The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) today announced the winners of the 2009 President’s Medals Student Awards.
RIBA has been awarding the President’s Medals since the 1850s and the awards were established in their current format in 1984. The aim of these prestigious awards is to promote excellence in the study of architecture, to reward talent and to encourage architectural debate worldwide. Students from RIBA recognized schools in the UK and overseas aspire each year to be selected by their school to enter for the medals and for the opportunity for their work to be recognized and publicly exhibited.
Two student projects, “A Defensive Architecture” and “An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry”, were awarded Medals, as well as the dissertation “The Art of Skew Bridges: The Technique and its History Explored”.
Here are the winners of 2009:
Student Statement by Nicholas Szczepaniak on “A Defensive Architecture”:
This thesis is intended to expose unexpected readings of the built environment in the future if we don’t take more drastic steps to deal with climate change. Set in the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, the project envisages a set of militarised coastal defence towers that perform multiple functions:
1. The principle role of the towers is to act as an environmental warning device. The architecture is alive, dramatizing shifts in environmental conditions; breathing, creaking, groaning, sweating and crying when stressed. Air-bags on the face of the towers expand and contract, while hundreds of tensile trunks are sporadically activated, casting water on to the heated facades to produce steam. An empty watchtower at the top of each tower gives them the impression that the fragile landscape below is constantly being surveyed.
2. Across the estuary, a bed of salt marshes provides a natural form of flood defence and habitats for wildlife. Due to rising water levels and adverse weather conditions, the salt marshes are quickly deteriorating. The proposal suggests how megastructures can be integrated and used to encourage the growth of natural defence mechanisms against flooding in order to protect the erosion of fragile coastline areas and our most important cities. Over time, sand is collected at the base of each tower to form a spit across the mouth of the estuary, absorbing energy from the waves.
3. Internally, the towers serve as a vast repository for mankinds most valuable asset; knowledge. The architecture is a knowledge ark, which protects books from culminative and catastrophic deterioration.
Student Statement by Wen Ying Teh on “An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry”:
An existing salt mine sits as a scar on the Galapagos Landscape. Once the natural habitat of Flamingos, this salt lake has long been a desolate space ravaged by the nearby restaurant industry. The Galapagos is caught between its massive contribution to the Ecuadorian economy and its value as a historic wilderness.
This project is conceived of as a provocation and speculation on how these two demands may be hybridized as an alternative to the typical conservationist practices applied across the islands. The two traditionally mutually exclusive programs of salt farming and Flamingo habitat are re imagined as a new form of symbiotic designed ecology; a pink wonderland, built from colored bacteria and salt crystallization, dissolving and reshaping itself with seasonal and evaporative cycles. The building becomes an ecosystem in itself, completely embedded in the context that surrounds it.
Formed from fine webs of nylon fibers held in an aluminum frame, this strange string instrument allows the salt farming process to be drawn up out of the lake, returning it to the endemic flamingos whilst at the same time ensuring the continuation of a vital local industry. Using just capillary action, salt water from the lake crystallizes on the tension strings forming glistening, translucent enclosures. It encrusts the infrastructure of a flamingo observation hide and solidifies into a harvestable field ready to be scraped clean by miners.
The project has been developed through scale models that were used as host structures for an in depth series of crystallization experiments. Material erosion, spatial qualities, structurally capacity and evaporative cycles were all determined through physical testing. The architecture and its physical models grew slowly across time, emerging from the salt waters they were immersed in, to become fully developed crystalline structures.
The Galapagos is an ecology in crisis. The project is positioned as part documentary, part science fiction offering both a rigorous technical study and a speculative near future wilderness. An evolving future for the islands is imagined and it demands an evolved and mutated architecture.
Further Commendations went to:
These projects are the Dissertation Winners:
Student Statement by Rebecca Gregory on “The Art of Skew Bridges: The Technique and its History Explored”:
In the nineteenth century, with the advancement of the railway networks across the United Kingdom, bridges were becoming an increasingly necessary part of the industrial landscape. And despite the increased use of materials such as cast iron, many were still constructed of brick and stone.
The masonry arch bridge can be regarded as a relatively simple structure when two systems cross at ninety degrees to each other; however a question arises when the systems cross at an oblique angle. This problem was raised previously in the design of canals, but became more widespread with the railway system due to the increased regularity of its occurrence. The long sweeping curves of the railway line also add additional complexity in contrast to the predominantly straight road and canal layouts: The solution to this problem was the skew or the oblique bridge.
This may sound like a reasonably simple solution and a relatively insignificant piece of civil engineering, but when one attempts to visualise a masonry arch bridge and to consider how the stonework may be skewed to allow for the oblique angle, the complexity quickly becomes apparent. This study looks in detail at one particular solution to the nineteenth century problem of the skew bridge. It is based on a drawing, published in The Builder in 1845, to accompany an article on the construction of skew bridges. An attempt is made here to fully explain this drawing and to investigate the circumstances surrounding its publication.
Importantly, although my dissertation concentrates on one particular drawing, this serves as an example of the way knowledge of descriptive geometry, derived from French military engineering was adapted by British architects and engineers. It also looks at the way nineteenth-century civil engineering structures such as bridges were inevitably appropriated by the champions of British modernism in their search for a functionalist tradition. But also, focussed on the working relationship of two relatively unknown architects, my research also reveals something of their individual professional lives and their place in history.
Further Dissertation Commendations went to:
Images: President’s Medals Student Awards