The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Graduate Wins AJ Student Prize

11 October 2022

Architecture BSc graduate Joe Russell won the Undergraduate Prize at this year’s awards with his project’s localised and sustainable approach to housing.

Image: ‘Tightening the Green Belt: Oakwood Mews, Enfield N14’, Joe Russell, Architecture BSc, UG0, Year 3, 2022

The AJ Student Prize 2022 rewards innovation and excellence in architectural projects from students across the UK. Now in its fifth year, the prize gathers work from almost every RIBA and ARB-accredited school in the UK, with projects judged in three categories: undergraduate, postgraduate and sustainability.

In a year with a record 146 projects entered into the competition, Joe Russell won the Undergraduate Prize, announced in an event held at Sheppard Robson's offices in London last week. His project ‘Tightening the Green Belt: Oakwood Mews, Enfield N14’ proposes a highly sustainable, contained and locally sourced way of building on the edge of London, which could co-exist with the green belt policy’s aim of preventing urban sprawl. Housing and a community centre would be built with salvaged materials from nearby Cockfosters London Underground depot, which will shortly be demolished and replaced, and local organic material. 

Responding to Joe’s winning entry, the judges said, “more students need to be looking at their projects from an ecological standpoint with the same strong ambition”, calling his project “breathtaking”.

Tightening the Green Belt: Oakwood Mews, Enfield N14

This design for new housing and associated community facilities responds to the current UK shortage, by rethinking the concept of the Green Belt. Controversy surrounds the Green Belt, with opinion divided over its policies and protection, as discussed by the economist Alan Mace.

The chosen site is in Enfield, opposite Oakwood underground station on the Piccadilly Line, the line’s penultimate stop on its northern end.

Two hundred metres from the site are the tube depots in Cockfosters, scheduled for demolition now that a new fleet of Piccadilly Line trains are to be introduced. The disused materials are to be reused for the project, meaning 675 tonnes of embodied carbon can be salvaged. While the depots provide an array of construction materials, like bricks and steel, there are still some fundamental building components missing.

The scheme, therefore, adopts a ‘hyper-localised’ approach to harvested and salvaged materials. Two hundred and fifty metres from the site is arable land, where straw is grown for insulation and thatched roofs, and the adjacent pine tree wood provides timber. This localised sourcing significantly reduces the scheme’s carbon footprint.

Commenting on the win, Joe said:

It is an honour to be recognised for the AJ Student Prize. My project addresses urgent issues of housing, community and sustainability. Through a grounded and methodical design approach, it tackles the relatively uncharted territories of architecture for London's 'green belt'. The award is ultimately a testament to the outstanding teaching of my tutors, Murray Fraser and Michiko Sumi, whose support, input and care have been unrivalled."

This year’s judging panel was chaired by AJ technical editor and deputy architecture editor Frances Williams, and comprised of the following jury members:

  • Haworth Tompkins head of sustainability Diana Dina
  • 2020 winner and co-founder of POoR Collective Shawn Adams
  • Feilden Fowles co-founder Edmund Fowles
  • Des Fagan, head of architecture at Lancaster University

Joe studied Architecture BSc (ARB/RIBA Part 1) in UG0, tutored by Murray Fraser and Michiko Sumi. His third year project was exhibited as part of The Bartlett Summer Show 2022, and was also awarded the Bartlett School of Architecture Medal, BSc at this year’s show.

More information

Read more about the AJ Student Prize at the AJ website
Explore Joe Russell’s prizewinning project at The Bartlett Summer Show 2022 archive site

Images: ‘Tightening the Green Belt: Oakwood Mews, Enfield N14’, Joe Russell, Architecture BSc, UG0, Year 3, 2022