Students win international Barcelona 2011 prize for Architecture

5 May 2011

University of Sydney Master of Architecture students Marinel Dator and Katie Yeung win first prize in the Barcelona 2011 international architecture competition, beating 500 other entries.

The challenge for the competition consisted of designing a 100m tall, 'zero-ecological impact' tower-hostel that would create a new landmark for Barcelona opposite the city's Museum of Contemporary Art designed by renowned architect Richard Meier.

That this was a competition for professional architects (students could enter if accompanied by academic staff) makes the students' win even more remarkable. The winning entrants receive a $3500 prize and a trip to Barcelona. This was Marinel and Katie's first collaborative project together, and they had only six weeks from their initial design brief in March before submitting their proposal in mid April.

The design brief for the competition was incorporated into the Master of Architecture's Sustainable Architecture Research Studio. Daniel Ryan, the studio co-ordinator, indicated that "we encourage students to participate in architectural competitions as we hope that the public and private sector in New South Wales will start to recognise the value of competitions for both the commissioning of avant-garde architecture and the support of a new generation of architectural practice." The design brief was preceded by an introductory lecture on Barcelona's history and architecture by Dr Ursa Komac and Dr Pablo Guillen, jointly hosted by the Instituto Cervantes, Sydney.

Marinel Dator and Katie Yeung's design, titled 'The Hanging Cloud: Lightweight Living for Barcelona' incorporates a reinterpretation of Gaudi's inverted hanging model, with the tower broken down into light suspended elements. The external facade is eliminated to create a physically and visually permeable form. "We developed a concept that created something aesthetically and spatially unique, and ran with it. We made sure that the clarity of the concept was strong and never lost during the process," said Marinel

The design utilises locally produced terracotta columns to collect and preserve water at a constant temperature to create thermal comfort, and vibro-wind panels on the columns and pods to capture wind vibrations to create energy.

The students, who balance work at architectural firms (Marinel works at Bates Smart and Katie works at Patrick O'Carrigan & Partners) with full-time studies, put an enormous amount of work into the project. "We each spent about 20 hours per week working on this design" estimated Marinel, adding that "the idea of winning the prize at the end was a big incentive, but actually winning feels surreal. Both of us have received a lot of support from our employers and peers, not just for this project but throughout the whole Masters program."

"It was a lot of work but we enjoyed it. It became almost addictive," added Katie. "We could see presentations used for previous awards, so we had a precedent for the high standard we had to aim towards. It was not just the architectural design we had to get right but how you present it graphically."

Architecture students normally present their work in 'crits' where they discuss, and justify, their work to a judging panel. This was not a possibility for this competition so the single image design had to do all the explanation.

The fact that the students have beaten 500 other entries from around the world is a testament to their skill and the learning environment of the faculty. Marinel and Katie's and work was first assessed by panel of academics and practitioners including Adrian Carter, John de Manincor and Sarah Benton as one of four student projects that were selected for entry into the competition.

The tutors for the studio were Daniel Ryan, Allison Earl and Associate Professor Glen Hill and consultants Su-Fern Tan, Matt Markham-Lee and Prof Max Irvine.

Marinel and Katie will leave for Barcelona in early June for an awards ceremony. It will be both winners' first visit not only to Barcelona but also to Europe.

Contact: John Elliott

Phone: 02 9351 7591

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