Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some Nottingham questions answered

Manhattan Sky Podium, winners of the Public's Choice for
the Isover 2011 award at Ecobuild
29 Mar '11: We recently had a set of questions from the University of Nottingham Press office, who want to write up the story of the success of our students in achieving high places in the Isover 2011 contest. They asked us a number of questions, so that they can extract some quotations.

Here are our answers in full, jointly written by DNC and Phil:

Q. Nottingham had 7 out of 8 finalists and all 3 of the eventual winning teams - what does this say about the quality of the teaching we offer and the standard of students we have?
A. We run the world’s first dedicated Masters course and qualification focused on Sustainable Tall Building Architecture. With the teaching skills and time commitment we feed into this, we would have been surprised if we had not performed well – for our University to win all three prizes is fantastic. We are extra-happy that all of our students were recognised at some level in the competition – either as finalists or highly commended. We always remember that it is our students who do the work when ink has to be applied to paper, and we get a thrill seeing such excellent designs being produced. We are confident that this will be a great lift for them in their future working careers. It is a great honour for a student from overseas to find themselves representing the United Kingdom in an international competition of such high profile.

Q. Are you confident that the students' designs will stand up to the international competition they will face in May?
A. We apply the Olympian ideal that it is a wonderful experience just to be taking part in such distinguished company - if we win a medal or two that will be a great achievement. The Central European teams, with their longstanding knowledge of Passive House concepts have dominated the Isover competition for years. We have done additional work between March and May to strengthen our entries and give the students the best possible chance. The skyscrapers in the Isover competition are an attempt to define a new standard for Passivhaus at high altitude. They have systems enabling them to operate without boiler rooms, or any burning of fossil fuel - entirely heated by passive gain and by stored solar heat, captured in summer and delivered in winter. We hope that our student’s pedigree of knowledge in tall building design, and the expertise we can offer them, will help give us a winning edge in Prague.

Q. With the High Rise Architecture Studio at Nottingham do you think the future of skyscraper design will come out of Nottingham?
A. We have been teaching high-rise architecture at Nottingham for some nine years now, and over this time the Department of Architecture and Built Environment has gained the reputation as a centre of excellence in the subject internationally. Not only is the subject taught at a Masters level within the department, but increasing is being researched by students at a PhD level. Our students are developing new design strategies, architectural philosophies, facades, components, systems and more for the sustainable skyscrapers of the future.
   In the current era of climate change, energy famine and population growth, sustainability has become a primary design driver, and this applies to all aspects of urban habitat. Glassy air-conditioned developer-led blocks are not our game. ‘Sustainable’ is the first word in the title of our Masters course, and this concept predominates in our studio projects. We view the role of our unit as a ‘design research team’, exploring the difficult challenges architects will face in years to come. This should lead to enlightenment of these future professionals and give them the courage to apply these ideas in their country. We teach students to respond to climatic issues, even in very hot, humid or very cold climates; we expect them to understand urban context, seeing their work as part of the ‘bigger picture’ of the urban habitat, transportation, population and economy. In locations like Singapore and Hong Kong, mixed-use tall buildings are a necessity due to land shortage - and high rise is a normal pattern of living. We expect them to understand local culture, the notions of extended family, privacy, community and religious groupings. We trust that our graduates will take this wide ranging idea of sustainability into their future careers as architects all over the globe. Although we still produce designs the like of which have never been built, the visionary approach in our work has to be the future of tall buildings, and we are seeing many of these concepts appearing in modern examples in Asia, Europe and even in the United States.
   All of our work is archived and publicised on the CTBUH website, and plays its part in opinion-forming in the future design of urban centres. For more information, please see the CTBUH website:

See the Nottingham University final Press release about the Isover competition (not forgetting that there is still another stage to go!)

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