Student Awards Reflections: An exciting opportunity to educate others – Gabriela Mill and Ryan Canning, winners in 2016.

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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 2016 Ryan Canning and Gabriela Mill, students at the University of Strathclyde, Department of Architecture, won the A&DS Sustainable Design Awards for their project The Copiapó Brine Network – La Cinta Verde, Chile.

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

Gabriela Mill: I currently work in the Edinburgh branch of HTA Design, a practice specialising in housing and regeneration. Since joining the practice I have primarily worked on Greenford Green in Ealing, London, which once built will be one of the largest private rent sector schemes in the UK. I am interested to see the impact that the scale of the scheme will have on the build to rent market in the UK.

Ryan Canning: I’m currently living in Glasgow, and working at Holmes Miller Architects. I’m primarily working in the education team and am currently involved in a project for the design and construction of three new primary schools in Arbroath. I’ve been involved in the design of the new website that will be launched soon, and have also participated in various design competitions with colleagues. We recently received a commendation in the GIA’s Midsteeple Quarter Ideas Competition in Dumfries, for example.

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

GM: The project was a joint investigation into the critical issue of fresh water scarcity in Atacama region of Chile, concluded through the proposal of a water infrastructure network connected by a series of landscape interventions. The proposed network was physically very simple in form and construction, but had complexity in the interconnected cycles of material, energy, and user interaction. Myself and my project partner Ryan were extremely flattered to be considered for the award in amongst the high caliber of projects in Scotland, and were even more delighted for the project to be recognised for its sustainable agenda.

RC: My project partner Gabriela and myself were delighted to have won it. We entered the A&DS Urban Design category, but ultimately won the A&DS Sustainable Design Award. Urban design wasn’t necessarily a key driver in project but given the extreme nature of the Atacama desert, sustainability played a huge role in our process. We were pleased that this came through and was recognised by the panel.

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

GM: It was a fantastic feeling to find that others share your enthusiasm for ideas that you have worked so closely with over two semesters, particularly when it is your last student project. Receiving that recognition at a pivotal moment between study and practice has provided me with a lot of encouragement, and I hope to carry that with me through into my career.

RC: I think in general employers and peers have a certain respect for these awards. It can often be difficult to quickly communicate ideas and projects in a portfolio format, and in some ways having that extra distinction gives it an immediate sense of credibility that will make people want to dig a little deeper. In that way, I feel it definitely had an advantage when applying for jobs.

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

GM: I would say to try your best and enjoy the year, as difficult as it may seem! The more open nature of the brief in the final year is a great chance for students to explore ideas and representation more freely than in previous years of study. I think it’s also important to think about your chosen project theme beyond the architecture school studio, and consider how aspects of your work during that year could create specific opportunities in the future.

RC: It’s great that the entrants this year will be given a public platform to present and discuss their ideas. I think it’s a shame that student work in general doesn’t reach a wider audience, given that in university we study specific aspects of architecture in such great detail, in a way that often the professional world doesn’t. For that reason, I think the students should see it as an exciting opportunity to educate others about their work.


Image: Detail from GIA’s Midsteeple Quarter Ideas Competition in Dumfries, Credit: Ryan Canning.

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.

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