Winner of the sixth RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship announced

The 2012 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship has been awarded to Thomas Aquilina of Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, part of the University of Edinburgh. He will be granted £6,000 to develop his proposal, 'Material Economies: recycling practices in informal settlements along African longitude 30ºE', which takes the scholarship's theme of resources and addresses recycling in informal African settlements.

The jury was chaired by Lord Foster and included Angela Brady, President of the RIBA, Professor Ricky Burdett of the London School of Economics, Sarah Ichioka, Director of the Architecture Foundation and Mouzhan Majidi, Spencer de Grey and Stefan Behling of Foster + Partners.

The jury also highly commended two further submissions: 'America’s Survival from Suicide' by Green Vangogh of Bath University – a proposal to study urban development in 12 cities across the USA; and a study by John Killock of the University of Westminster, London, which explores the potential for co-housing to accommodate ageing populations in India and China. Both students will receive a £500 camera.

Lord Foster said:

'Once again, I have been impressed by the quality of all the entries. The standard was high, but the winning proposal stood out for its systematic analysis of a relevant issue. It is a serious, well thought through proposal and shows a sympathetic awareness of the social issues within self-built communities. Thomas has already been based in Nairobi, and understands some of the hardship he will encounter on his journey. Though difficult, this ‘once in a lifetime’ travel opportunity is very much in the spirit of the scholarship and I am pleased that we are able to support him.'

RIBA President Angela Brady said:

'I was delighted by the quality and relevant subject matter of those shortlisted in this year’s RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship. The dedication to prove how young aspiring architects can improve lives across the planet was apparent in all the shortlisted projects, as was their willingness to tackle serious environmental issues facing us all.'

Thomas Aquilina wrote:

'Rather than looking at the informal settlement as a problem, I want to look at it as an inspiration; that its very informality can achieve efficient and entrepreneurial practices of recycling. This project aims to explore and learn from the material economies of the African city. My motivation stems from working for the UN agency UN-HABITAT at its headquarters in Nairobi during my placement year.'


Notes to editors

  • For images of Lord Foster, Angela Brady or Thomas Aquilina contact Howard Crosskey 020 7307 3761.
  • Initially set up in 2006 as a biennial programme, the £6,000 RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship is awarded to one student to fund international research on a topic and in a location of their choice. In 2009, Foster + Partners donated an extra £100,000 to the endowment of the RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship, enabling the scheme to run annually.
  • The winning proposal and commended entries can be viewed online along with previous awards.
  • For information about applying to the RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship, contact Joanna Scott in the RIBA Education Department on, or visit the Norman Foster Scholarship page.
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