RIBA announces the recipients of 2021 President’s Medals

With application from over 102 architectural schools, the winning student projects look at the ideas of decolonisation, ecological futures and big data.

by STIRworldPublished on : Dec 08, 2021

An annual celebration of academic projects, The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) President’s Medals are one of the oldest awards, having formally been established in 1836. It is interesting to note that the President's Medals predate the Royal Gold Medal, which was established in 1948. The year 2021 marks the 185th anniversary of the award that recognises the world’s best architectural student projects. Medals are awarded in three basic categories - the Bronze Medal for best design project at RIBA Part 1 or equivalent, the Silver Medal for best design project at RIBA Part 2 or equivalent, the Dissertation Medal written during either graduate or post graduate level and the Serjeant Awards for Excellence in Drawing. Each of the medals also award up to three commendations.

Serjeant Award Part 2 - Elliott Ng Chan Kye | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
Serjeant Award Part 2 - Elliott Ng Chan Kye Image: Courtesy of RIBA

Commenting on this year’s awards, RIBA President Simon Allford says, “I remember my partners and I eagerly anticipating the result of our Silver Medal nominated project 35 years ago. I was therefore delighted to be part of this year’s judging process. The judges and I were impressed by the quality and commitment of all the entries, which explored many pertinent topics – from the climate emergency to cultural identity and the increasing impact of technology. Congratulations to all of our very talented winners and I look forward to seeing their progress in the years to come.”

RIBA Bronze Medal | Ben Foulkes for Seeding Swanscombe Marshes
The Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL)

  • Seeding Swanscombe Marshes by Bronze Medal awardee Ben Foulkes | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
    Seeding Swanscombe Marshes by Bronze Medal awardee Ben FoulkesImage: Courtesy of RIBA
  • Ben Foulkes, Seeding Swanscombe Marshes (The Bartlett School of Architecture) | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
    Ben Foulkes, Seeding Swanscombe Marshes (The Bartlett School of Architecture) Image: Courtesy of RIBA

Foulkes proposes the construction of an ecological courthouse at the site of a planned theme park, acting as a preventative method for its further development. Seeding Swanscombe Marshes also looks at the regeneration of salt marshes in the area and the eventual degradation of the building through its natural materials, which will have ecological benefits to the landscape. The project is an interesting stipulation on the idea of architecture as protest. By inserting a courthouse as a program into the landscape, Foulkes’ proposal makes it so that the landscape ‘can no longer be uprooted’.

The other three commendations were awarded in the RIBA Bronze Medal category to Rachel Caul (University of Cambridge) for Reclaiming the Ruin, Conor Lawless (London Metropolitan University) for The Workers’ Enclave, and Oliver Skelton (University of Nottingham) for Making Do.

RIBA Silver Medal | Tiia Partanen for The Cloud Cooperative
University of Strathclyde

  • The Cloud Cooperative by Silver Medal awardee Tiia Partanen | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
    The Cloud Cooperative by Silver Medal awardee Tiia Partanen Image: Courtesy of RIBA
  • Tiia Partanen, The Cloud Cooperative (University of Strathclyde) | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
    Tiia Partanen, The Cloud Cooperative (University of Strathclyde) Image: Courtesy of RIBA

The Cloud Cooperative looks at the rise in data collection, internet surveillance and infrastructure, and storage on the cloud, which have caused people to lose control of their data. Envisioned through the actions of future activist movement The Cloud Cooperative, Partanen’s project seeks to challenge the current data monopoly and explores the creation of a secure, ethical new internet. While based on an intangible space, the project’s architectural intervention is grounded through the imagination of data centres and the physical presence of the internet.

The three commendations in the RIBA Silver Medal category were awarded to Janusz Moore (De Montfort University) for Ruincarnation, Daniel Pope (The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL) for The Earthen Land Registry, and Finian Reece-Thomas (Kingston University) for An Art School in Enugu.

RIBA Dissertation Medal | Richard Adetokunbo Aina for A Culture of Craft: West Africa UNObjectified
Architectural Association

  • A Culture of Craft: West Africa UNObjectified by Dissertation Medal awardee Richard Adetokunbo Aina | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
    A Culture of Craft: West Africa UNObjectified by Dissertation Medal awardee Richard Adetokunbo Aina Image: Courtesy of RIBA
  • Richard Adetokunbo Aina, A Culture of Craft: West Africa UNObjectified (Architectural Association) | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
    Richard Adetokunbo Aina, A Culture of Craft: West Africa UNObjectified (Architectural Association) Image: Courtesy of RIBA

Richard Adetokunbo Aina’s dissertation explores how and why West African objects of particular tribes were crafted within their respective contexts and infrastructures, and how these sacred objects have been removed and dissociated. Aina chose to work with the craft of the Lobi tribe as his case study for their inherent craft and artistry, and disenfranchised artefacts.

The three commendations under the category of RIBA Dissertation Medal were received by Ian Davide Bugarin (London Metropolitan University) for Bodies Split in Two: Contested Monsters and Queer Space in the Philippines, Manuela Reitsma (Polytechnic University of Turin) for The Secular House: A Manual for Preservation and Seismic Improvement of Vernacular Stone Dwellings in Bhutan, and Ben Sykes-Thompson (Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL)) for Overlooked Sounds: Reinterpreting Traditional Japanese Architecture as Aural Space (High Commendation).

Serjeant Award Part 1 - Desislava Cholakova | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
Serjeant Award Part 1 - Desislava Cholakova Image: Courtesy of RIBA

In addition to the medals, RIBA also presented the Serjeant Awards for Excellence in Drawing. This year Desislava Cholakova (London Southbank University) received the award for his Cathedral of Trade, and Elliott Afoke (Oxford Brookes University) for his project, The Dalston Hub: A Vertical Market. RIBA President Allford further added, “The RIBA President’s Medals celebrate the best work of students from 102 architectural schools around the world. 2021 marks the 185th anniversary of these awards which are both a contemporary celebration of excellence and a remarkable archive of architectural preoccupations.”

Serjeant Award Part 1 - Desislava Cholakova (London Southbank University) | RIBA | President’s Medals | STIRworld
Serjeant Award Part 1 - Desislava Cholakova (London Southbank University) Image: Courtesy of RIBA

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