James Kirk, a final year student on Westminster’s Master of Architecture (MArch) RIBA/ARB Part II, has won the LIFELINES competition for active ageing and intergenerational dialogue through the eyes of architectural students.

University of Westminster flag

The LIFELINES exhibition at the European Commission’s 12 Star Gallery runs from 18 July – 7 September and coincides with the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. The exhibition is comprised of 26 interpretations of various responses to ageing through the work of London-based architectural students, in a variety of media, selected from 2012 year-end shows. James’ winning entry of a thatched post-war tower block impressed RIBA President Angela Brady who opened the exhibition.

James comments on his winning piece: “The thatched towers respond to the social change that has taken place in the past three decades in Bermondsey, providing training and a skilled trade for the long-term residents of the area who have been left behind by the economic upheaval that has taken place around them. By reintroducing a traditional craft, and casting a critical eye on how we regenerate and redevelop our existing building stock, I hope to make the case for sensitive alteration, extension and remodelling, as opposed to the more familiar deracination and demolition we euphemistically call 'gentrification', as an approach to reworking London’s decaying tower blocks.”

View James’ video London Thatch – a new high-rise English vernacular:

James Kirk was part of Design Studio Seventeen at Westminster, with tutors William Firebrace and Gabby Shawcross.  

“The Part II course at Westminster allowed me to think critically about the role of architecture in the contemporary city, and apply academic theory to my design work” says James. “I was also able to explore interesting methods of representation to express my architectural ideas. The film that formed the centrepiece of my final project allowed me to express my ideas in a medium that is powerful because it is so versatile, immediate and widely accessible.” 

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