Student Awards Reflections: Cultivate your creativity – Melissa Lawson, 2013 winner

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In the lead up to The A&DS and RIAS Scottish Student Awards for Architecture 2017 we got in touch with previous years’ winners to see what they were up to now, and what difference winning the award had made to their architectural career to date.

In 2013 Melissa Lawson, Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, won the RIAS Rowand Anderson Silver Medal for best 5th year student for her project on The Arctic Council – an exploration of designing at the Arctic’s water edge in Reykjavik, Iceland

Where are you now and what are you currently working on?

Melissa Lawson: Qualifying as an Architect in 2016, I currently work for 7N Architects in Edinburgh. Over the past 2 years at 7N, I have been involved in several large scale residential projects including the award winning India Quay project – 7N’s Residential-led mixed used development at Fountainbridge, Edinburgh.

I have also played a key role in the major residential development on the site of the former University of Strathclyde Jordanhill Campus in Glasgow which involves the refurbishment of listed buildings and proposed new-build apartments and townhouses, and I am currently engaged in the development of proposals for a 199-unit mid-market housing scheme at Salamander Place in Leith.

How did you feel about winning a student award for architecture, and can you describe the winning project? 

Winning The RIAS Rowand Anderson Silver Medal for my masters project – The Arctic Council – was a great achievement.  The project, located in Reykjavik, sought to unite the eight countries that lie at the edge of the northern temperate zone along the latitude 64° North through their common interests and aspirations for the survival of the North. The investigation was driven by my interest in designing places that convey the notion of ‘belonging to the North’ – a region focused around nature, light, materials and human senses.

What impact do you feel, winning the award has had on your career?

Winning the RIAS Rowand Anderson Silver Medal directly lead to many opportunities including working for internationally renowned practice – Foster + Partners on two main projects – The Battersea Roof Garden Project, London, from initial feasibility through planning consent, and the mixed-use Masterplan at Quartermile Edinburgh where I was part of the three-person architectural team based on site, delivering five residential buildings and one commercial building from detailed technical design through to completion.

Since winning the award I have also been able to combine my architectural career with working as a photographer in studios in Fife, Scotland and Osaka, Japan, as part of the Edinburgh College of Art Robert Callender international Artist in Residency Programme, producing two series of photographic works which aimed to question the relationship between architecture, space and nature. These experiences have brought a new perspective to my work as an Architect.

Reflecting back – what advice would you give to the students entering this and coming years’ awards?

Winning or being nominated for the RIAS Silver Medal is an great honour and my advice to any student would be to use the prestigious award as an opportunity to kick-start your career.  I have learnt that the work experiences gained in the first few years after university education will set your next goals and can directly influence your career path – work for studios you admire and engage in projects that will continue to strengthen your knowledge and cultivate your creativity.

The A&DS and RIAS Scottish Student Awards for Architecture 2017 take place on 13 July 2017 at Café Camino, Edinburgh. Find out more and book your free tickets here.

Main image (detail) from Melissa Lawson’s 2013 Student Award Submission The Arctic Council.

Image produced as part of the Edinburgh College of Art Robert Callender international Artist in Residency Programme. Photo Image Credit: Melissa Lawson

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