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UCL architect wins RIBA President’s Award

19 November 2008

Dr Marcos Cruz, lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture and director of marcosandmarjan design limited, London, has won the 2008 RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) President’s Award for Research in the category of ‘Outstanding PhD Thesis’. The Prize was awarded for his 2007 PhD thesis, entitled ‘The Inhabitable Flesh of Architecture’, which re-examines the work of a wide range of modernist architects with the aim of proposing alternative attitudes towards space, materiality and aesthetics.

Cyborgian Interfaces

Dr Cruz’s research (supervised by Professor Sir Peter Cook and Professor Jonathan Hill) combined theoretical analysis with a large variety of design proposals in a rather unconventional way. One of its key arguments is that today’s architecture has failed the body: the ‘bodilessness’ of contemporary architecture, argues Dr Cruz in his thesis, is in part the result of a Modern heritage that defined the body as a measurable, abstract and rather neutral being. He believes that “architectural theory and practice continue rather dissociated from each other”, and that there is “a generalised lack of professional and academic awareness of how much of our great buildings are indeed body-conscious, and how that has been achieved in a both experiential and experimental way”.

Dr Cruz has dedicated his thesis to “a future vision of the body in architecture, questioning a contemporary new relationship between our human flesh and the architectural flesh” and extending the meaning of ‘skin’ as one of architecture’s most fundamental metaphors. As such, the thesis puts forward for the first time a comprehensive aesthetic investigation of different conceptions of the body, from the Classical to the Modern, discusses the aesthetics of flesh and proposes that “notions of the abject and the ugly can become valid aesthetic parameters for an architecture which might be increasingly hybridised with living matter in future’ – leading to the conception of ‘Inhabitable Interfaces’, and ‘Neoplasmatic Architecture’.

“This PhD research is an invitation to an open debate on the future role of the body in architecture”, said Dr Cruz, and “a broader inquiry into the future aesthetic, social, as well as cultural dimension of our profession”.

Inwalled

Dr Cruz’s article ‘The Inhabitable Flesh of Architecture’, in which he describes his research in more detail, will be published in December’s RIBA Journal.

Sunand Prasad, President of the RIBA, believes that “knowledge is any profession's most precious asset”, and “research is what underpins knowledge, keeps it sharp and helps our anticipation of the future. Through these awards the RIBA recognises both excellence in research and the capacity of research to strengthen links between students and the profession.”

He praised the 2008 winners: “Once again this year’s work is of a wide variety and an impressively high calibre. It gives me great pleasure to present these awards and to continue to encourage research; because it is at the core of the RIBA’s mission.”

Josephine Kane from the Bartlett was also among the four who were shortlisted for the ‘Outstanding Thesis’ Award, for her thesis ‘“A Whirl of Wonders!”: British Amusement Parks and the Architecture of Pleasure, 1900-1939.’  Josie was awarded an AHRC scholarship for her doctoral studies, which she completed at the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture in 2007, and where she was supervised by Professor Iain Borden.

The UCL Bartlett
The UCL Faculty of the Built Environment is one of the largest and most successful organisations of its kind in the field of the built environment, carrying out research across five schools which are all internationally regarded as excellent centres of education in their respective research areas. 

RIBA
The RIBA, founded 1834, is the professional body for UK architects, currently comprising over 40,000 members. Its mission is to ‘advance architecture by demonstrating benefit to society and promoting excellence in the profession’, and it sees itself as a ‘champion for architecture and for a better environment’. Its strategy is to attain its goals by demonstrating, promoting and enhancing the benefits of good architecture, by facilitating its delivery, and by providing high-quality support services.

The RIBA President’s Awards
The RIBA’s three annual President’s Awards were launched by its Research & Development Department in 2005 to reward and encourage outstanding achievements in, respectively, ‘University-located Research’, ‘Professional Practice-located Research’, and research at the PhD level. Entries for the Award were assessed in terms of how they contribute new knowledge and understanding to architecture, in terms of originality, significance and rigour, with the winners regarded as having made an exceptional contribution to architectural knowledge. Past winners of the ‘Outstanding PhD Thesis’ award include Dr Rajat Gupta (Oxford Brookes, 2006) for his thesis on domestic carbon dioxide reduction, and Matthew Barac (Cambridge, 2007) for his research into urban change in a Cape Town, RSA settlement.

For more information on the RIBA, please visit http://www.architecture.com.