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Winners of 2008 RIBA President’s Medals Student Awards
Posted: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 |

The Royal Institute of British Architects 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.

The 2008 awards have been presented at the President’s Medals Awards ceremony at the RIBA in London today.

Winner 2008 - Paul Davis Award: Time and Tide for Seaweed Part 2, James Tait, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK:

From James Tait’s project statement: “From fuel production and fertiliser to cosmetics and foodstuffs seaweeds’ versatility makes it a lucrative natural resource. Scotland’s shores host around 20% of the total seaweed biomass in Europe and nearly half of this can be found in the North West coast.”


Aerial Perspective of the cultivation farm and its offshoots, demonstrating how the project skilfully responds to its natural environment.

“A thriving seaweed industry would revitalize and reinvigorate the area, reconnecting it with its vast coastline, repopulating and diversifying the social mix of its towns and villages while providing much needed opportunities for its young people.”


ALGAE-NET: Diagram of a seaweed industry as the generator for a trade and transport network connecting remote areas within the North West Highlands.

“The thesis project focuses on the coastal village of Arisaig which will become a center for ‘sea vegetable’ cultivation while providing seaweed based facilities for health and leisure. This will establish a flourishing seaweed industry, while providing employment and enjoyment to the people of Arisaig and its visitors, all year round.”


A preparatory study investigating seaweed as a natural resource, process and product and the physical manifestations of each.

“The architectural proposal will consist of an offshore cultivation farm, farmers’ bothy, floating restaurant and new pier seaweed baths and drying tower.”


Sunset view of new floating sea vegetable cafe, surrounded by the farm rafts which serve it.

“The seaweed farm complex at Arisaig requires little energy to transform the raw material into a product, the farmers boats will be powered by biodiesel made from unused seaweed, while the cultivation process aids biodiversity by providing nutrients for fish and other marine life.”


Floating cafe interior, opening out to the stunning surrounding landscape.

“A policy of energy re-use is also employed in the cultivation rafts where LEDs absorb and store daylight during the day and emit it at night while the drying tower base is home to a series of steam baths which use the energy created during the seaweed drying process.”


Phenomenology and industry combine to produce a magical nightime affect across the bay, as the cultivation raft poles glow at night.

“These elegant, innovative and poetic structures will explore all aspects of this new industry through cultivation, production and consumption while remaining both culturally and visually rooted in their surrounding landscape.”

Winner 2008: Invisible University Library Part 1, Wynne Leung & Francesco Matteo Belfiore, University of Greenwich, London, UK:

From the project statement: “Our ‘mutoscopes’ are spaces which make invisible processes visible. We’ve established a logistical communication network between the city and countryside by displacing urban voids such as traffic islands, street furniture and hedgerows into the grounds of Hay Castle and Hay town. Streetlamps are enlarged to accommodate writers, whose invisible activities become visible signals in the nocturnal ambiance.”


Hide & Seek: displaced urban mutoscope on invisible university lawn -the momentary pleasure of displaced flanerie and voyeurism.


Sound recording engineer tends to the birdsnests and microphones: Nature + Artifice intertwined.


Pigeonfanciers and their migrating messengers find shelter in the birdsnesting roof

“Literary London decamps to Hay on Wye for the festival: flaneurs, voyeurs and agitators of the production process of writing. Ruins are the setting for recital, storytelling, lecturing, preaching, listening, whispering and eavesdropping; while pigeonfanciers dispense messages about future events. It is a soundscape where nature and artifice are intertwined. Once the books are converted to audio format, they are shredded, pulped and recycled to provide new paper for emerging writers. Writers, readers and audience occupy an illuminating space in the ruins of history; confounded by the ever expanding accumulation of technologies.”


Soundscape of invisible lectures. Nature is inhabited by artifice as the castle becomes a mechanized and digitized rural artifact.


The castle offers an idealized pastoral landscape where books are read out, transferred to audio format, broadcast to a live audience, and on radio programs.

Images: RIBA President’s Medals Awards

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