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AJ Student Prize 2019: University of Edinburgh

The two students selected for the AJ Student Prize by the University of Edinburgh 

About the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture 

  • Courses BA Architecture, MA (Hons) Architecture, MArch
  • Location Edinburgh
  • Head of subject Richard Anderson 
  • Full-time tutors 35 
  • Part-time tutors 60 
  • Number of students 550 
  • Staff to student ratio 1:13 
  • Fees Scottish/EU £1,820, rest of UK £9,250, international £24,450 


De Rui Lee, BA Architecture, Object Lesson Grenfell

Undergraduate de rui lee

Undergraduate de rui lee

Project title Fire Break Façade 

Project description Fire Break Façade is a proposition for the renovation of post-war concrete residential towers. It seeks to draw lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire and develop a proposal for retrofit glazing and balconies that are designed to enhance the fire safety of such buildings. It uses fire-safety to make sensitive, economic, but imaginative changes to the spatial character of the tower. It does this first through small changes to the plan arrangement of the case-study plan. Recognising that fire risk is not evenly distributed – being more likely to break out in kitchens – this proposal adjusts the plan to relocate high-risk functions. Its most innovative dimension, though, is the way it thinks of balconies as fire-breaks. Non-combustible projections are a recognised means to move fire and smoke away from the building envelope, limiting the chance of fire to breach compartments externally, but here these extensions are also used as programmatic features, a means to extend the living spaces of the tower. The architecture of the proposal is a careful interplay between the plan arrangement and balcony projection. The depth of balconies responds directly to the risk associated with rooms beneath. Large balcony projections next to living spaces are located above kitchens, maximising the programmatic and fire-safety value of these additions.

Tutor citation ‘De Rui’s project is an attempt to use the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry as a learning tool. He began by making a close study of the planning, building warrant and as-built drawings for the tower’s refurbishment cladding, contrasting these with the manufacturer’s installation instructions and the mock-ups used for fire-safety testing of products used in that assembly.’ Liam Ross 


Findlay McFarlane, MArch, Parasituation (Calcutta/Kolkata)

Postgraduate findlay mcfarlane

Postgraduate findlay mcfarlane

Project title Blotting Ornithologics 

Project description This project harnesses the avicultural wisdom found in Satyacharan Laha’s Pet Birds of Bengal, following the logics of the bird’s eye view to challenge human lines of territory between city and jungle, and bring back the fuller ecology of the wetlands to Kolkata.Architecture mediates the co-existence of species, the blur between wet and dry, and the high water-table, which makes land a mere illusion, something the modern city insists upon ignoring while rising sea-levels regularly flood the flat concrete city. The thetic drivers of Laha’s Agrapara aviary and a North Calcutta modest home built in 1912 carry their intelligence across scales to new sites, found and ‘blotted’ between the overlapping layers of ornithological species requirements and the existing figure-ground of Calcutta to form new ‘blotscapes’ within ‘birdscapes’, within an ‘Ocean of Wetness’. Three of these territories are at once created by strategically placed objects. The blotting instruments of the Oriental Skylark, the Blue Whistling Thrush and the Common Iora negotiate territories using senses specific to their species and draw in wetness from surrounding water systems. They form infiltration basins which slow water down and soak it away to alleviate run-off, while creating public landscapes from which the environmental and structural cores of the architecture rise. Open envelopes provide shade, rain cover and air movement, creating outside buildings which hold moments of environmental control, all drawn in different ways from the wetness below and all around. The permeability of the façade embodies an essential attitude to Calcutta as an Ocean of Wetness: there is no clear line between wet and dry. On all scales, it works with the omnipresent wetness, not against it.

Tutor citation ‘Findlay’s architecture is highly sophisticated in its articulations of space, construction and programme, but also in how it navigates a complex political, cultural and environmental context.’ Dorian Wiszniewski