Student Awards Reflections: Quality will come out of curiosity – Dale Smith and Michal Scieszka, 2012 winners

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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 2012 Dale Smith and Michal Scieszka, University of Strathclyde, Department of Architecture, were the winners of the A&DS Urban Design Award and A&DS Sustainable Design Award with their project Nordic Exodus: Moving Kiruna.

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

Dale Smith: I am working for McGinlay Bell in Glasgow, where I have been since January 2016, prior to which I worked for NORD Architecture.  I have been working on the development of 40 No. Units of Affordable Terraced Housing at Maryhill Locks through Workstages 2-6 which has recently completed on site, alongside which I have been working on the delivery of 2500 square metres of Grade A Office across five floors in a B Listed Georgian Terrace within the Blythswood Hill Conservation Area of Glasgow. The project is currently on site at RIBA Workstage 5 and due to complete this month.

Michal Scieszka: I am currently back home, in Poland, working in a medium-sized studio, but also on my own projects. I joined Allford Hall Monaghan Morris straight after University, back in 2012, and was working on a high-end residential project for The Crown Estate. In February 2014 I joined Stiff+Trevillion Architects, where I worked on various projects: residential / office / mixed-use. I also had the good fortune of being a project architect on a mixed-use project in the heart of Shoreditch, London – 62 Paul Street, up to my move back to Poland in September 2016.

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

DS: I was surprised but of course extremely happy to win these awards, along with my colleague Michal Scieszka, for the project we submitted, based in Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost city. My project partner Michal and myself focused on the unique situation in Kiruna where the city was being slowly destroyed by the very reason for is existence, an iron ore mine. We aimed to contextualise the New Kiruna, through the creation of a masterplan in which architectural landmarks were moved from the old city to the new, creating visual references, which the people of Kiruna could readily identify. The movement of the city was an opportunity, to further diversify the economy away from mining and to preserve historically and culturally important buildings, whilst allowing the addition of layered complimentary functionality.

MS: Dale and myself started our research on the submitted project during our Erasmus student exchange at Goteborg. By 2050 almost the entire city centre of Kiruna, and a large amount of housing, will be lost to the deformations from the city’s iron ore mine. We proposed a new city centre developed to the East of the current one, safe from effects of the mining.

Winning felt great, of course, although I think the judges comments, which were touching on aspects that are most important for us whilst designing, were most rewarding: ‘Social and urban sustainability issues are explored and addressed in this careful and intelligent project. While there is significant emphasis on the micro issues of sustainability in many contemporary projects, this scheme addresses the future of a community threatened by issues of ageing and natural wastage.’ and ‘Through independent thinking and sophisticated analysis this project gets it spot on!’

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

DS: Winning the A&DS Urban Design Award and the A&DS Sustainable Design Awards was of course a positive experience, and any of the A&DS awards is going to look attractive on your CV and help it stand out to potential employers.

MS: I think such recognition emphasised the seriousness of our research. I remember being told in my job interview at AHMM, that the senior housing project doesn’t look like another ‘paper-project’, but with a bit more work could actually be feasible. Again, this was more important for us than a pat on the back for producing pretty pictures.

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

DS: I would suggest it is important to step back from your project and try to think about how to best represent the most important ideas/themes to someone who has no prior knowledge of it. I definitely found this to be the hardest part, trying to present an abridged version of a full year’s work through small selected images and text.

MS: Your thesis is a year long research, spend it on something that excites you and is meaningful. Quality will come out of curiosity.

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.

Images: Main image (detail) from Student Award submission Nordic Exodus: Moving Kiruna by Michal Scieszka and Dale Smith.
Thumbnails: Details from projects Dale and Michal have worked on since leaving university. Left: Stiff and Trevillion Architects, Paul Street, London (Image courtesy of Stiff + Trevillion Architects) and McGinlay Bell, Maryhill Locks, Glasgow (Image by Dapple Photography).

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