Winners of the RIBA President's Awards for Research 2010

Winners of the RIBA President's Awards for Research 2010

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the winners of the RIBA President's Awards for Research 2010, which reward and encourage outstanding research in architecture.

Awards were presented in the following three categories:

PhD Thesis: for the best PhD Thesis from any school of architecture in which the department has a course validated by the RIBA

University-located Research: for the best completed research project carried out in any school of architecture in which the department has a course validated by the RIBA

Professional Practice-located Research: for the best completed research project initiated by an RIBA member or RIBA Chartered Practice

This year, the RIBA President's Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis was awarded to Victoria Perry of the Bartlett School of Architecture, for her thesis Slavery, Sugar and the Sublime. "This is an interesting and well-written study, that is part of our 'coming to terms' with Britain's colonial past - paying attention to aspects of cultural history that are uncomfortable and that have been excluded from polite discourse," commented the judges. "Perry argues that the extraordinary nature of the Caribbean trades, disengaged from society and, to some extent, morality here in Britain creates an environment for a particular and distinct aesthetic. The study looks particularly at ways in which the large estates, assembled relatively quickly through new wealth, in the North and West of Britain, unlike traditional agricultural estates, are totally disengaged from the income that supports them."

Under the same category, the commendation was awarded to Nikolaos D. Karydis of the University of Bath, for his thesis Early Byzantine Vaulted Construction in Churches of the Western Coastal Plains and River Valleys of Asia Minor. "Karydis applies a scientific understanding of structure and architecture to his study, in a manner that is often missing from archaeological work," commented the judges. "He bases much of his reconstructions on the remaining fragments of arch springings and pendentives in a way which would not be possible without an understanding of the physical principles of vaulting. His ability to draw clearly and economically significantly enhances this work. One is conscious that Karydis has taken pleasure in the drawings and that for each drawing included in the study there are probably many more."

Albena Yaneva of the University of Manchester was awarded the RIBA President's Award for Outstanding University-located Research for her work An Ethnography of Architecture. "This type of sociological and anthropological research into design practice is significant for architecture, adding a new perspective to the way we understand architectural processes," said the judges. "The two books are enjoyable to read, linking through hypertextual narratives an impressive quantity of historical information and technical data, stories and anecdotes, theoretical research and empirical observations."

The RIBA President's Award for Outstanding Professional Practice-located Research was awarded to Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thistleton Architects for the project Stadthaus, Murray Grove. "This work is driven by its integrity and systematic methods," said the judges. "The building could not have been executed with out the architects dogged commitment to build in a more sustainable form of construction. The audience extends well beyond architects; it is relevant to all involved in construction industry, encompassing client, contractor, planner, legislator and beyond."

Two commendations were also awarded in this category; CJ Lim and Ed Liu of Studio8 Architects, were awarded for their project smartcities + eco-warriors. "Smartcities + eco-warriors sets out an innovative vision for an urban future from an architectural perspective as opposed to a planning or environmental engineering one," stated the judges. "With a focus on urban agriculture and self-perpetuating circular economies, it offers a refreshing departure from the majority of approaches to sustainable urban development. Although the concept of urban agriculture is not an original one, the detailed design focus of this book offers an original perspective."

The second commendation was awarded to Aedas R&D | Computational Design and Research, for their project Open Framework for Spatial Simulation: the computation of design knowledge for architectural and urban spaces. "This paper makes a strong case for the work of the Aedas design research lab which is experimenting with devising and using computer software to develop design work," commented the judges. "The authors stress the difference their work is to conventional uses of such technology which takes the shape of form generation and parametric design. A wide range of applications are used to illustrate the efficacy of this work, mostly from the Aedas stable. Many other Research Units into Computational Design might exist in the world, but this one has a 'local' character and a particular story, which roots it in the English history of computation in architecture, and makes it both original and specific."

"We need research if we are going to find out more about how architecture works," said Professor Andrew Ballantyne, Chair of the judging panel. "This year's RIBA Research Awards go to: an architectural historian who draws our attention to the culturally uncomfortable way in which some significant eighteenth-century developments were funded, to an anthropologist who tells us how the participants in an architect's office interact with one another, and to an architectural practice that shows us how to build tall in timber. They are all worthy winners, and emerged by clear consensus from stiff competition.

The variety of work that the judges saw was matched by the entrants' penetrating insights, and by the cultural and practical value of the results. The research is in every case the product of dogged tenacity, keeping the objectives in sight until the ideas have been tested and realized. The findings of the research are now available, and the rest of us can learn from them."

The judges were impressed by the diversity of the entries in all three categories. The winners will be presented with awards at the annual RIBA President's Medals Awards ceremony on December 1, 2010, at the RIBA, W1.