Nottingham architecture graduate wins prestigious RIBA President’s Bronze Medal

Zheng Kangli, a 2017 graduate of Nottingham’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment (DABE), has won this year’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) President’s Bronze Medal for his innovative project entitled Castle in the Sky.

Kangli is the first student from the University of Nottingham to win the top honour in the 181-year history of the RIBA President’s Medals Student Awards. He joins a distinguished list of successful graduates from Nottingham who have received commendations and adjacent awards in RIBA’s annual prize giving celebrations.

The RIBA President’s Bronze Medal is awarded to the best undergraduate design project. Kangli’s concept emerged triumphant from a strong field of 109 international entries after RIBA’s call for nominations was issued to 360 universities from 75 countries.

Kangli’s project focuses on densification by building in the territory above existing low-rise neighbourhoods, hence Castle in the Sky.

The project explores an alternative model for sustainable development in the capital and addresses key issues including overcrowding, the lack of affordable homes and the resurgence in interest in council housing following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The honour was announced at the President’s Medals ceremony at RIBA in London on 5th December where Kangli was presented with a traditional hand-engraved solid bronze medal from RIBA President Ben Derbyshire. A delighted Kangli said:

‘I am excited to have won the RIBA President’s Bronze Medal. I didn’t expect it so it came as a very welcome surprise.

‘I am grateful for my time at the University of Nottingham – it introduced me to the world of architecture and enabled me to draw inspiration from real life to inform my designs. The tutors were really nice and approachable and they helped me push my boundaries and grow in confidence. I loved exploring everything and they provided me with the support I needed.’

RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said:

‘Many congratulations to this year’s RIBA President’s Medals winners. The entries for this awards programme are always impressive and this year was no exception, with more entries than ever before. I am extremely pleased to see that the creativity and accomplished technique in the work of these budding architects is matched with a renewed ambition and focus on the important role that architecture plays in social betterment. The passion and intelligence with which these graduates address complex architectural briefs by drawing from personal experiences and involving those for whom their buildings are designed is achieved with remarkable rigour and commitment. I very much look forward to following their successful careers.’

Dr Robin Wilson, Head of DABE said:

‘Winning the RIBA President’s Medal is an outstanding achievement. I am delighted with Kangli’s accomplishment and I wish him every success. I was impressed not only by his exceptional design skills, which enabled him to develop sophisticated yet practical schemes, but also by his enthusiasm for learning.

‘I must also pay tribute to Alison Davies, the studio unit head who worked closely with Kangli to nurture his award winning project and David Short, the course director, who have been tireless in their efforts to pursue excellence in architectural education. Their dedication, combined with the diverse range of teaching and practical learning carried out by members of the Department, have enabled our students to flourish and enjoy the high quality learning experience they receive here. It gives me great pride to see our students making significant strides in architecture, environmental design and sustainable architecture, among other disciplines. Kangli’s triumph is one among several achievements and I look forward to seeing our students accomplish many more successes.’

Alison Davies said:

‘I am absolutely delighted for Kangli’s success on such a prestigious, international stage. His project Castle in the Sky is both boldly imaginative and underpinned by rigorous research. It addresses a pressing concern of our times – the housing crisis – and proves architecture can be a platform for advocacy.

David Short added:

‘Kangli fully deserves his award – it is a tremendous achievement for the work that is produced by our undergraduate students, supported by a dedicated team of tutors, to be recognised in this way. This success comes after the award of a Commendation two years ago. The Bronze Medal Award is perhaps the most prestigious award in the world that acknowledges the best undergraduate design work from any UK school of architecture and those validated by the RIBA worldwide.’

Kangli graduated with a first class degree and is now working in London as an Architectural Assistant at Gensler, the architecture, design and consulting firm, where he is responsible for creating various concepts and carrying out projects around structural developments.