On 3 December, four Westminster Master of Architecture (MArch) (RIBA Pt II) students were presented with awards as part of the 2019 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) President’s Medals, the annual awards for the world’s best student architecture projects. 

Credit: Rachel Wakelin

In 2019, the RIBA received 318 entries from 96 schools located in 30 countries. 

Westminster student Ruth Pearn received the RIBA President’s Dissertation Medal for her project titled Ages Through the Terrace: The Evolving Impact of Age on Social and Spatial Relations in the Home. Tutored by Professor Harry Charrington, Ruth’s dissertation analyses the intricacies of multiple generational living, by examining three historical case studies located in Hackney in the 1790s, 1870s and 1970s. The dissertation explores the fluidity and subjectivity of ageing and shows how shifting ideas of childhood, youth, adulthood and old age have impacted on homemaking and domestic architecture. It looks to the future and questions how the terrace may adapt to multigenerational living, as society changes. 

Another Westminster student Fiona Grieve was awarded a Commendation in the RIBA Dissertation Medal category for her work titled The Reception of Refugees in the UK. The dissertation was inspired by the notion that the asylum process, in principle, is the reception process of integrating a refugee into society. This dissertation explores the refugees’ journey through the UK asylum system focusing specifically on the provision of accommodation to understand if and how the UK reception process prepares a refugee for life in the UK. Fiona was tutored by Dr Davide Deriu. 

The Serjeant Awards for Excellence in Drawing (Part II) was presented to Westminster student Rachel Wakelin for Avian Air – A Tropospheric Bird Sanctuary (at Part II). The three main arcs of this project are anthropological, environmental and data driven. This Tropospheric Bird Sanctuary is an investigation into how to architecturally manifest large data sets, to make tangible the issue of climate change across societies, through the physical storytelling of the birds’ migration journey. Rachel was tutored by Professor Lindsay Bremner, John Cook and Ben Pollock. 

In addition, Westminster student SunYen Yee was awarded the SOM Foundation Fellowship (UK Award) at Part II for his MArch design project SEED of Havana: Dissolving Condensers. Building on the spirit of collectivism and equal right to the city that Cuba has developed over the past sixty years of post-revolution era, the project aims to revive the spirit of Revolution. It does this through collective action in Havana and by taking inspiration from the earlier Soviet constructivists’ social condenser concept– re-appropriating this into the context of Cuba. Questioning the tension between a capitalist future and the socialist ideology of Cuba, the project proposes an alternative typology: a production condenser to rebuild Havana socially and physically, based on the resilient Cuban spirit of ‘creating something out of nothing’ which prevailed throughout years of embargo. Sun Yen Yee was tutored by Dr Nasser Golzari and Dr Yara Sharif. 

Professor Harry Charrington, Head of the School of Architecture + Cities at the University of Westminster, said: “These awards reflect the remarkable talent and endeavour of our students, and the care and rigour of the tutors who teach them in the School. In particular, under the leadership of Richard Difford, the MArch course continues to grow in its global reputation, and in its achievements.” 

RIBA President Alan Jones said: “This year’s winners impressed the judges with the rigour and analysis they applied to exploring ideas and solutions relevant to the problems of today. It is exciting to see such talent - and I very much look forward to seeing how their careers progress.” 

The 2019 RIBA President’s Medals exhibition is at the RIBA in London from 4 December 2019 to 1 February 2020, before it tours throughout the UK and internationally. 

Tumpa Fellows receiving commendation at RIBA President's Award


Also announced at the RIBA President’s Medals ceremony were the winners of the RIBA President’s Awards for Research. Westminster’s Professor Kester Rattenbury, Professor on the Master of Architecture (March) (RIBA Pt ll) course was shortlisted for the RIBA President’s Awards for Research, and Tumpa Fellows, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, received a commendation for her research paper for the annual theme: "Building in Quality" category.

Find out more about the winning projects here.

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