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AJ Student Prize 2019: Sustainability Award shortlist

Eight student projects have been shortlisted for this year’s inaugural Sustainability Award, a new category within the AJ Student Prize

Submissions came from 37  of the 51 RIBA-accredited architecture schools and the quality of the shortlisted entries belies any misconception that sustainable architecture equals ugly architecture. With time, the new approaches to materials shown in these projects – such as mushroom bricks, prototype castings from waste clay and upcycled plastics – are likely to widen and enrich our architectural vocabulary. The projects tackle some of the most challenging issues facing the planet: the refugee crisis, pollution, reclamation of post-industrial sites, the need to grow food locally and the burgeoning issue of last-mile logistics. 

But what is most exciting about the submissions is that they contain the seeds of a new direction for architectural education. This is essential for the future relevance of architecture graduates in the face of planetary crisis.

De Montfort University, Leicester School of Architecture

Charles Smith, MArch, Studio 5

De montfort charles smith

De montfort charles smith

Project title RedSands Plastics

Project description Since the recent bans on waste plastic exports to Asia, the UK’s recycling infrastructure has come under huge strain with much of our waste plastic now going into landfill and subsequently ending up in the rivers and oceans. RedSands Plastics aims to stop this.

RedSands Plastics is an offshore recycling community in the Thames Estuary built upon the historic and now derelict Second World War sea fort RedSands. Its primary purpose is to clean the river and estuary of waste, putting a stop to further ocean pollution. Collected waste is processed and recycled on site and used to make various products and building components such as curtain walling, modular stacking blocks and cladding panels. These are used within refurbishment and extension works to the existing structures as well as towards the site’s growth into a fully self-sustaining community.

Falmouth University, School of Architecture, Design & Interiors

Nina Jones, BA (Hons) Architecture, Independent Exploratory Project

Falmouth nina jones

Falmouth nina jones

Project title Co-Colour 

Project description Co-Colour proposes the establishment of a community-run natural dyeing facility in Carclaze Pit, part of Cornwall’s post-industrial clay-mining landscape. It establishes an environment in which a new residential development can grow creatively. 

The Cornish clay-mining landscape can be seen from space; white scars carved across the countryside where kaolin deposits have been dug out the ground for more than 250 years. The waste product of this process is immense – over 90 per cent of quarried materials are useless to the clay industry. 

Experimenting with analogue 3D printing and using everyday utensils to mix natural substances with the waste material provides a prototype for walls and eventually the creation of encaustic tiles.

Therefore, a new building process can come from using this waste product, enabling the new communities of Carclaze to reclaim the countryside. 3D printing machines travel the landscape, constructing roundhouses using the industry by-product.

Glasgow School of Art, The Mackintosh School of Architecture

Hannah Dawood, DipArch, Stage 5

Mac hannah dawood

Mac hannah dawood

Project title Kilns across Antwerp’s Ringland

Project description The Belgian city of Antwerp is among the top 50 places in the world affected by air pollution – largely due to its dependence on vehicles, specifically on the R1 ring road which cuts through the city and separates districts. The Ringland project attempts to provide a solution, moving the motorway underground and covering the tunnel with a green canopy. However, the flaws within the scheme lie in the potentially anti-social spaces of a linear park, as well as its ineffectiveness at addressing air pollution still emitted from vehicles within the tunnel.

This project firstly sets out planning principles to apply to the Ringland to ensure a structured connection between the inner and outer city. The site, located where the railway intersects the Ringland, is the road’s most used intersection. 

The scheme addresses the pollution levels within the tunnels by introducing a biochar production facility. This process sequesters carbon particle matter from the atmosphere using only organic matter produced within kilns. The by‑product itself can be used in various applications, from construction products to a soil amendment. 

The built proposal identifies nodes divided by the motorway and stitches the urban fabric by creating a bridge between districts. 

Leeds Beckett University, School of Art, Architecture and Design

Howard Kent, MArch, Cinematic Commons

Leeds beckett howard kent

Leeds beckett howard kent

Project title A Mayfield Depot 

Project description The project challenges current developer proposals for a ‘pedestrian-friendly, car-free area’ on the Mayfield Depot site in Manchester. If completed, pedestrian footfall would increase to more than 10,000. But what would happen to the cars, unused and unwanted, in a pedestrian-dominant future?

The project proposes an infrastructure to support and connect existing industries that have emerged within the Mayfield Depot site over the last five years while its development plans have been in flux.

A new infrastructure for the decommissioned depot has been proposed for the urban landscape by removing, recycling or renewing redundant industrial spaces to support and enhance the informal and service industries recently issued with eviction notices. 

The project embraces the viaducts and deconstruction, using processes of subtraction to form alternative productive ‘scapes’ and scenes inspired by the Heiner Goebbels project Everything That Happened and Would Happen, which formed part of the Manchester International Festival in 2018. The project explores the material and metaphorical dimensions of public space in the city, to reinforce existing social functions. 

The London School of Architecture

Robert Buss, Professional Diploma in Designing Architecture 

Lsa robert buss

Lsa robert buss

Project title Bricklayers’ Arms Consolidation Centre

Project description London is one of the most liveable and progressive cities in the world, yet it relies on a fragmented network of warehouse, waste and logistic facilities, contributing to illegal levels of pollution across the city.

This project seeks to redefine the Consolidation Centre as a vital part of our architectural and social vocabulary, akin to the great Victorian structures of industry and transport. It shows how we can reconnect with the full cycle of our material consumption. It consolidates necessary infrastructure into a central hub.

The facility takes freight vans off the road and replaces them with a light-rail system and a fleet of electric vehicles, cutting air pollution in inner London overnight. The M25 shed is rethought as a vast inner-city park and research institute, below which all our online shopping is consolidated for distribution, with recycled packaging filling the delivery trains on their way back out. 

Sheffield Hallam University, Department of the Natural and Built Environment

Sam Walton, BSc (Hons) Architecture, Studio 3B

Sheffield hallam sam walton

Sheffield hallam sam walton

Project title Brasilia of the North: A School For Future Construction Methods 

Project description This proposal suggests a further education building on Newcastle College’s campus to house both traditional and non-traditional learning spaces. 

Through analysis of the city’s context and other learning institutions, it is proposed that the facility supports both a social and cultural sustainability. The brief emphasised environmental design and sustainability as essential criteria, with students being required to fully integrate passive and speculative strategies and technologies into their projects from the beginning. This culminated in a large-scale sectional drawing.

This project proposes a programme for a school of future construction. Inspired by the Roman archaeology and technology of the surrounding context, the programme reinvestigates ‘old’ technology through new means (an environmental approach) by proposing that the school develops alternative brick technologies, such as mycelium, and alternative construction methods, such as drones. This is expressed architecturally with segments of vaulted brick construction being non-loadbearing and capable of disassembly. 

University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury School of Architecture 

Morgan Hone, MArch, The Other Studio

Project title Growtown

Canterbury morgan hone

Canterbury morgan hone

Project description The city of Detroit in Michigan, USA, once famous for its auto industry, was a prosperous metropolis until its recent decline. With the consequent loss of population, resulting urban decay and collapsing land values, a unique situation has been created where a highly serviced infrastructural grid exists in an area of low to no inhabitation. The thesis suggests that this grid provides an ideal site for implementing an intensive, technology-driven densification of farmland, following after the Dutch model, which offers a way to maximise yields while saving the existing landscape through the implementation of cutting-edge production technologies. This introduces a new economic engine, reinvigorating the greater metropolitan area and providing environmental benefits from the reduction of inputs and resources from the intensive methodology and a reduction in food miles. The local workforce’s technical knowledge can be repurposed into agricultural rather than automotive production. 

University of Sheffield, Sheffield School of Architecture

Tobias Mackrill and Thomas Cunningham, MArch, Studio Arrival City

Sheffield tobias and thomas

Sheffield tobias and thomas

Project title The Retention Centre

Project description The world is changing due to the global crisis of mass migration, with many people following routes to European cities with hope for a better life. Milan has been a key transit point for arrivals, yet worryingly, this migration has coincided with unprecedented growth in support of far-right Italian political parties. One of these, Lega Nord, plans to shut Italian ports, repatriate 500,000 immigrants and build more detention centres. It was through a direct reaction to this inhumanity that the Retention Centre was born. 

Sustainability is inherent within the Retention Centre programme, with facilities that aim to tackle the three core components of social inequality (vital, resourceful and existential) so that arrivals can make an informed, voluntary decision to stay and contribute to the future prosperity of their city. 

Arising from an initial period of informal occupation, the project is set in 2040, and as such responds to the contemporaneous resource scarcity through inhabiting an existing concrete frame and specifying local, carbon-sequestering materials. Heat-exchange technology and low-carbon thermal mass turn Milan’s high seasonal and diurnal temperature variation into a project asset, with a perforated, adaptable façade system providing the solar shading necessary to thrive within a warming climate.