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Future architects’ essays show passion and principle

Chris Foges

From transformative personal experiences to ethical dilemmas, the 2024 RIBAJ/Future Architects writing competition presented a rich seam of thought-provoking writing

Which buildings or places point to promising new directions in architecture, or illustrate what should be better protected or perhaps improved in our built environment? Students and young professionals who entered the 2024 RIBAJ/Future Architects writing competition provided a dizzying range of answers to that question. It was articles that discussed complex ideas in original ways that might engage a broad audience that most impressed the jury, which comprised architect, writer and teacher Nana Biamah-Ofosu, Financial Times commissioning editor Lucy Watson, and writer and editor Hiba Alobaydi.

There was clear consensus on the winner – The Death of the Kiosk, by Emilia Chegini, a Part 2 student at the University of Dundee, which makes a heartfelt case for preserving the kind of small-scale retail outlets that often form the cornerstone of communities. ‘Really good storytelling and nuanced analysis,’ said Alobaydi. ‘The article contributes valuable insights into the complex dynamics of urban change’. Lucy Watson commended an assured style, combining smart observation with judicious use of first-person experience: ‘An innovative argument and you feel you get to know her as you are reading.’ And Biamah-Ofosu appreciated its humour: ‘Smiling a bit as I read is always a plus.’ Chegini wins £400 and the title of RIBAJ/Future Architects writer of 2024.

Two runners-up each took a prize of £150. Siobhan Coker (Part 1, working at ACCL) evoked a rich future for African architecture fusing tradition and modernity. ‘Beautifully written’, said Alobaydi. ‘It blends poetic language with insightful reflections on the intersection of architecture, culture and history in Nigeria, communicating complex ideas with eloquence and depth’. Ellie Olszewski-Smith (Part 1, working at Systra) tackled poor accessibility on Britain’s rail network. ‘It conveys the experience of being in a station and builds that out into why accessibility matters’, said Watson. ‘Good structure, strong argument, nicely deployed statistics’.

The jury awarded a commendation – and £100 – to Zachariasz Czerwinski (Part 2, University of Strathclyde) for his sensitive appraisal of the ecological and cultural value of ‘non-human beings’ that populate disused docks in Govan, Glasgow. ‘Rich and engaging, bringing something new to a subject that has been written about before’, said Biamah-Ofosu.

Diverse arguments

All were selected from a shortlist of 16 accomplished pieces: Simay Karadogan (Part 1, Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts) on the architectural opportunities of photovoltaic facades; Alice Bates (Part 3, Architectural Association) recalling an instructive experience of self-building; Ben Murray (Part 1, Queen’s University Belfast) exploring parallels between The Line in Saudi Arabia and heroic unbuilt projects of the recent past; Qinxue Wang (Part 1, Bartlett) on cultural erasure threatened by development of ‘Fortress Wapping’ – site of the 1980s printworkers’ strikes; Reuben Lauridsen (Part 3, Jasmax) examining the adoption of a colonial Anglican church by Auckland’s Māori community; Ewa Roztocka (Part 3, Diller Scofidio + Renfro) advocating more retention and reuse of buildings in Singapore; Barnaby Andreae (Part 1, Wright & Wright) on exploiting the expressive potential in sustainable energy generation; Malgorzata Tulwin (Part 1, University of Manchester) on the strong sensory impression made by the James Turrell ‘skyspace’ at Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Kevin Barry (Part 2, University College Dublin) portraying the crypt where Edward Fitzgerald’s remains are interred; Francis Mpanga (Part 2, Uganda Martyrs University) on small details that promote inclusion at a Kampala primary school; Louis Swift (Part 1, Haworth Tompkins) celebrating creativity in urban industrial architecture; and Alastair Howard (Part 3, Foster Structures) on efforts in Valga, Estonia, to preserve unused buildings and questions about the cultural value of architecture.

Read Emilia Chegini’s winning article here and see all the prize-winning articles here