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Showcase 2023 Student Spotlight: Nicky Dawson

Student Spotlight featuring BArch (Hons) Architecture student, Nicky Dawson and her Final Year project.

Sketch of a library surrounded by trees

The project

The Laboratory of Food Research directly addresses these issues of unbalanced, processed diets and unsustainable methods of producing food by providing a center for research and education into sustainable methods of food production, such as precision fermentation, and nutrition and balanced diets.

The complexities of the food industry and humans’ relationship to food can be compared to the complexities of the Green’s Windmill site which has great topographical challenges, being drastically sloped up towards the north of the site, and boasts an abundance of mature trees.

Whilst the steep topography is gradually revealed as one travels down the site, acting as a metaphor for revealing the truth about food and nutrition, the trees also play an instrumental role in determining the form and aesthetics of the design, using their canopies to create a journey through the site.

The design reacts to the complexities of modern diets and of the site, resulting in a simple, balanced architectural composition. The idea of balance is carried through the rest of the campus, providing facilities for visitors and employees to plant, cook, rest, learn and exercise, resulting in a balanced, healthy lifestyle.

The food-centered focus of the campus is a nod to the history of Green’s Windmill on the site which has been producing flour for the local community since the 19th Century.

The materiality of the design also acknowledges and respects the importance of the site through the use of timber, embodying the surroundings of mature trees; red brick, mirroring the structure of the windmill; copper, echoing the traditional red brick of the windmill; and glass, providing transparency and clarity of the surrounding views.

The inspiration behind the project

The Laboratory of Food Research emerged from the problems of the modern population living off an ultra-processed diet, endlessly deceived into believing they are eating ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ foods, resulting in increasingly unbalanced diets with major voids in nutrition. Not only is this unhealthy and unsustainable for the health of the population but also for the planet we inhabit. The way food is currently made and distributed will not only reduce the life expectancy of the population but of the planet itself.

I have really enjoyed working on this project all the way from researching around the topic of Food & Community to develop a concept for the design to designing the fine details of the design. The topic of food and a balanced diet and lifestyle is very relevant today and something I am very curious about which has made is a very exciting project to work on. I have found working with the same tutor throughout the entire process very helpful as they really get to understand your project and come on the journey with you.
Sketch of trees

Being part of NTU

Nicky has thoroughly enjoyed her time at NTU, especially her second and third years as her first year was largely online so not as immersive of an experience. However, during her second and third years she have really enjoyed working in the studio with everyone else on the course as this really inspires you and encourages your creativity. During her time at NTU she has developed a lot of skills from hand drawing to learning how to use CAD software’s, but in particular she has really developed her hand model making skills which she find a really effective way to visualize and understand designs as well as highlighting and solving any problems.

Nicky's most memorable moment in terms of studying architecture at NTU has been the trip to Switzerland in her third year with the whole course. This was a really great experience, as they had the chance to experience lots of incredible architecture and it allowed her to get to know the people on the course more and made new friends as a result.

Closing remarks

To anyone looking to study architecture at NTU I would say it is a great course where you get to learn lots of new skills which are very useful not only for a career in architecture but also highly transferable to related careers. I would also say it is hard work but very rewarding and the most important thing if you are studying architecture is to try and not be a perfectionist, not overthink things and just go for it.

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