RIBA President’s Medals Student Awards 2009


A project envisaging coastal defense towers that can be used as book depositories will be announced as one of the winners of the RIBA President's Medals Student Awards at a ceremony in London tonight.

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Above: A Defensive Architecture by Nicholas Szczepaniak

Nicholas Szczepaniak from the University of Westminster will receive the Silver Medal for his project (above and below) called A Defensive Architecture, envisaging a series of coastal defence towers that can also be used as book depositories.

Above: A Defensive Architecture by Nicholas Szczepaniak

Wen Ying Teh from the Architectural Association has won the Bronze Medal for her project An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry (top image), which explores combining industry and wildlife conservation in the Glapagos Islands to maximise the locality's resources. The resulting design integrates a salt farm and a flamingo sanctuary.

Above: A Defensive Architecture by Nicholas Szczepaniak

The Dissertation Medal will be awarded to Rebecca Gregory from the University of Westminster for her dissertation entitled The Art of Skew Bridges: The Technique and its History Explored.

Above: A Defensive Architecture by Nicholas Szczepaniak. Click for larger image

All shortlisted projects will be on display at the RIBA in London until the end of January 2010.

Above and top: An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry by Wen Ying Teh

Here is a selection of shortlisted projects with captions provided by the students.

Above: An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry by Wen Ying Teh

All entries can be seen on the President’s Medals website.

New Malacovia by Pascal Bronner (above and below)

This project is intended to conjure unexpected readings of the built environment in the future if we don't take more drastic steps to deal with climate change. If the planet is left to change as it is currently doing so it is easy to imagine that soon fossil fuels will have become depleted, and vast amounts of land will have been lost due to rising water levels or arid climates.

Above: New Malacovia by Pascal Bronner

Inevitably this will have an undesired effect on social order and the built environment. Resources will become rationed, and public space will become further militarized in order to maintain social order. This will enhance an already emerging sense of inertia across public space. The idea of this project is to comment on and alert us to these problems.


Biometamorphic Architecture - Organ Transplantation Clinic and Laboratory by Jonathan Alotto and Jaenes Bong (above and below)

In the 21-century, Bio-medical development of organ transplantation has opened up the possibility for patients to replace their dysfunctional body parts from donated individuals. According to global statistic, due to the lack of organs supply, an increasing number of patients are waiting for life saving treatments as many are suffering from long term illness.

Above: Biometamorphic Architecture by Jonathan Alotto and Jaenes Bong

The project is sited in Hong Kong, a city known for its world class reputation on trading industry since the British Colonization.  The architectural investigation explores the notion of trade in bio-medical transplantation. This controversial design speculates a new mode of activities and architectural model by bringing a place for private [Organ] trading.

Above: Biometamorphic Architecture by Jonathan Alotto and Jaenes Bong

Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's painting 'The Garden of Earthly Delights', the hell’s scenery abstracted the metamorphic relationship between human and nature. It leads us to a poetic narrative which we wanted to create a proposal that reflects Hong Kong’s hidden natural beauty and its Chinese spiritual mythology. The design methodology convoluted the boundaries between actual and digital explorations in a series of drawings and models which investigated the visual perception on building typology and spatial formation upon the quality of mysterious landscapes and ecological design.

Workhouse of the Infrastructural (Counter) Reformation by Jordan Hodgson (above and below)

By 2032 the chaotic urban conditions that once helped define Elephant and Castle have given rise to a cripplingly disenfranchised underclass.

Above: Workhouse of the Infrastructural (Counter) Reformation by Jordan Hodgson

In this bleak landscape of proletariat discontent, might the British government revert back to Victorian modes of jurisdiction, whilst simultaneously providing an architectural placebo to soothe a nervous population?

Above: Workhouse of the Infrastructural (Counter) Reformation by Jordan Hodgson

Unprecedented levels of unemployment generated by the crash of 2008, combined with a paralysis of social mobility triggers the reinauguration of the once potent Workhouse typology.

Above: Workhouse of the Infrastructural (Counter) Reformation by Jordan Hodgson

A re-branded Victorian-style workhouse, reminiscent of a lost empire, provides a sanctuary for adrift individuals and the crucial workforce required for a British industrial renaissance. The lost industries of the golden age are reawakened from decades of slumber and manifested in a glorified cathedral to the plebeians of Elephant and Castle.

Here's a press release from the RIBA:


RIBA President’s Medals Student Awards 2009 winners announced

The winners of the RIBA President’s Medals Student Awards 2009 in association with Atkins will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) tonight. These prestigious awards promote excellence in the study of architecture, rewarding talent and encouraging architectural debate world-wide.

Nicholas Szczepaniak, from the University of Westminster, won the Silver Medal for his project “A Defensive Architecture” and Wen Ying Teh from the Architectural Association won the Bronze Medal for her project “An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry”. Rebecca Gregory from the University of Westminster won the Dissertation Medal for her work “The Art of Skew Bridges: The Technique and its History Explored”.

The main President’s Medals are: the Bronze Medal (awarded to the best Part 1 design project), the Silver Medal (for the best Part 2 design project) and the Dissertation Medal, which is awarded for the best exploration of different subjects, methodologies and presentations.

A record 250 Schools of architecture from 50 countries were invited to nominate two of their best student design projects at Part 1 (first degree), two at Part 2 (second degree) and one dissertation. The awards achieved the highest number of entries ever in 2009, with over 70 schools of architecture from 25 countries accepting the invitation to submit entries.

Ruth Reed, President of the RIBA, said:

“The annual celebration of the President’s Medals reward the outstanding young talent in schools of architecture in the UK and across the world, and this year is certainly no exception. Education is an area of great importance to me, and I warmly congratulate this year’s winners for their excellent work.”

Philip Watson, Head of Education for Atkins, said:

“We are proud once again to sponsor the President’s Medals. It is incredibly invigorating to see so many fresh, new ideas coming through from the next generation of architects. This is a way for us to fly the flag for our profession at a time when major streams of publicly funded work, such as new schools programmes, are giving us an opportunity to show off the importance of good design in shaping both people and behaviours."

A number of other awards were also presented at the ceremony, including Commendations in the three main categories.

Commendations for Part 1 were awarded to the projects “Pygmalion’s Cathedral of Cosmetic Surgery” by Biten Patel of the University of Brighton, and “The Secret Policemen’s Saloon” by Robert Taylor of the University of Sheffield. Marcus Todd from the University of Nottingham was also awarded a Commendation for the Project “Wide Open / Land[S] In Lands”.

Commendations for Part 2 were awarded to Selvei Al-Assadi (London South Bank University) for the project “Media City – Vertical Discovery (MC-VD)” and to Stephen Townsend (University of Nottingham) for “Digital Intimacy”. The judges awarded a High Commendation at Part 2 to Paul Durcan (from University College Dublin, Ireland) for the project “(Re)Making_City”.

Commendations in the Dissertation category were awarded to Giles Smith (University of Cambridge) for “Living Infrastructure: The Vital Occupation of Non-Places Under London’s Westway”, Adam Towle (University of Sheffield) for “Negotiating the Spectacle: Projecting Fact, Fantasy and Fiction in Dubai”, and to Jamie Williamson (Oxford Brookes University) for “[Here Be Monsters].”

The Skidmore Owings and Merrill Foundation awarded two travelling fellowships of £1,250 each, to Robert Taylor from the University of Sheffield for “The Secret Policemen’s Saloon” for Part 1, and to Nicholas Szczepaniak, from the University of Westminster for the project “A Defensive Architecture” for Part 2.

The Serjeant Award for Excellence in Drawing was awarded to Anam Hasan, from the University of Greenwich, for the project “Desert(Ed) Hotel” at Part 1, and to Pascal Bronner, from the Bartlett School of Architecture, for “New Malacovia” at Part 2.

The student medallists receive £1,250 each and the commendation winners receive £500 each. The Serjeant Award winners receive £250 in book vouchers to use at RIBA Bookshops.

Chaired by Oliver Richards (ORMS and RIBA Vice-President for Education), the judging panel for the design projects included Willem Jan Neutelings (Neutelings Riedijk Architects, Rotterdam), Eric Parry (Eric Parry Architects, London), and Nanako Umemoto (Reiser + Umemoto, New York). The jury for the Dissertation Medal, chaired by Professor Peter Blundell Jones (University of Sheffield), comprised Dr Tim Martin (De Montfort University), Professor Alan Powers (University of Greenwich) and Dr Alexandra Stara (Kingston University).

The public exhibition of winning work is on display at the RIBA, London W1, until the end of January 2010.

Atkins is the principal sponsor of the President’s Medals which are also sponsored by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), Service Point, the SOM Foundation and Ibstock Brick, while the Architects’ Journal is media partner. Tiger Beer and Absolut Vodka were ceremony sponsors.

Posted on Wednesday December 2nd 2009 at 7:01 pm by Ruth Hynes. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • testek

    let’s make some fancy shapes and call it ‘ecology’. AA rules!

  • Theo

    Why do all of these projects feel the need to invent problems and new typologies to solve them?

  • Very interesting concepts, but i find “A Defensive Architecture” visually very decadent. Why is that?

  • L

    Why does the future have to look dirty, depressing, and horrible?

    if you are trying to solve a “problem” then why cant you do it in a pleasant, interesting way??

  • pipe

    eliana: because it is.

    but decadent is a very good word. it seems students are focused on a decadent apocalypse at the confluence of global and personal scales. at a cursory inspection, the search for meaning through architecture is self-evident in all of these projects. and while it is an admirable sentiment, perhaps a pinch less earnestness would allow a greater freedom, allow the students to approach the real world obliquely, rather than this full force, frontal assault of crisis and the apocalyptic.

  • m

    … can’t say any of them interest me at first sight …

  • alex

    rendering mania, ready to enter the movie industry, not architecture.

    • anon

      I think those words come straight from jealousy.

  • Filip

    “Why do all of these projects feel the need to invent problems and new typologies to solve them?”

    Humanity progresses and new social problems are inevitable as technology brings the previously unattainable into the hands of the masses. It’s important to think beyond the problems of the present so that designs don’t become immediately outdated.

  • Myang

    I just don’t get it! Superstudio reloaded. Do these works deserve those medals?

  • andre

    Those prizes are for architecture or for Computer Graphics!? And all images are looking ‘apocalyptical’..

  • J

    Depressing, dull and very derivative. Glorified image making and blatant copying of dated Bartlett work. Why do British student projects need such tedious self indulgent narratives to make them interesting?

  • Arch

    I wonder why all these superarchitects and incredible designers are practicing their hard criticism style at these forums… And all they say “it’s beautiful” or “it’s awful”. Is that all you have to say about architecture? Don’t you have anything to design? Don’t you have something to work on? Do you design? Do you work? I feel you all are very frivolous… or you’re just not architects but home makers spending your days like this… I wish everybody here would say something really interesting… just like this new projects.

    I guess you’re doing a kind of therapy…

    I thought I would find some interesting ideas reading your posts. Nothing at all. This forum is completely empty. Architecture is more than “beautiful/awful”. Of course common people can use these adjectives… Not an architect. An architect should be capable of criticizing with more serious and transcendent arguments.

  • steve

    Ok then, they are critically awful schemes.
    Extra bad luck to any AA grauates… Daddy’s money is not going to help you now!

  • Arch

    Great little Stevie… The light of your knowledge has illuminated me.

    Now, I will go back to my work. Enjoy your TV shows!

  • K


    M i sensing some jealousy here!!!

    All of the schemes here are because they have been studied and prove to be the most creative, and innovative response to a site. If you expect someone to do the typical office project during his academic period, than maybe you should reconsider your own architectural principals first! These gies are finding new ways to visualize their concepts, and could very much end up by being the future starquitects! Maybe some of us need to get out of the office a bit more! And for everyone who thought these are just renders, well…there is some heavy photoshop in most of the stuff…if u cant see that, then…well!!

    Keep it up winners!!


  • Matt

    Ok Arch

    But what did you say besides your whinging?

    I guess that is the way of the world outside of the bubble of architecture. That is, people assessing how they feel about something without having to justify it. And don’t forget this website is accessible to the world.

    At first sight these images are indeed apocalyptic. At second sight, well they don’t look much different

  • ioseb

    judjing by your tone Steve nothing is going to help you now..

    congretulations to all the winners

  • The future looks very misty…

  • george

    congrats to the winners, stunning projects and fantastic imagery.
    Please can we see the other entrants work.

  • Scott

    Here’s why I’m not impressed with the projects:

    – The graphic language of the perspective drawings is troubling. It does, on the whole, look very rendering software driven in a video game kind of way. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But, it does instantly make people think about post-appocalyptic video games in addition to whatever architectural idea the project is all about. If connotations of sci-fi shoot-em-up gaming are intentional, that’s one thing, but I don’t get the impression in any of these projects that they are. Instead of developing a graphic language that is original and synthetic with the project, these kids appear to be falling back on the atmospheric effects that Maxwell creates and amplifying them in Photoshop.

    – The “solutions” to the stated “problems” seem worryingly arbitrary and even random. Granted, I’m only looking at what is posted on Dezeen, not the whole boards, but still connections are hard to make. What do book depositories and defensive towers have to do with each other, and why would they be so dank? What does a rotated and reflected string of neo-classical faceds have to do with climate change? If these are poetic musings, which is great, then they should be both freer and more specific, and less tied to the generic language of realism-focused computer graphics. If they are anything near serious social critiques or proposals for solving problems they need to be way more rigorous.

  • barca7

    Im not from the UK, but I visited the Bartlett a couple years ago. I enjoy the angle taken here. I would say one thing to these people hating on the work: consider the perspective of our generation. There isn’t any work for us at the moment. What is the point of bitching about compelling visuals? And if we can’t find jobs, then F Yall for feeling the need to gloat about our poverty.

    Also: Look at the early work of Rem and his generation: they had little to no problem transitioning into conventional building practice from conceptual projects that were a hell of a lot more radical than this.

  • i agree with Scott.

    while it’s great that students have the ability to now create visually stunning results in rendering programs, and create alluring and poetic scenarios with seemingly arbitrary juxtapositions of typology, i feel that as an ARCHITECT it’s not enough to simply make the rendered image alone be the most important appraisal of the work. if they are really serious about understanding and helping others understand the projects, you would think that the renderings might be paired with drawings that are on a level that can compete with the scenography that now pervades most schools at the highest level.

    As an image-driven culture in which pictures of things are given limited time on our screens, (mine included) i’m beginning to notice a loss of subtlety in our work – that is, that there is more emphasis on the “money shot” rendering. but in school, is it isn’t about making money, so i wonder why more time isn’t taken to bring more analytical images to the forefront of what is perceived as the “best” or most publishable school work.

    most of the details are overlooked in projects like these because we all realize that there is a certain amount of freedom allowed in school which can encourage more open-ended and unconventional project types. but as Scott mentions, they seem to be reaching a point of becoming more random and less rigorous in their resolution. sure the visualization is some of the best we’ve seen, but why should that take precedence over the tried and true methods of architectural graphic language – the plan, and often more importantly, the section. not saying they have more visceral impact than a well executed inhabitable scene, but i think they are at least equally important, and these images at least are missing that level of information.

    if you are interested in a project that combines lucid imagery with analytic diagrams / drawings and a sense of real practical scope, check out Alastair Parvin’s redesign of the M1 motorway in England as a self-sufficient farming system:

    but i don’t want to sound like i don’t support the students above, i definitely like their open-mindedness and bold stance on what architecture could be… just give me some more substance!

  • Port82

    Throughout architecture architects have chosen to express there ideas through the mediums of the time, ours just happens to be through computer graphics. I find that the people who have become so negative and bitter about the work are those who either dont understand it or dont know how to do it! It is just a method of expression, the real merit is in the meaning of the work…the narative!

    Alot of people in practice loose there imagination to mind numbing and terrible projects that if anything hinder the progression of architecture. If these images will and have stirred debate then that in itself is an achievement and a testament to how powerfull they are, they make people question there out of date perceptions of architecture.

    Congratulations to all the winners!

  • AMA

    It seems that UK students are fixated on a sort of industrial vocabulary to answer ecological issues. The raw and rusted work seeks devotion to machines that act like an anti-virus.

    As evident – the projects are not urban. It like a notion away from cities.
    I do agree with comments that identified the Bartlett mania. Though the ideas are original – the representation pays homage to Piranesi.

    In UK – atleast – the architecture research is consciously moving away from the realms of human space…