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RIBA East awards outstanding students 2021

RIBA East Student Awards 2021 have been presented online this year to architectural students from Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford; University of Cambridge; Norwich University of the Arts; University of Hertfordshire; and the University of Suffolk.

14 July 2021

The RIBA East Student Award aims to promote excellence and reward talent in the study and education of architecture.

Entry is open to those studying architecture at the five schools of architecture in the East of England, and is judged by course leaders and tutors. Congratulations go to all of this year’s RIBA East Student Award winners.

RIBA East Student Award winners 2021: Katerina McKechnie, University of Suffolk; Yash Shetty, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford; Ryan Courtney, Norwich University of the Arts; and Rachel Caul, University of Cambridge.

Katerina McKechnie is the first ever recipient of the RIBA East Student Award at the University of Suffolk.

Dr Paco Mejias Villatoro, Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Suffolk, commented: "Katerina has been commended for her approach to architecture as ecosophy and synthesis of life, built and natural environments. In her Thesis Project, Urban Permaculture Farm, Katerina maintains a firm stance against climate change, and sustainability, demonstrating ecological literacy, ethics in practice and a coherent design approach integrated with the use of newly devised structural systems, materials, and methods."
Dr Liana Psarologaki, Head of Architecture: “We are particularly happy to see one of our first graduates responding to our course philosophy of critical practice in a pragmatic and succinct way that does not overcomplicate architecture conceptually, at the same time being aspirational and imaginative.”

Katerina McKechnie told us: “My thesis project, Urban Permaculture Farm, is a proposal that rethinks food through architecture. It is an urban permaculture community farm situated within the town of Ipswich to facilitate highly sustainable ways of growing and consuming food. The farm contains pavilions using solar energy and collection of water. All pavilions, including kitchen, café, and educational facilities, are connected with a walkaway creating routes for overlooking the site all set within wildlife meadow of edible plants.”

Tom Foggin, RIBA East Chair, said. “I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with Katerina and was delighted to award her the first RIBA East Student Award the University of Suffolk has ever received. It was also great to hear Katerina’s passion for sustainability. Congratulations.”

Katerina McKechnie Project image: Urban Permaculture Farm Café

Yash Shetty of the Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, was the university’s RIBA East 2021 award winner, nominated by Maria Vogiatzaki, Deputy Head and Professor of School of Architecture and Planning. Maria commented that Yash had been an exemplary student during his three year BA (Hons) Architecture degree programme. He proved to be an excellent year representative, always helping other students and has consistently contributed to the planning of improvements to the course the facilities.

For his final year project, Yash has focused on addressing the pollution and over-harvesting of the world’s oceans and rivers. Yash has designed ‘Organicaqua’, a water based city of 50,000 inhabitants in the abandoned waters of the Royal Docks.

Yash has proposed a city of live/work communities in a 4km stretch of sustainable fish farming, where the city’s buildings are connected by a labyrinth of colonnades and cloistered courtyards. At the heart of the project, Yash has designed the ‘Organicaqua’ fish market, fish restaurant, aquaponic research labs and educational facilities, managed and maintained by the live-in community of fish farmers, scientists, educationalists, botanists, dieticians, and chefs.

A vision of a post-pandemic world where we learn not to fear the consequences of climate change and sea level rise but instead take positive action and learn to respect and enjoy our watery world.

Tom Foggin, RIBA East Chair, said, “Yash’s portfolio and collaborative approach as student rep demonstrates his passion for biodiversity and professionalism, both great assets for a future in architecture.”

Yash Shetty project image: Organicaqua

Ryan Courtney of the Norwich University of the Arts was chosen to win the RIBA East 2021 award by Will Jefferies and Rebecca Crabtree, Lecturers in Architecture and Architecture Course Leader Professor Raymond Quek.

Raymond Quek said: "Ryan’s project ‘Great Yarmouth Technical College’ melds both technical and social design concerns in a single project that, whilst unflashy, is a highly competent and sensitive architectural response to various aspirational issues - economic, political, social, anthropological, educational, architectural and environmental - in Great Yarmouth. Highly aware of systems building, Ryan has explored a comparative methodology that is both a realistic and appropriate technical design and is a highly buildable proposition offering comfortable spaces where said aspirations can develop, bloom and come to fruition. Laden with an extant environmental philosophy of symbiosis, his work demonstrates a mature yet measured insertion in a complex landscape of the urban fabric in Great Yarmouth."

Ryan Courtney told us: My project looked at a reconnection of learning environments in an urban setting. Great Yarmouth Technical School focussed on a dual facade system that encourages people to circulate the building ‘outdoors’, allowing classrooms to be ‘closer together’ and therefore expanding opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. A heavy expression of CLT and Glulam beams creates an honest hybrid structure, with curtain walls and a perforated screen forming a complex envelope. The facade itself is an influential part of the design, which took an abstraction from a 900-year-old flint wall once marking the edge of the town itself. It rejuvenates what would otherwise appear as a heavy skin by celebrating an intricate craft of the past.”

Tom Foggin, RIBA East Chair, said “It was a pleasure to meet Ryan and discuss his work. Ryan’s sensitive, pragmatic approach to design and his creative thinking result in a believable project which demonstrates a commendable ability to juggle the technical and creative aspects of architecture. I wish Ryan the best of luck on his continuing journey towards becoming a qualified architect.”

Ryan Courtney project image: Great Yarmouth Technical School

The standout student from the University of Cambridge this year, and winner of the RIBA East Student Award 2021 is Rachel Caul, nominated by Dr James Campbell, Head of the Department of Architecture.

One of the examiners remarked of this dissertation: 'Overall, this is an excellent dissertation that provides new insight by drawing together often disparate fields of qualitative and quantitative research with architectural ideas and buildings.'

Rachel told us: This project proposes reclaiming the site of a decommissioned gas terminal from fossil fuel use through a long-term process of decontamination and phytoremediation and a new landscape infrastructure of flint walls. By exploring an adaptation of the remediated terminal as a sequence of vineyards with a supporting winery, an architecture of stable stone walls and large timber spans emerges in the ruins of the hazardous site. The landscape strategy both rehabilitates the ground and takes advantage of the suitable soil conditions for growing grapes, using the thermal mass of stone walls to create sheltered microclimates across the site. Within the building, the tectonic nature of the structure creates three levels of different environments for inhabitation and preservation, where the level of temperature control, scales of space and degree of privacy vary between each system. In the long term, this infrastructure might be adapted in other ways that engage productively with the neighbouring community of Bacton and accommodate positive new agricultural uses for the land.”

Tom Foggin was delighted to present the RIBA East Student Award to Rachel virtually for her fantastic portfolio.

Rachel Caul Project image: Reclaiming the Ruin - The rehabilitation and adaptation of Bacton Gas Terminal.

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