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The RSUA (Royal Society of Ulster Architects) recently hosted its Architecture Night 2023, with Ulster University student Rian McMahon collecting the Silver Medal Award, which is the highest accolade bestowed on the best students from Northern Ireland’s two architectural schools for their project submissions.

The awards are recognised as the leading architecture awards in Northern Ireland and are held annually with the winners of the RSUA Bronze and Silver Medals revealed on the night. This year’s Architecture Night awards were presented by RSUA President Paul McAlister, with help from host BBC’s Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson.

The award judges were Karen Crilly, Principal Architect, Department of Justice and Paul McAlister, RSUA President, who started the evening’s proceedings with the announcement of the Best in School awards for undergraduate students from Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast, followed by the overall winner of the RSUA Bronze Medal.

The Best in School awards for postgraduate students from Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast were then announced followed by the overall winner of the RSUA Silver Medal, with Rian McMahon, who is a final year Final Year Master of Architecture (M Arch) student, walking away with the coveted award.

Rian’s project for a Yeats’ Creative Institute in Sligo was titled ‘Sligo: Can the landscape presence save the townland expansion?’

Rian is the third student to win the RSUA silver medal in the WaterLands SuperStudio since the vertical teaching studios started in 2019.

On hearing news of Rian’s award, Professor Paul Clarke, Professor of Architectural Design, Belfast School of Architecture and the Built Environment, said:

“I am absolutely delighted in Rian’s success in winning the RSUA Silver medal for 2023. His commitment, creative energy and passion for architecture has been evident through all the years of his study with us, right back to when he was a first year in our WaterLands Studio. This year in his thesis project he was able to weave in an extraordinary way, both his practice-based dissertation study on painting and architecture with the ambition of his design project which was all about reinforcing the importance of the arts in both regenerating places and as fundamental to our whole quality of life and wellbeing.

“His project for a Yeats’ Creative Institute in Sligo, located right on the edge of the sea with the forces and raw beauty of the Atlantic as witness, was about bringing artists, writers, painters and actors together in close collaboration akin to the famous Black Mountain College. The project brief he developed was about celebrating and recognising the inspiration and legacy of the whole Yeats family including Jack as both a painter and writer and WB’s two sisters who are often overlooked. The project is part of our cross-border collaboration with the Yeats Academy of ATU in Sligo, who have joined us in discussions, lectures and reviews over the last two years.

“Rian’s ambitious project was also critically about a major sustainability approach in transforming a landfill site into a major public park in which his building was located. This site had historically been polluting the water by seeping refuse out to sea. The relationship of the project to the history of its context: cultural and physical, the opening up of the waterfront land again to public use by regenerating what was polluted ground, made for a remarkable project which was accordingly recognised by the judges of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects.”

Another Architecture student Lars Pedersen was also named the ‘Best in School’ for Ulster University in the Bronze medal category.