Student awards 2021: interview with Rachel Dunne

an architectural drawing in beige and light blue showing a market place with access to wells
Published: 22/10/2021

At the A&DS and RIAS Student Awards for Architecture 2021, Rachel Dunne was awarded both the Architecture and Design Scotland Sustainable Design Award and Architecture and Design Scotland Sustainable Design Award. We interviewed her to discuss her winning project "Paradise Pomegranate: walls, wells & selling" and her plans for the future.

Tell us a little about yourself

I grew up in Edinburgh and graduated this summer from the Master’s programme after six years at ESALA and an eight-month period working in Berlin. After a couple of months to recharge over the summer, I moved down to London to start working at Hawkins\Brown.  

About your project

I studied Ahmedabad and developed this thesis over the two years of my Master’s degree which gave me an opportunity to engage deeply with the themes. At the start of the programme, I worked alongside Lily Gonlag and De Rui Lee and we began conceptually from explorations and drawings of pomegranate fruits – sometimes at a 5:1 scale – from which emerged an architectural language of skins, seeds, membranes & flesh.

In January 2020 we were lucky enough to visit India for three weeks which was invaluable – the vividness, colourfulness, and density of the city can only be experienced fully in person. The topics took on a new pertinence in January this year with the announcement of new agricultural laws in India and the Farmers Strikes.

The thesis mediates between three main themes: reconstructing the deteriorating historical city walls and stepwells; hypothesising how a centralised fruit network could enrich the social and economic lives of the city, and to build in a way that was both of the place and adaptable to how it might grow.

Our studio encouraged us to approach design sensitively and develop sustainable methodologies through considering architecture as a complex interaction of people, climate, history, and place.

Studying during lockdown

Studying under lockdown was a huge shift from our normal methods of working in the studio and I think our whole studio missed the in-person collaboration and discussion.  On the one hand, everything became digital, but I found myself subconsciously combatting this with more hand models and hand drawing that I had done in previous years as an escape from the screen. However, the new method of working also developed new skills - film making, interactive drawings, and virtual exhibitions.

"The judges were impressed by the sensitive response, clearly reflecting a depth of understanding and knowledge of Ahmedabad’s Old City. The design worked effectively across different scales – the strategic, city-scale as well as a finer-grain human scale. The images were evocative, especially the step wells and the pomegranate marketplaces bridging the old city walls. Truly outstanding work by the student."


Judges' comments (Architecture and Design Scotland Urban Design Award)

Studying architecture in Scotland

I loved studying architecture in Scotland - albeit rose-tinted glasses have already started to blur all the hard work! I feel like there is a really strong sense of community and identity in Scottish architecture and the way that we built is sensitive to the environment that we live in.

I feel lucky to work in a profession where the skills we have and the work we do really have an impact to positively influence people who interact with the buildings.

"An outstanding response that shows how sustainability can work at a detailed level to wider strategic considerations. The project mended the city walls, re-established the stepwells and introduced an infrastructure for a centralised fruit network. The project makes use of the high levels of rainfall during the monsoon season by collecting water to provide a network of storage, reusing and natural cooling."


Judges' comments for Architecture and Design Scotland Sustainable Design Award