Every year, we select a number of projects for regional and national awards. Here is our final selection, celebrating the year’s most detailed, provocative and inspiring designs.


Hicham Ouahabi | Epic Theatre for Birmingham | Unit: ARENA | view the full portfolio here


The concept of the platform will be based on the Epic Theatre movement by Bertolt Brecht as a primary reference. The project can be considered as an architectural artefacts that transcend beyond resolving problems but rather rendering them visible, substituting its pragmatic nature for a designs that forms an estrangement effect, that is, moments of revelation which will transform their users in critical observers of architecture and reality.


The platform will initially start as a unified structure. The platform then unfolds and becomes exposed where the section of the theatre becomes the section of the street. The platform will occupy most of the street. Therefore, the street itself becomes a “forum”: hence the gap between the interior and the public forum is eliminated, creating a moment of “estrangement” , where the space of politics becomes interiorised within the street resulting in the section of the street to act as antidote to the agonism in public life. Thus, re-establishing a relationship between citizens and the government. 



Leigh Davies | Axis Lobby | Unit: Modern Gazetteer | view the full portfolio here


My final thesis project explored the idea of ‘civic’ within architecture and specifically how the reworking of part of an existing building can provide a public space with a civic atmosphere that can contribute within the urban framework of the city. Much of the development took inspiration from early modernist works in Vienna by architects such as Wagner and Loos, with specific attention on the tuning of atmosphere through design and materials.





Indraj Bhachu | Thesis: Using the Catenary | Tutor: Dr. Matthew Jones


Modelling as a part of the architectural design process has existed for many centuries and is one of the most fundamental mediums in commutating and presenting an idea. However, in the last 15 years there has been a radical shift in architectural schools and practices. A large influx can be seen in the advancement of new technologies from BIM software’s to parametric design. While many believe that parametric design is the future, others believe that this process is detrimental to the idea of craftsmanship in design.


This paper investigates the notion of craftsmanship in relation to parametric design software and traditional modelling methods. A series of catenary experiments are used as a basis for this comparative study, as it is a complex modelling system that will challenge and test the limitations of each modelling technique. It examines the important aspects of the modelling process in intricate detail while referencing architects from Antoni Gaudí to Zaha Hadid. Finally, it looks to the future, questioning the ideal modelling process based upon relevant literature and the outcomes of the catenary experiments.




Byron Chan | Cultivating Community | Unit: ERA | view the full portfolio here


The project is a community allotment promoting local food production and habitat creation to combat climate change. Set in future Digbeth, Birmingham, the intervention is located in the newly proposed green corridor along the River Rea supporting a network of productive gardens. Backing onto a hillside, the scheme is a terraced landscape constructed out of reclaimed bricks from the area and beyond. The feature ‘living’ walls designed to increase habitats for native species and plants supporting ecological restoration along the river.



Aggie Michalska | Art & Performance Works | Unit: ARENA | view the portfolio here 


My final project design approach has been inspired by urban preservation as a tool for effective collaboration between the existing community, the Theory of Permanence, Palimpsest, and Structuralism. The project is exploring ways in which the intellectual conflict between Structuralism and Post Structuralism can be reflected in the architectural environment as well as how it can become a part of a creative performance space.


Tabula Plena approach towards the site enhances this methodology and through excavating old footprints, contours, and structures from the site, it becomes a celebration of complexity. This project is a manifestation of community activism, architecture of participation.


Judge’s comments: We felt  the overall concept, analysis and detail proposals  for the ‘Arts and Performance Work’ scheme was methodical and extremely well presented. The project also reflected Peter Broad’s  empathy towards the evolution of architecture in its historical context and his passion for Art and Arts related design.



Kieran Latham | Axis Tower | Unit: Modern Gazetteer | view the full portfolio here


The Axis Tower has been a landmark structure since the 1970s. Its proposed demolition next year means that this legacy is lost. The tower is and always has been commercial, which has contributed to harsh public/private thresholds being formed around it. Its approach to architecture consists of a uniform, autonomous system build. Each individual panel has been mass-produced to reflect the building as a sole entity and to operate as a single function. The facade, which is generated in response to the system build, is a flat, unresponsive plane which detaches itself from the surrounding framework. These concrete panels act as the skin of the building, that mask the structural components within. This “skin” which wraps the tower creates a separation between building and landscape. This thesis project aims at challenging the current system build approach taken at Axis Tower, by offering an alternative to demolition through adaptive re-use. The atmosphere of the site will be tuned to heighten its presence both locally and into the wider urban fabric. By utilising this approach to architecture, there is an opportunity to work with the existing opportunities of both the site and the prefabricated panel. The thresholds which have been left due to this ‘skin’ will be exploited and introduced as public programmes across a vertical level. These vertical spaces will be assembled from prefabricated modules to enable the tower to inherit a depth to its vertical plane. 


Judge’s comments: His drawings were really detailed and conveyed the depth and atmosphere of the space. His project was very relevant to our current issues with climate change and the  re-use of our existing buildings. I particularly liked the drawn image of existing building next to the proposed design.



Jack Shaw | Duddeston Incinerator Plant | Unit: ERA | view the full portfolio here


Judge’s comments: Jack’s awareness of Birmingham’s inadequate resource management and the need to tackle climate emergency was well recognised. He presented a strong idea that could be useful to make an impactful change and nice hand drawings to communicate the process.



Fatima Mohammed | Future Neighbourhood | Unit: ERA | view the full portfolio here


My projects aims to create a future neighbourhood that has a closer family bond and a healthier lifestyle to reduce an individual carbon footprint. This is done through: encourage people to grow food to reduce carbon footprint of food; and intergenerational co-living to create social sustainability that spans for generations

Judge’s comments: the studentship award has been given to Fatima for her contribution to the unit and course’s response in promoting a sustainability agenda both, in her work and her commitment to the public exhibition of unit ERA’s work at the Custard Factory earlier in the year.

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