Paradise Pomegranate: Walls, Wells & Selling – Rachel Dunne (Student Awards 2021 in Focus)

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As part of the A&DS and RIAS Student Awards for Architecture 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 and her plans for the future.

Tell us a little about yourself

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


Tell us about your award-winning project

I studied Ahmedabad and developed this thesis over the two years of my Masters degree which gave 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, 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 which 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.

The full project can be viewed here. 

How has studying under lockdown felt?

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, 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 for Architecture and Design Scotland Urban Design Award

What is it like 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 environment that we live in.


What are your plans for the future / what are you working on now?

I am now working full time and hopefully will begin my Part 3 sometime next year. A world away from pomegranate markets, I have gained a lot of insight into the profession. It is already clear that collaboration and teamwork is one of the most important aspects to success. I use the skills I developed over the past six years every day.


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

An outstanding response which 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


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