RIBA awards winners of international student competition at Expo 2020 Dubai

In a hybrid ceremony at the Es Devlin-designed UK Pavilion, the winners of the ‘Reimagining Cities and Towns Post-COVID’ competition were honoured for their imaginative proposals.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Feb 28, 2022

In a hybrid ceremony held at the UK Pavilion on the grounds of Expo 2020 Dubai, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awarded the four winners of the 2021 RIBA student competition titled 'Reimagining Cities and Towns Post-COVID'. Bridging the physical and virtual, the event was live-streamed for those unable to attend the festivities at the Es Devlin-designed timber structure in Dubai, UAE. As a platform for creative young minds from all across the world to present their visions of the future, the architecture competition was conducted between June and December 2021, and encompassed students from universities in four geographical regions - the Americas, Asia and Australasia, Europe, and the Middle East and Africa - that were validated by RIBA or invited to participate. The brief encouraged participants to submit design proposals envisioning how the world should mould the future of its towns and cities in the wake of the pandemic.

The hybrid ceremony was held at the Es Devlin-designed UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai Image: Courtesy of the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai via Instagram

Lockdowns and other public health measures have drastically altered the very nature of our lives over the past two years, as people all across the world retreated into their homes to live and work. RIBA Director of International, Azlina Bulmer, shares in a press statement, “The pandemic has caused communities to rapidly rethink how they live, work and interact with each other, and this international competition encouraged students to consider how the current global challenges will shape cities and towns in the years to come. We received over 70 entries from 20 schools around the world, which included many innovative, resilient and sustainable designs for the future.”

Through this competition, RIBA sought to highlight visions of the future that would generate multifunctional settlements and buildings that are more resilient and sustainable, providing an adequate quality of life and varied opportunities while addressing the challenges of population growth and social inequality. Furthermore, they also urged students to contemplate how public space would be viewed in the aftermath of COVID-19, alongside methods to bring greater biodiversity into the urban landscape. Following internal selection processes within individual schools that could yield a maximum of five proposals each, the final 73 entries from 20 participating schools were evaluated by four jury panels - corresponding to their respective geographical region. The six architects constituting each panel were responsible for the selection of the final winner from their region. Following the competition’s conclusion, here are the four successful entries awarded this year.

Asia & Australasia - '2061 Pabulum Odyssey' by Maxwell Lau Ho Chuen, The University of Hong Kong

‘2061 Pabulum Odyssey’ by Maxwell Lau Ho Chuen, The University of Hong Kong | 2021 RIBA International student competition; ‘Reimagining Cities and Towns Post-COVID’ at Dubai Expo 2020 | STIRworld
‘2061 Pabulum Odyssey’ by Maxwell Lau Ho Chuen, The University of Hong Kong Image: Maxwell Lau Ho Chuen, Courtesy of RIBA

Questioning the future role of technology in a pandemic-ravaged food service industry, especially in the wake of curbs on human contact, this proposal explores automation in food preparation and delivery, as well as its effects on the human experience of dining out. Charting this evolution after a 40-year pandemic period, '2061 Pabulum Odyssey' projects an age of automation in most sectors of human civilisation as governments effectively discourage eat-in services to minimise human contact, which is seen as the most efficient means of viral transmission. A high density district of Kwun Tong in Hong Kong was selected through the accompanying site and demographic studies for the project, with the area’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station chosen as ground zero for this metamorphosis. The jury for the Asia and Australasia Region included: Odile Decq (Chair), Prof. Paula Velasco, Manuel Ferreyra luque, Agustin Moscato, Carlos Arroyo, and Prof. Ayman Wanas.

Americas - 'Regreening Wasted Heritage For Urban Agriculture: Rainwater Harvesting For Permaculture And Human Consumption' by Matías Carrillo, Aranza Rubilar, and Rosario Burgos, Universidad del Bío- Bío, Chile

‘Regreening Wasted Heritage For Urban Agriculture: Rainwater Harvesting For Permaculture And Human Consumption’ by Matías Carrillo, Aranza Rubilar, and Rosario Burgos, Universidad del Bío- Bío, Chile | 2021 RIBA International student competition; ‘Reimagining Cities and Towns Post-COVID’ at Dubai Expo 2020 | STIRworld
‘Regreening Wasted Heritage For Urban Agriculture: Rainwater Harvesting For Permaculture And Human Consumption’ by Matías Carrillo, Aranza Rubilar, and Rosario Burgos, Universidad del Bío- Bío, Chile Image: Matías Carrillo, Aranza Rubilar, and Rosario Burgos Chuen, Courtesy of RIBA

This proposal aims to restore the Central Market of Concepción in Chile, transforming it into a newly greened space that holds provisions for urban agriculture and vertical nurseries. The project tackles the rehabilitation of this landmark space within the city of Concepción, following a 2013 fire that had left 370 families settled here with no source of employment. Retaining the essential structure of the original market, the new development has been depicted as containing a walkable public space with urban orchards, in addition to new trading stands that will collectively aid in ensuring the area's self-sustainability, while transforming urban agriculture into permaculture and providing employment opportunities and community services. Dr Clarissa Rhomberg (Chair), Dr Davide Lombardi, Arch. Jayantha Perera, ZHUANG Shen, Dr Jens Christian Pasgaard, and Nicolas Hannequin made up the panel for the Americas region.

Europe - ‘Parasitic Interchanges’ by Lorenz Kleemann, The Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, France

‘Parasitic Interchanges’ by Lorenz Kleemann, The Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, France | 2021 RIBA International student competition; ‘Reimagining Cities and Towns Post-COVID’ at Dubai Expo 2020 | STIRworld
Parasitic Interchanges’ by Lorenz Kleemann, The Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, France Image: Lorenz Kleemann, Courtesy of RIBA

Imagining a hybrid existence that combines the physical and digital worlds, 'Parasitic Interchanges' is an image of the future where massive co-living structures have overtaken the city of Los Angeles, USA. Evolving organically out of smaller building blocks, the individual housing units within the structures are custom-made to suit occupants, and constantly adapt and change as per functional requirements. Servers and other technological infrastructure will aid in expanding the reach of the virtual world to these blocks, which are generally located above freeway intersections. Garden terraces, restaurants, health centres, and recreational spots between the units aid in maintaining the relevance of physical meetings in such a scenario, while also fostering a sense of community within the development itself. The winning proposal was selected by the jury for the Europe Region which included Prof. Ruan Xing (Chair), Prof. Suzette Michel Aziz, Lucia Hollman, Ar. Azman Zainonabidin, Prof. Nicolás Stutzin, and Prof. Hassan Abdel Salam.

Middle East & Africa - 'Cascading Planes' by Samer Elokdah, Youmna El-Ghounemy and Moatazbellah El Behery, The Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, Cairo

‘Cascading Planes’ by Samer Elokdah, Youmna El-Ghounemy, and Moatazbellah El Behery, The Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, Cairo | 2021 RIBA International student competition; ‘Reimagining Cities and Towns Post-COVID’ at Dubai Expo 2020 | STIRworld
‘Cascading Planes’ by Samer Elokdah, Youmna El-Ghounemy, and Moatazbellah El Behery, The Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, Cairo Image: Samer Elokdah, Youmna El-Ghounemy, and Moatazbellah El Behery, Courtesy of RIBA

Rapid infrastructural developments in Egypt formed the basis for 'Cascading Planes', which attempts to reduce the isolation and disconnection from their surroundings felt by urban residents after the introduction of flyovers for traffic regulation and the subsequent issues of increased noise, solar radiation, and disappearing pedestrian paths. The project diverts motorway traffic to underground channels at the junctions between new flyovers in order to create safe pedestrian zones. Turning urban design on its head in many respects, the proposal also posits the transformation of rooftops, abandoned structures, and parking areas into well-ventilated open spaces for residents to experience, creating new planes for urban pedestrian movement that bypass the drawbacks of motorways. The jury for the Middle East and Africa Region included: John Latto (Chair), Dr Lindsay Howe, Rocío Margarita Cacho Cruz, Nasurudin Hasbullah, Dario Vanegas-Vargas, and Dr Rune Christian Bach.

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