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AJ Student Prize 2020: University of Westminster

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

About the School of Architecture and Cities

  • Courses BA (Hons) Architecture, MArch
  • Location London
  • Head of school Harry Charrington
  • Full-time tutors 65
  • Part-time tutors 75
  • Students 600
  • Staff to student ratio 1:17
  • Fees UK/EU £9,250


Bilal El-Figuigui, BA (Hons) Architecture

01 bilal el figuigui exterior render

01 bilal el figuigui exterior render

Project title The Nest Tower

Project description The Nest Tower is designed as a co-living beacon in Leyton, Waltham Forest, with emphasis on developing a better quality of life for its inhabitants and locals. There are generous community spaces within this vertical scheme with a market at ground level and vertical allotments on the upper floors of the building’s core. The Nest Tower also provides habitats for local birds such as tits and jays and aims to pioneer a rewilding movement of vertical structures within the urban environment. This project’s ambition is to create a feasible, sustainable and affordable residential scheme with a greater amount of shared spaces. The construction is of cross-laminated timber with steel and has a reduced impact due to the low-carbon footprint of timber. There are gradations of privacy within the tower, with private bedrooms as separate outer ‘nest’ structures, while the inner core – which is open to the elements, reducing overall windloads – is accessible to the community for vertical gardening and bird-watching.

Tutor citation Bilal developed an imaginative co-living tower, opening up a discussion on the potential of visionary vertical typologies, by questioning the relationships of private and communal, as well as open and enclosed spaces within such structures. The Nest Tower pushes the boundaries of vertical structures, which are mostly associated with inaccessible ‘object architecture’, by placing these at the heart of the community, creating new, accessible and engaging centres for locals. Maria Kramer


Thomas Riddell-Webster, MArch

01 riddell webster themeltingcity

01 riddell webster themeltingcity

Project title The Melting City

Project description This project challenges the impact of globalisation in Hanoi, which started to render the city fabric as ‘faceless’, and seeks to celebrate the rich social practices and fabric of the city that make its essence, permeated by the past. The project proposes to use Hanoi’s 1,000-year-old kiteflying tradition as a vehicle for cultural reconstruction. The art of kite-making, refined over a millennium, is practised and celebrated in the project. In addition, cellulose extracted from the kite’s bamboo, pectin from the limes used to preserve the kites, and chitosan, extracted from the shells of discarded crustaceans from Hanoi’s fish market, are combined to form a temporary building skin. This technology allows users to form spaces that will facilitate the social fabric, before they melt back into Earth’s natural cycle after 10 to 15 years. This offers the opportunity to renovate the building’s design, allowing it to remain fit for purpose in line with contemporary needs as the city develops.

Tutor citation Looking beyond the virtuosity of Thomas’s drawings with their subtle spatial complexity, this project proposes an ephemeral approach to architecture, introducing a new perspective of the city where locals take over and shape the fabric. The project utilises technology and science developed by MIT and applies it to the local context to form an ever-evolving building in response to Marshall Berman’s notion that ‘all that is solid melts into air’. Thomas’s work is a result of a long research, drawing and making with outstanding quality, originality in style and a poetic touch. Nasser Golzari and Yara Sharif