For the second consecutive year, a University of Ulster graduate has won the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) top prize for a postgraduate project. The coveted silver medal goes annually to the winner of the RSUA competition which is open to all postgraduate architectural students in Northern Ireland.
Chris Quinn from Cookstown, who graduated last summer with a Masters of Architecture degree, is now employed as a graduate architect with Belfast firm, White Ink Architects.
He overcame stiff competition from other contenders to take the prestigious prize with his contemporary design for a new Cultural Institute in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens.
Chris explains how his winning design was inspired by Belfast’s distinctive physical landscape and Victorian parks.
“Belfast is framed between the mountains, the river and the sea and many of the parks are either socially divided or simply neglected and under-used. The aim of my project was to unlock the potential of Botanic Gardens by transforming it into a Cultural Park.
With the existing presence of several cultural buildings already in the park or on the edges of it such as the Ulster Museum to the north and the Lyric Theatre to the south, the proposed site acts as a fulcrum in which the experience of the park pivots around.
The spatial and landscape experience of the park and its connections within the city then seeks to pull people deeper into the park and to create a new sense of activity and landscape at this critical location.
"The programme is for a new Contemporary Institute of Culture (CIC) which aims to contextualise the Social History of Belfast: old and new, by questioning how such things as ‘Conflict’ can be set with other strands such as ‘Creativity’, 'Cultural' and ‘The Contemporary’
Chris said the unique structure of the M Arch programme at Ulster allows students to express themselves freely while exploring their own personal affinities.
“The small department meant that the interaction with the excellent tutors and fellow students keep me inspired. Being around other students from different Art and Design courses at the Belfast campus is also beneficial. You learn different representation techniques that you may not normally be exposed to.
Congratulating Chris on his success, Paul Clarke, Ulster's M Arch course director and Chris’s tutor said members of the judging panel, which included two external judges, were impressed by the exceptional standard of this year’s entries.
“Chris’s project was highly innovative in the way it considered the concept of a Contemporary Institute of Culture located in a new Culture Park next to the Ulster Museum. It was carefully and imaginatively considered at every level of detail with a wide range of beautifully made models and drawings.
"Chris approached every aspect of his design thesis with great passion and energy which was inspiring to us all. After last year’s success at the RSUA medals event when Ulster University took both the Silver and Bronze medals in architecture, it is great to see the quality of our students recognised again in this way, with another silver medal for M Arch at the Belfast School of Architecture at the University of Ulster."