the subject in 2012.

Her India-based project aims to develop affordable and reproducible 1:1 prototypes of designs for spaces that will help children to concentrate, learn and play, developing the notion that an environment can also be a teacher. In the short-term, the Lovegrove School will benefit from an improved seasonal micro-environment. In the long term, the aim is to convince the government that these nurturing spaces can be affordably implemented, are healthy, cognitively effective and can help improve school attendance, literacy and health as a result.

Read the report for the project below:

PDF NicolaAntakiFinalReport
File size: 3745kB

2010 - 'Is a well really sustainable? - An engineer's perspective on tackling Nairobi's urban water crisis' 

 Yolanda Chakava Awarded £9,500 in 2010           Is a well really sustainable?


Yolanda is a Chartered Civil Engineer with considerable experience in the water industry. In 2009 she founded a charitable organisation 'Haki Water' to research and develop innovative engineering solutions to promote sustainable water management in developing countries, starting in Kenya. Yolanda's project aims to build on her initial findings to assess in detail the sustainability and environmental impacts of constructing well projects in the urban slums of Nairobi.

Her initial research indicates that many well projects are executed as a 'single-solution' option and lack a sustainable approach, including plans for long-term maintenance. The key objective of RIBA ICE McAslan Bursary-sponsored project was to develop a sustainable approach to implement innovative and cost-efficient solutions, providing long-term value to the people and communities served. 

Read the full report and findings via the Haki Water website

Yolanda presented her findings at the ICE in October 2011. You can view a recording of this presentation on the ICE website.

Since completing the project funded by the Bursary in March 2011, Yolanda is now working full-time for Haki Water while also working towards a PhD at Cranfield University. To contact Yolanda Chakava or for more information about her ongoing work with Haki Water visit www.hakiwater.org or email yolanda.chakava@hakiwater.org.

 2010 - We ♥ the Suburbs

Sarah Considine and Melanie Bax  Awarded £5,000 in 2010                                                                           ©Sarah Considine and Melanie Bax

WehearttheSuburbsWe ♥ the Suburbs' worked closely with the community of St Luke's in Southend-on-Sea in an effort to understand and document the true motivations and concerns of suburbanites. These findings were translated into a temporary built form for the summer of 2010 that addressed something unique about the community. The project was innovative as no predeterminations were drawn about the physical outcome. The community of St Luke's were offered various opportunities to contribute ideas and energy from early brief development through to construction. This resulted in the community shaping its own suburban environment.                

The objectives of 'We ♥ the Suburbs' can be categorised into two main distinctions; community objectives and professional objectives. 'Community objectives' refers to the aims to serve the suburbam community and make positive changes to suburban environments in collaboration with its residents. 'Professional objectives' refers to Sarah's and Melanie's aims to highlight the overlooked territory of suburbia withinin the architectural profession and to test and document the updated role of the architect within this environment.

Melanie Bax and Sarah Considine are both Masters graduates from the University of Sheffield. They have a keen interest in community participation and how the role of the architect can be expanded to include social and political contexts. They have worked in various practices in London, New York and Madrid. They are currently working with CABE to expand their case study library to include participatory and collaborative projects.

For further details about the project please visit http://weheartthesuburbs.blogspot.com/ or write to weheartthesuburbs@gmail.com.

Read the report for the project below:

PDFWe ♥ the Suburbs project report
File size:  7,586kB

 2008 - Community Infrastructure in Rural Nigeria

Dr Heather CruickshankAwarded £2,000 in 2008

The bursary award funded a number of projects carried out by volunteers with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) who have researched, designed, procured and delivered projects ranging from stream crossings to wind turbines, overseen by Dr Heather Cruickshank.

The Nakwai Rural Development Agency (NAKRUDA) and EWB had been working together for a number of years to further the sustainable development in the Dadiya region of Nigeria. One of the first projects for the team was the construction of an additional adobe building within the Nakruda guest compound to provide additional accommodation and space for the organisation.

The second project was the design and construction of sandbag ring culverts as a low-cost temporary solution to improve river crossings until the government's road building programme is progressed. Local labour was used so that the skills and methods were passed on.

Finally, it was decided that the local health centre could be powered by renewable energy, and a hybrid solar-wind renewable setup was designed by an EWB volunteer, and fabricated at a local engineering company. It now powers the health centre's 14 lights, microscope and computer.

Read the volunteers' full report below.

PDF Community infrastructure in rural Nigeria
File size: 500kB

Clips featuring photographs taken during the work on the project can be viewed on YouTube:

Sandbag Ring Culvert project

Gabion footbridge

Construction of Adobe building

2008 - Resistant Sitting. A Pensioner's Alternative Street Furniture Guide

Sophie Handler Awarded £2,500 in 2008

The Alternative Seating Guide (for the elderly) maps out the improvised use of alternative sitting spots in public space in older age where formal provision for seating is lacking. Based on six months of repeat visits to a pensioner's lunch club in Canning Town, the project locates those spaces (low walls, commercial seating, borough-wide bollards) that are regularly appropriated by the elderly as informal, ad hoc seats where standard street furniture is not available.

A series of conversations in the lunch club identify the location and use of these spaces (past and present) revealing, in turn, an articulate knowledge of public space as it meets up with the changing physical and psychological needs of older age. The otherwise invisible 'use' of these alternative sitting spots is mapped out and made visible as a useable borough-wide resource (uploaded onto a dedicated Ageing Facilities website and recorded in an ongoing video project animating these sitting spots).

Artist Verity-Jane Keefe (an emerging artist with a practice rooted in socially engaged public art work) was commissioned to construct a bespoke cushion for one of these alternative sitting spots. Her brief, to create a portable, pull-on, pull-off cushion for the generic borough-wide Abacus bollard, generates a playful, prototype device that temporarily formalises and gives value (as it makes more comfortable) the autonomous appropriation and adaptation of the alternative elderly seat.

The reversible 2-sided (fair and wet weather) cushion with handle, and standard orthopeadic 800 mm cushioning is tested out on-site with Eileen (from the lunch club). The prototype cushion becomes a prop for conversation, enabling an on-site design crit (on the way the cushion sits on the bollard, its feel, the quality of the fabric for sitting on, its desirability, its useability). Feedback from this cushion test is recorded and will serve as the basis for future production of a bollard-specific cushion with broader application. The evolution of the prototype cushion will be visible on the Ageing Facilities website.

PDF Resistant Sitting. A Pensioner's Alternative Street Furniture Guide
File size: 500 kB

2008 - Revisiting three sites in India affected by earthquakes and cyclones in the 1990s

Ripin Kalra Awarded £6,000 in 2008 

Ripin Kalra, a senior research fellow at the University of Westminster, revisited three disaster-reconstruction sites in India, two earthquake sites and one affected by a super-cyclone. The visit came 15 years after his original visits in the immediate aftermath of the disaster(s).

The humanitarian sector is seeking ways and means to improve standards of 'shelter' delivered by humanitarian agencies. The author concludes that there are several lessons that can be learned in order to build back better in future.

1. Consult the community on impact before implementing plans. There is a substantial transition period between emergency relief and reconstruction. Architects and other built environmental professionals should engage with communities to review the impact of any reconstruction plans on the community. Such consultation should be extended to include any socially disadvantaged groups.

2. Building back better, not necessarily faster. There are enormous pressures to build permanent buildings and re-house faster. Preparing and engaging a community takes time and (unless the weather is extremely harsh) permanent shelter may be less important than investing in the future sustainability of the community. These can include discussing design opportunities for change, strengthening social/cultural – networks through design and layouts, providing safe building skills, new sources of income and restoring community confidence.

3. Relocation as a last resort. Relocation can adversely affect the community economy as well as their social and cultural fabric. It should only be considered as the last resort if the site is geo-technically un-buildable.

4. Local building culture. Design of houses and choice of materials should consider the local building practices. Engineered structures are only a good investment if there are adequate resources to maintain and manage the building for its full design life.

5. Assuring quality. Currently a majority of reconstruction is carried out without any long term assurance on design and construction quality. Architects should respond to the communities as both clients and design partners. Architects should aim for a complete built environment, not just disaster-resistant shells for living. Good access, water, sanitation and energy are all essential contributions to building back better.

6. Association. External agencies need to develop partnerships with local agencies and local government to extend their input in building back until there is a strong local base to build safely and monitor safety.

7. Trauma. As observed, trauma lasts for many years and Architects need to work with local community workers to overcome fears about buildings, through dialogue and design.

PDF Fifteen Years after Reconstruction: Lessons for Building Back Better
File size: 37kB

Other recipients of the bursary in 2008 

  • Asif Khan and Julia King - 'Mass Sustainability: Zero Carbon Chair and School Desk' - received £3,000.
  • Nikki Linsell, Article 25 - to work alongside The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) - received £6,850.

Recipients of the RIBA/ICE McAslan Bursary 2007 

  • Asif Kahn & Julia King - 'One Year House', refugee housing on the Thai-Burma border - received £7,242.
  • Sophie Handler - 'How to Set Up Workable Interventions in Public Space for Older People in Newham' - received £5,000.
  • Nikki Linsell represents a team from Article 25 working on a project for the 'Conservation of Saxon Buildings in Transylvania' - received £3,290.
  • Julia Bouvy - 'Regeneration of Embankment Life in West Africa' - received £1,000.

Recipients of the RIBA McAslan Bursary 2006 

  • Claudia Amico - Building a workshop centre in the Community of Women (Cité des Femmes), Senegal - received £6,500.
  • Craig Bamford - The displacement of Tuavi Ambau village, India - received £4,250.

Recipients of the RIBA McAslan Bursary 2005 

  • Joann Tang - Pilot school outreach project - received £2,500.
  • Pascale Scheurer - Introducing People in Space – the new generation of architecture - received £2,500.
  • Henry Travers, Elizabeth Babister, Allan McRobbie - Proposal to develop a prototype third generation emergency family shelter - received £10,000.