UCL News


Norman Foster scholarship for UCL student

1 May 2007

The first Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship has been awarded to UCL Bartlett student, Ben Masterton-Smith.

The £6,000 scholarship - which had applicants from all 36 UK architecture schools - went to Ben for his proposal: 'Emerging East: Exploring and Experiencing the Asian Communist City'.

Ben will use the money to travel in North Korea, China and Vietnam. Describing his plans, Ben said: "I'm going to explore the development and future of the Communist city in Asia, examining cities that have developed from the particular ideological principles of Communist regimes and have been characterised by rapid development. I'll visit cities which represent different urban conditions, but which have developed from a similar political situation."

The trip builds on work Ben has been undertaking as part of his diploma unit studies: "As part of my Diploma course, I have been studying Communism in relation to architecture as part of a history and theory unit, which has encouraged further discussion and research in this area. This course resulted in a short essay examining the influence of piracy on modern retail architecture, and the ensuing development of new ideas."

This work was also informed by the issues surrounding tourism and travel, areas that Ben has a personal interest in, and which will be brought to bear on the Asia project: "I have a personal interest in the notions of travel, transit and tourism and its modes of representation, and I aim to further explore some of the ideas I have been developing in these areas as part of my degree and diploma work. This work has centred on the role of photography as a mode of representing travel, memory and architecture."

Ben emerged as a clear winner in the competition, winning plaudits from the RIBA President, Jack Pringle: "The RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship is inaugurated with an impressive research project which involves a student travelling from Pyongyang to Beijing, Shanghai, ChongQing, Guangzhou, Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City. Ben will use a travel journal and his design skills to describe and order a 'cultural experience' of communist cities in very different circumstances. I can barely wait to see the result."

The trip will take place during the summer break and will last two and a half months. On his return, Ben will present his findings at the 2007 RIBA President's Medals Students Awards exhibition. To find out more about the awards, use the link at the top of this article.