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AJ Student Prize 2019: Queen’s University Belfast

The two students selected for the AJ Student Prize by Queen’s University Belfast 

About the School of Natural and Built Environment 

  • Courses BSc (Hons) Architecture, MArch, Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice in Architecture 
  • Location Belfast, Northern Ireland 
  • Head of school Greg Keefe 
  • Full-time tutors 13 
  • Part-time tutors 21 
  • Number of students 230 
  • Staff to student ratio 1:8 
  • Fees £4,500 


Emily Mussen, BSc (Hons) Architecture, Civic Stage

Undergraduate emily mussen

Undergraduate emily mussen

Project title Subverting the Perfect

Project description Belfast city centre is peppered with vacant sites earmarked for retail space; curious, given that the UK high street is struggling, and there are already many vacant stores in the heart of Belfast. Linking with Belfast’s increasingly successful film industry, Civic Stage asked students to consider urban architecture as set design in order to challenge the unsustainable acceptance of the city centre as a space merely for acquiring fast fashion and caffeinated drinks.By drawing the city as a collection of performances, the theme for the project was identified, one that was both the problem with fast fashion and also its potential salvation – distortion. Overlaying three separate architectural theories of ‘perfect proportion’ and celebrating moments where they physically disagree, the project questions notions of physical beauty. 

Tutor citation ‘This project has been put forward because it is ambitious and thoughtful. Emily took the brief and extracted from it a compelling dilemma that was psychological, environmental and at the same time acutely urban. Creatively engaging with the language of structure, Emily has created a building with a message – a warning in fact – about the damaging effects of fast fashion on us individually and collectively.’ Rachel O’Grady 


Christopher Millar, MArch, Architettura Superleggera

Postgraduate christopher millar

Postgraduate christopher millar

Project title Terra Novus

Project description By charting how ‘wicked’ products – ones made up of predominantly unrecyclable materials – end up in everyday spaces, the project views how attitudes to production and consumption are evident in typical construction materials. It advocates how the use of cutting-edge biomaterial research could be used in the production of architecture instead, making materials which are cyclical in nature, generating temporal attitudes to structure and material. Evident throughout the thesis is a critical awareness of Belfast’s fragility in the worst-case climate change scenarios. As a coastal city, it is likely to be adversely affected to sea level rises and storm surges. By condemning the landscape and objects of the city to rising sea-levels, the new city is imagined as one of production, infrastructure and mobility.

Tutor citation ‘We chose Chris’s thesis project for a number of reasons: 1) the process from research to architectural and urban proposition is embedded in a theoretical and analytical framework; 2) it challenges the current linear nature of production and attitudes to consumption and how they relate to architecture and construction; 3) it speculates how cities and buildings respond to ideas of memory, identity and culture in worst-case climate change scenarios; 4) it shows an ability to convey highly complex systems and ideas in a variety of visual means which are spatial, urban, theoretical and narrative-based.’ Sean Cullen