University of Western Australia student Abel Feleke won the 2016 RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Scholarship. First launched as a biennial program in 2006, RIBA awarded the £6,000 scholarship to one student to fund international research on a topic and location of the student's choice. The prize then grew even more competitive in 2009 when Foster + Partners donated an extra £100,000, enabling the scholarship to be awarded every year.
Chaired by architect Norman Foster, the scholarship jury also included Julia Barfield (Marks Barfield Architects); RIBA President Jane Duncan; Professor Flora Samuel (University of Reading); and Stefan Behling, Spencer de Grey, and Piers Heath of Foster + Partners.
“A slum is not a chaotic collection of structures; it is a dynamic collection of individuals who have figured out how to survive in the most adverse of circumstances,” Abel Feleke quotes from Kalpana Sharma in his winning proposal titled, “Weaving the Urban Fabric: Examining the Significance of Community”.
Feleke plans on traveling to China, India, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mexico and Brazil to learn about the intricate social networks in the informal settlements in those countries, as well as the vital sense of community that keep those communities together. The topic is timely as ever, as architects worldwide address how cities can provide sufficient housing for booming urban populations.
“The study of informal settlements was a widespread theme, with the sites of investigation ranging from cities in developing countries to refugee camps,” Norman Foster stated. “Abel Feleke’s proposal was unanimously chosen as the winning entry due to its clarity of purpose and unique approach – looking at these dense urban communities as a network of social relations.”
Also, the jury highly commended the proposal “Mapping In-Betweenness: A multi-disciplinary study of transient refugee camps” by Seyedeh Tahmineh Hooshyar Emami from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. She won a camera to help her document and investigate how architects should respond to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.
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