Saturday19 August 2017

Class of 2011

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Energy production was one of the recurring themes in this year’s BD awards for the UK’s best diploma students.

From distilleries to monasteries, this year BD received a lively variety of projects for our annual student awards that celebrate the cream of the crop of diploma students, harvested from UK schools.

The judges whittled down 24 submissions to the six presented here after long, heated discussions – with many entries battled over in the final “fighting pile,” so strong was the competition.

The jury comprised three practising architects – Dominic Cullinan of Scabal, Andy Groarke of Carmody Groarke and Charlotte Skene Catling of SCDLP – as well as Catherine Ince, curator at the Barbican Art Gallery, and BD’s buildings editor Oliver

With energy scarcity on the agenda, this year saw a boom in power station projects, recycling centres and bio-fuel plants, alongside a strong trend for schemes that preferred to retreat from reality in the soothing world of the spa – as well as some students that bravely combined the two.

Venice proved a popular choice of location – its historic environs providing a rich backdrop for interventions – along with sensitive stitches in London’s urban fabric and a guerrilla food strategy for Gdansk.

For the first time this year, the six chosen graduates will be invited to compete for a fully funded year-long scholarship to the IE School of Architecture & Design in Madrid, a new master’s business programme geared towards starting and managing an architectural practice.

The winner will be announced at the Architect of the Year Awards on November 15.

For more information about the course, go to www.ie.edu

IE School of Architecture and Design



Joe Haire

Manchester School of Architecture

Joe Haire

“This thesis explores solutions to our care deficiency, elderly mobility issues, community fragmentation and our attitudes towards the elderly,” says Joe Haire, whose project proposes a network of gigantic cellular clusters to house Huddersfield’s 22,000 pensioners.

A “utopian solution to the later stages of life,” the project comes out of the “Re_Map” design-by-research unit, taught by Richard Brook, which explores urban socio-political conditions using data and computational analysis.

In order to generate the clustered form – which is strongly reminiscent of Constant’s New Babylon – Haire developed a code that would distribute form, programme and services to the specification of the required demographic of the community and within the constraints of the site.

Haire’s vertical cluster for 6,000 pensioners in Huddersfield “takes 10 seconds to calculate and design”.

Haire’s vertical cluster for 6,000 pensioners in Huddersfield “takes 10 seconds to calculate and design”.

Using Excel, each level of the model is defined as a product of the one beneath through cellular automation, while a code written in Maya then evaluates each volume to determine its programmatic typology within the overall scheme. “Each community of 6,000 people takes roughly 10 seconds to calculate and design,” says Haire.

The judges were as frightened as they were compelled.

“There was enough megalomania in this project to sustain a whole architectural career,” remarked Charlotte Skene Catling, while Catherine Ince saw it as a critical warning.

“His dark, provocative take on the pressing issue of aging populations offers an ominous view of what might happen if we don’t address our attitude to the elderly,” she said.

“It is boldly tackling urgent contemporary problems head on, from our aging population, to prefabrication and what to do with ailing northern towns,” agreed Dominic Cullinan.



Christopher Christophi

Leicester School of Architecture

Chris Christophi

Beginning with a process of in-depth research into recent pressures facing the Venetian Lagoon, the work focuses on the increasing threat of invasive algae growth and how this could be turned towards a productive use.

Situated in the derelict naval warehouses of the Arsenale, the project proposes a group of laboratories and structures that monitor, analyse and understand algae growth, while harvesting the existing crop for bio-fuel to give back to the city.

The laboratory structures are housed within the historic fabric of the warehouses, while walkways project out into the lagoon, connecting to three towers that form a new layer of defence –representative of their function in protecting Venice.

“Chris’s work is generated from a passionate interest in site-driven research,” say his tutors, Sara Shafiei and Ben Cowd. “His drawings capture the romance and beauty of the context, while the building’s hi-tech aesthetic hints at the rigorous, pragmatic and sustainable ambition behind his proposal.”

The judges were beguiled by Christophi’s series of atmospheric drawings

“Beautiful renderings created a melancholy poetry where it was almost possible to hear the movement of the boats through the water and the sucking and sighing of the Venice lagoon,” said Charlotte Skene Catling.

Christophi’s proposal sees the Venice Arsenale transformed into an algae harvesting plant.

Christophi’s proposal sees the Venice Arsenale transformed into an algae harvesting plant.

Competing against several bio-fuel processing centres – a popular topic this year – it was, Catherine Ince noted, “the best of this year’s environmentally motivated projects.”

“It is interesting to see the influence of Peter Salter is still alive and well,” added Dominic Cullinan.


Kim Bjarke

Architectural Association

Kim Bjarke

Kim Bjarke’s project explores the tenuous relationship between the original architectural object and its copies, using Mies van der Rohe’s IIT campus in Chicago as the context for his fictional scenario.

Haunting black and white images depict a poetic narrative in which Mies’s buildings are cloned after 1969, forming a sprawling “museum of Mies” where the original structures stand as vacant decaying ruins in a field of copies.

To stop the expansion, the reproduced buildings are then encased in an inhabitable shell, a thick cast resin structure that restricts access to the abandoned cadaver within.


“On the one hand the encasement protects the buildings, effectively turning the copies into precious originals,” writes Bjarke.

“And on the other hand it distorts the static iconic image of Miesian architecture through its radical materialisation and occupation.”

The work was developed in Diploma Unit 9, taught by Natasha Sandmeier, which this year explored the idea of context.

“This project sets to challenge how we view the copy as secondary and deflated, by arguing that it is our relationship with the ’original’ that needs instead to be put into question,” says Sandmeier.

The judges were impressed with the way in which Bjarke had developed an erudite position and represented his powerful vision with an economy of means.

“It is a very articulate project,” said Andy Groarke. “You can see that he is really in control.”


Marianne Keating and Cara Shields

University of Strathclyde

Cara Shields (L) and Marianne Keating (R)

Cara Shields (L) and Marianne Keating (R)

Developed out of live on-site research, this joint project is centred around ameliorating the devastating impact of the annual cycle of flooding in northwest Bangladesh on the physical and social fabric of communities.

Following their participation in a rural housing workshop in Bangladesh prior to starting their thesis, Marianne Keating and Cara Shields have developed a sensitive phased strategy for the growth of rural Sundarban village.

The project began with the design of emergency shelters for the community during the wet season, followed by development of this shelter typology as an embryonic centre for future expansion of the settlement.

The final scheme incorporates a disaster relief building, as well as a training and research centre, raised up on a stepped plinth and arranged around a series of social spaces. The work also includes strategies for indigenous material development, with a particular focus on the use of locally sourced chemically reinforced mud.


The judges applauded the project for its intelligent engagement with real-world issues, and commitment to realising its designs – the students are returning this year to design and build 10 houses and a community centre for their MArch.

“It’s great to see people collaborating and conducting live research in places that need direct, good design solutions the most,” said Catherine Ince.

“This is one of the few schemes to really consider human beings,” said Dominic Cullinan. “It is refreshing to see such pragmatism in student work, and it’s great that they’re actually going to build it.”

Edward Swift

London Metropolitan University

Ed Swift

“This project seeks to ask questions about the architect’s role in a large scale infrastructural project associated with current concerns over the future of energy provision in the UK,” says Edward Swift.

Sited on Orford Ness, an austere yet beautiful landscape on the Suffolk coast that was formerly occupied by the Ministry of Defence, the scheme comprises an incremental strategy for the development of a nuclear power station.

The first part of the project is concerned with a proposal for a coastal defence system along with a small building and an intensification of the area of marshland, currently managed by the National Trust.

The restored landscape then sets the foreground for the second part of the project, a speculative proposal for a nuclear power station, which takes the form of a series of linked islands.

Swift’s project comprised a phased masterplan for the development of a nuclear power station on a series of linked islands in Orford Ness.

Swift’s project comprised a phased masterplan for the development of a nuclear power station on a series of linked islands in Orford Ness.

“The intelligently conceived masterplan is both radical in conception and functionally plausible – attested to by the chief executive officer of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, who critiqued the project,” say tutors David Grandorge and Colin Wharry.

The judges were bowled over by the sophisticated rigour of Swift’s research as well as the refined delicacy of his drawings.
“This is an achingly beautiful project,” said Andy Groarke.

Variation in colour and form of ancillary sheds sets the foreground to the

Variation in colour and form of ancillary sheds sets the foreground to the larger heavily engineered structures.

“It shows how the architect can work between strategic and constructive conditions, demonstrating an accomplished understanding of every scale.”

“It is an exquisitely researched project presented through the most delicate of renderings, with the final scheme glimpsed through a veil of snow,” said Charlotte Skene Catling. “It shows how to make nuclear power lovable.”


Robert Ware

Royal College of Art


God meets Mammon in Robert Ware’s speculative proposal for St Paul’s cathedral, which

sees an expedient alliance between the church and the London Stock Exchange forge a new eastern transept for the building.

His research-driven project explores how the stock exchange could protect its ever growing database of transactions against cyber attacks by storing it physically – data reposited not on a virtual server but in stone, “3D-printed” in real time by rapid prototyping machines.

A column in Ware’s proposals for a new eastern transept for St Paul’s

A column in Ware’s proposals

The Gaudiesque towers of the cathedral’s new eastern front thus grow according to the different industry sectors’ success.

“It is a perverse regression, providing a prophylaxis to modern terror and bestowing mutual longevity upon both the church and the economy,” writes Ware.

“By mutually shielding each other’s interests, the project ironically celebrates the conflation of moral and financial values,” say his tutors, Roberto Bottazzi and Tobias Klein.

The judges were impressed by the project’s ability to weave together a variety of scales, from the urban move to complete Wren’s project, to the exuberant detailing of the interiors – as well as by the fact that Ware actually built his own 3D-printer to test out these ideas.

“His grand and flamboyant presentation utilising the latest technology is another typically topical and probing project from the RCA Architecture course,” said Catherine Ince.

“This was one of the more original narratives where an addition to St Paul’s visualises the movement of financial markets,” said Charlotte Skene Catling. “Full marks for the homemade rapid prototyping machine.”

Ware’s proposals for a new eastern transept for St Paul’s see London Stock Exchange data physically reposited in new stone towers, built in real time by rapid prototyping machines.

Ware’s proposals for a new eastern transept for St Paul’s see London Stock Exchange data physically reposited in new stone towers, built in real time by rapid prototyping machines.


Readers' comments (24)

  • Do dystopian retirement blocks, designed in 10seconds, represent our future urban environment? If so, just kill me now...

    Otherwise, I suppose, I could find myself a nice cottage in the countryside, in which to while away my twilight years.

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  • bitter pill

    the culture of architectural education in the UK needs to change.

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  • Distopian pensioners, decaying Mies, nuclear sites, flooding, God meets Mammon....

    Someone pass the prozac please!

    Doesn't anyone do anything optimistic these days?

    ps. Designed on an excel spreadsheet....c'mon...please.

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  • Don't worry, it's not all bad. There was a glimmer of positivity in this quote from Dominic Cullinan -“This is one of the few schemes to really consider human beings." Erm.....

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  • zecks_marquise

    Sorry BD and no offense to the guys here but this is one of the weakest selections yet. Go and check the graduation editon of Blueprint if you want to see the best students

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  • flow

    Don't hate on these guys - they're ticking all the right boxes, no doubt based on some thorough research of previous winners at presidentsmedals.com. Predictably the judges have lapped it up once again. Congratulations guys - you've studied the key archi-clichés that win prizes, and served them up on a plate.

    Key ingredients for success:

    Dreary dystopian photoshop images - check.
    Models made from slatted timber - check.
    'Mapping' - check.
    'Algae' - check
    'Solving community problems with timber pavilions' - check
    Gothic Rhino-scripto 3d printouts - check
    Plenty of random flying birds in the sky - check.

    All perfectly harvested and cooked up into some deliciously fashionable drawings. Definitely the cream of the crop.

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  • Sour grapes?

    Congrats to all the winners.

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  • the 3d renderings remind me of that movie 'The Road'

    very bleak.

    I mean, I know the weather is grey and foggy but it's not that bad

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  • props to the geezer who made the 3D printing machine from scratch though, very smart

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  • flow is so right. yawn.

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