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Rising Star: Simeon Shtebunaev

The Birmingham City University lecturer is working on all fronts to challenge power and make architecture better for young people

RIBAJ Rising Star: Simeon  Shtebunaev
RIBAJ Rising Star: Simeon Shtebunaev

‘Not so much a rising star as an expanding galaxy,’ writes referee RIBA past president Jane Duncan about Simeon Shtebunaev, a doctoral researcher and senior lecturer at Birmingham City University, whose remarkable extracurricular list includes time as an RIBA trustee, a member of the RTPI General Assembly and an ambassador of the Architects Benevolent Society

Following his MArch from the University of Sheffield and three years at BDP, Shtebunaev has thrown himself into advocating for younger professionals. As judge Steve Smith warmly commented, ‘engaging young people is the way forward’. 

Shtebunaev helped launch the RIBA Future Architects initiative and the RIBA National Schools Programme. He has acted as architectural ambassador in Midlands schools with the Birmingham Architectural Association, worked with the Future Architects Front and advised on the creation of a Commonwealth Youth Network.

  • Beyond Borders summer school in Bulgaria, structured and co-led by Shtebunaev.
    Beyond Borders summer school in Bulgaria, structured and co-led by Shtebunaev.
  • Beyond Borders summer school in Bulgaria, structured and co-led by Shtebunaev.
    Beyond Borders summer school in Bulgaria, structured and co-led by Shtebunaev.
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‘I use my research skills in diverse contexts to build knowledge that can challenge power and make architecture better for youth,’ Shtebunaev explains. 

In 2018 he was awarded a STEAM PhD scholarship to research the role of young citizens in smart city planning, based on his work co-founding a teenage architecture summer school in Bulgaria. He won a grant to engage young people in climate change research, and recently worked with Grosvenor on Voice Opportunity Power – a youth toolkit. 

As judge Bushra Mohamed said of his youth engagement and academic work: ‘That is the future, and he is original in the research he is doing around it’.

What existing building, place and problem would you most like to tackle?

My crusade through life is to teach empathy as a design skill. All of the inclusion campaigns we lead are necessary because as a profession, we have forgotten to empathise with others. Let young people in and trust them to design the institutions and places they need, because they can! 

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