Preparing for RIBA Presidential Medal

October, 2015

The end of my first week at Thread had coincidentally collided with the submission of my work for the RIBA Presidents Award. After, a weeks worth of almost-all-nighters, I had met Friday, auspicious albeit exhausted.

Every year, each Architecture school in the country nominates two projects to compete against other universities for the President’s Award medals. Globally recognisied and acknowledged as the most prestigious award in Architectural Education. Bearing this in mind its understandable that my initial reaction to this nomination was a fervent cocktail of feeling both privileged and petrified of the thought of my work being presented parallel with the country’s leading architecture students.

The project I was submitting was sited on the banks of the Fowey Estuary in Cornwall, proposing a possible scenario to the live re-development scheme of the Brazen Island Boat Yard. Over recent decades, Brazen Island has fallen into redundancy due to county’s state deindustrialization and the stark rise of touristic economy. The clients presented a complex brief whilst making it prevalent that the ‘Brazen Island Project’ had to support its neighbouring communities and respect the intrinsic relationship with it’s coastline.

My personal overriding agenda of this project was also to produce a scheme, where developers could abstract the fundamental ideas of this project and establish them across the multiple brown field sites scattered around the Cornish coastline. Using the EU’s present £1bn funding strategy, the growth of these multiple mirco-movements would as a mass generate a regional motion of change, encouraging Cornwall out of its economic hardship.

My final submission presented an idiosyncratic aesthetic and architectural approach to the re-industrialsation of the site. The scheme approached issues that affected the local area, such as austerity, scarcity and deracination, then expanded these issues to regional, national and global scales. This socio-political investigation led to the development of a symbiotic masterplan, where a series of systematic and structural interventions intended to catalyse a direct development of the local populations. This breaks down the rhetoric of global problems and approaches them on a localised level. Effectively a community was composed to allow their interdependency to develop the local area and attempt to respond to bigger questions surrounding climate change and overpopulation.

In detail I focused on the stability of Cornwall's fishing industry and how the global market is effectively pressuring independent fisherman with proclamations of over fishing and scarcity. The architecture itself proposed multiple structures that led from the sea, shore and soil of the island. Artificial reefs and hatcheries were able to allow the community to monitor local marine life and allow fishermen to set their own market prices in response to the condition of the Cornish mariculture. The design allowed Brazen Island residents to manipulate its structure according to their needs and desires, its flexibility and contingency allowed the residents to truly gain ownership by projecting their lives into the spaces.

The nature of this project offered that architecture is not all about the built environment but perhaps prominently about the solutions to complex problems. This fundamental of working is what attracted me to Thread, the teams charged approach and innovative responses to their design is something exciting and that I deeply wanted to explore and be a part of. So here I am, Thread’s new architecture assistant, Jim.