The RIBA President’s Medals, presented by the Royal Institute of British Architects is regarded as being one of the most prestigious prizes in architectural studies internationally. The global awards are presented to architecture students and recent graduates for design excellence. The RIBA President’s Medals have been awarded annually since 1836 and the current format, renewed at their 150th anniversary in 1956, includes a large number of student awards, scholarships, Bronze and Silver Medals for outstanding design work at RIBA Part 1 and Part 2, and in 2001, a Dissertation Medal was added as a reward to accomplished written work. These awards embody RIBA’s commitment to architecture and the education of individuals for a better understanding of architecture with a wider social reach.

1. Nick Elias – Poohtown 2014, (Bartlett School of Architecture, UK) 

The silver medal-winning project focuses on the happiness in architecture. Using the concepts of A.A. Milne’s ‘Winnie the Pooh’, a happy would that is constructed by the imaginations of unhappy Christopher Robin, is used metaphorically for Slough, a post-war industrial city in England. Slough is reimagined to be peaceful, happy, socially inclusive, and economically sustainable. The project emphasizes the importance of design for our emotional state along with the physical state. 

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2. Heliomet Team – SunBloc 2012, (London Metropolitan University, UK)

This silver medal-winning project is a proposal for an alternative material practice. SunBloc is an insulated, lightweight house that relies on a construction system of EPS foam blocks and steel cables. The system is inexpensive and accessible in hard-to-reach places like rooftops. The prototype is designed to be a net energy producer and the environmental strategies include adequate daylighting and a southern porch for maximum solar gain. The EPS is intended to be replaced by BioFoam, a material produced from plant waste, and where it is applicable, the facade would serve as a living wall to increase biodiversity. 

10 Winners of RIBA President's Medals Students Award- Heliomet Team - SunBloc 2012, (London Metropolitan University, UK) - Sheet1
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3. Annabelle Tan – Wetland Frontier 2019, (Bartlett School of Architecture, UK)

The RIBA President’s Medals bronze medal-winning Wetland Frontier aims to facilitate the regeneration of the Lower Ninth Ward community of New Orleans after the effects of Hurricane Katrina. It challenges the current approach to disaster prevention and landscape engineering. The scheme taps on the wetland’s economic, recreational, educational, and environmental potential and provides an urban solution that reconnects humans and nature. 

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4. Ruth Pearn, Ages Through the Terrace 2019 – (University of Westminster, UK)

Ruth Pearn’s dissertation examines the role of age in influencing the spatial organization of the home. The subject was chosen in response to the resurgence of multi-generational living due to the shortage of affordable housing and it demonstrates how the perception of age has changed through the ages. The conclusion states that flexibility and adaptability are the way forward to produce suitable houses for today’s way of living and new forms of housing are to be encouraged. 

10 Winners of RIBA President's Medals Students Award - Ruth Pearn, Ages Through the Terrace 2019 - (University of Westminster, UK) - Sheet1
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5. Kangli Zheng – Castle in the Sky 2017, (University of Nottingham, UK)

The bronze medal-winning project is a response to London’s prevalent housing crisis. It proposes an alternative to decentralization and high-rise buildings – a flexible ‘room-box’. The prototype can replace and change and can be incorporated into London’s terraces. The ‘room-box’ system would integrate solar energy use and rainwater harvesting. It acts as an alternative for homes, co-housing, storage, and public gardens to create communities in the sky. 

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6. King Hei Thomas Chee – Crafts Vault 2016, (Chinese University of Hong Kong, China)

A proposal for introducing a crafts workshop extension to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London to promote a new typology of museums to exhibit the lost art of crafts. It responds to the uncertain future of the crafts industry in the UK due to the rise of technology and easy production and proposes to restore artisanal crafts.

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7. Allan Yuk Lun Chong – ‘Formless’ – An Alternative Typology for Preservation 2016, (Newcastle University, UK)

The RIBA President’s Medals bronze medal-winning project explores a different typology for preservation as an extension of the Soane Museum. The ‘formless’ concept comes from architecture that continues to change in response to changing cities, rather than remaining static in a state of preservation. It strikes a balance between the need for architectural expansion and cultural preservation. 

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8. Boon Yik Chung – Space as the Third teacher 2015, (Bartlett School of Architecture, UK) 

The project is an exploration of an alternative classroom typology for a Montessori school in Florida that encourages creativity and was awarded the Bronze medal in 2015. The Montessori way is designed to facilitate individual learning and to stimulate creativity. The project proposes to engage learning with architecture with a notion of ambiguity, often found in Froebel Blocks that are minimalist objects that represent abstract ideas and open-ended play. The project explores playful space configurations that are inspired by the fluidity of a child’s imagination.

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9. Marie Price – The Overlooked Back Garden 2015, (University of Westminster, UK)

The project focuses on the conflict between privacy and curiosity in the back gardens of housing in North London. The Dissertation Medal-winning project considers the different degrees of voyeurism at varying scales – from the city, the street, within houses, and within the garden. The project discusses how these back gardens should be celebrated and encounters with others should be encouraged instead of walling the gardens inside in fear of exposure. The project suggests that the garden plots can act as corridors of communal and social activity.

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10. Sonia Magdziarz – How to Carve a Giant 2018, (Bartlett School of Architecture, UK)

The project is a narrative on the relationship of people and communities with their cultural heritage and was awarded the Silver Medal in 2018. It proposes an architecture that preserves contemporary forms of knowledge by physically carving a folk story into the urban topography of Helsinki and reinterprets modern typologies like libraries and workshops to question the preservation of knowledge. It considers how digital preservation is made possible by DNA encoding and provides knowledge that is invisible to the naked eye. The project proposes a new architectural language that pays homage to local culture and tradition. 

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References:

http://www.presidentsmedals.com/

https://somfoundation.com/fellow/annabelle-tan/

https://www.ribaj.com/culture/allan-chong

Author

Rashmi Nair is an architect, interior designer, and fashion illustrator who is an ardent lover of all things design. She strives to be sustainable in design and life and strongly believes in the ‘Less is More’ idealogy. She enjoys exploring museums, reading, making lists, and a hot cup of coffee

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