Jonathan Dessi-Olive, a Master's candidate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, has recently been announced as recipient of the 2013 RAMSA Travel Fellowship. The $10,000 prize is awarded annually by the Partners of Robert A.M. Stern Architects for the purpose of travel and research.
Dessi-Olive will be awarded $10,000 to fund travel to Mfangano, Kenya, where he will introduce timbrel vaulting—a traditional clay building system—to craftspeople as a sustainable solution to the ecological burden of rapid deforestation in developing areas that makes wood construction unsustainable. Collaborating closely with local builders, Dessi-Olive will build what is envisioned as Africa's first wind and solar powered radio station for Ekaito Kiona Radio Studio. In preparation for his fellowship, Dessi-Olive is currently undertaking research and prototype design at PennDesign.
The fellowship program seeks to promote investigations of the perpetuation of tradition through invention. The prize is intended to nurture emerging talent and will be awarded each year to an individual who has proven insight and interest in the profession and its future, as well as the ability to carry forth in-depth research. The program is open to M.Arch. degree candidates in their penultimate year at the 15 schools attended by current RAMSA partners and senior associates. In this the program's inaugural year, Jonathan Dessi-Olive was selected from a field of 18 applicants preselected by their educational institutions.
"We were impressed by the clarity of Mr. Dessi-Olive's application of a traditional building technique to a modern problem, and its focus on sustainable architecture in the developing world," said RAMSA Partner Melissa DelVecchio, AIA, jury chair. RAMSA Partners Daniel Lobitz, AIA, and Grant F. Marani, AIA, FRAIA, joined Ms. DelVecchio on the jury.