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Casting a pall over student awards

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I am writing to express my concern about the general tone of the riba Student Medals Presentation this year. This should be an occasion both for the students and those associated with them. Sadly, the thrust of the addresses was highly critical and dwelt heavily on the shortfall of the work. While I am not in a position to comment about the overall standards, I am absolutely sure that there was some work submitted this year, as in previous years, that was worthy of scrutiny, positive comment and praise. For these students, who put such an enormous effort into their portfolio, to receive such little support was both demoralising and sad for all. This occasion should be one where the riba publicly applauds the next generation of members. The general mood of discontent was palpable.

I was particularly puzzled by comments made by judges concerning the content and stylistic packaging of work - I believe they felt there were 'still too many machines in evidence' (of questionable artistic and critical value). Why then should the Bronze Medal winner be a student who primarily produced a magnificent, well-substantiated animated installation as the major part of his portfolio - the very thing the judges were so critical of?

If the judges felt that one of the interesting issues at undergraduate level was the sensitivity of buildings to landscape and the lack of thesis projects at diploma level, then they should have looked more closely at the Bartlett submissions, which dealt with just these issues with great care, detail and immense sophistication, substantially supported by original research. I am in the unusual position of being able to comment about both the undergraduate winner from the University of North London and the diploma candidates from the Bartlett, as I taught them all.

But once again the Bartlett gets targeted as the purveyor of uncritical and unsubstantiated work - how do they justify awarding the Silver Medal runner-up and a Commendation to the Bartlett candidates? Yet I teach at the Bartlett and support and value what they do - why then do I receive an award for teaching from the riba? The work that I value and the issues I discuss and represent are no different at North London than at the Bartlett.


London NW6

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