The winner of the SOM Foundation’s inaugural European Research Prize has been announced. A team from Central Saint Martins College, University of the Arts, London will use the 20,000 Euro prize to conduct research that contributes to the Foundation’s theme for this year, “Envisioning Responsible Relationships with Materiality.”
The European Research Prize was established in 2021 as an expansion of the US-based Research Prize program. The initiative calls for new ideas and meaningful research that address the critical issues of our time. This year’s topic tasked participants to explore our relationship with materials, of all scales, and the ways in which designers and researchers can form more sustainable, responsible, and ethical relationships with them and the communities they come from.
The winning project “Constructive Land,” led by Paloma Gormley and Summer Islam, examines the future of the British landscape in the context of the climate crisis. The country’s fertile landscape is constrained by the forces of farming, woodland, and housing, all of which must be reimagined to make way for a post-carbon future. Their research looks at the potential of agroforestry to develop arable farming alongside productive woodland and explores what materials and building systems can be drawn from a new model of regenerative land management.
The team will investigate and test new types of biobased materials drawn from conventionally “unproductive” woodland material. In addition, an experimental timber structure that will host teaching and community engagement with the woodlands will be designed and built by a group of 30 MArch students over the summer of 2022. The project will be developed in partnership with forest management organization Forestry England and non-profit sustainable design and research organization Material Cultures, in which Gormley and Islam are founding directors.
The jury was led by SOM Foundation Executive Director Iker Gil and included Marco Ferrari (Cofounder of Studio Folder, Milan), Kent Jackson (Partner of SOM, London and Secretary of the SOM Foundation), Tim Marlow (Chief Executive and Director of the Design Museum, London), Débora Mesa Molina (Principal of Ensamble Studio, Boston and Madrid), and Sumayya Vally (Founder and Principal of Counterspace, Johannesburg).
“Constructed Land is an impressive mixture of practical and academic research,” said Marlow. “It is genuinely collaborative, bringing together three diverse partners to examine the possibilities of a new regenerative model for land management in the context of both the climate emergency and the housing crisis. I very much look forward to seeing the implementation of the project over the next year.”
Gormley and Islam are now expected to collaborate with students, faculty, and leaders from various disciplines to pursue their research. They will be required to document their findings and develop suggestions for application to professional practice.
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