We began the Bryan Jefferson Prize for Excellence, in conjunction with the Sheffield School of Architecture back in 2016. Since then we have seen some extraordinary examples of up and coming architectural concept design. This year is no exception with the award going to Tobias Mackrill and Thomas Cunningham for their submission “Retain & Nurture Centre”
The Retention Centre was developed as a Joint Thesis project by Tobias Makrill and Thomas Cunningham over the past academic year. It sets out a powerful architectural vision to counteract the often hostile environment for migrants to European countries, and develops an alternative model. The architecture occupies a site within the San Siro neighbourhood of Milan, Italy, working within the remnants of a former building. The scale and ambition of the architectural intervention and social agenda is fantastic. Toby and Tom have explored how the building could change according to future political shifts, and how inhabitants will be protected accordingly. The building is designed as a city within a city, offering facilities that aim to transform the prospects and wellbeing for migrants.
The project concept:
Global mass migration has coincided with an unprecedented growth in support of far-right political parties in Italy. One of which, Lega Nord, uses hateful propaganda to advocate a nationalist and xenophobic stance towards immigration, leading to an unsustainable and potentially hostile situation. Lega Nord have plans to close Italy’s ports to rescue ships, repatriate half a million immigrants and build many more detention centres, facilities built to incarcerate and exploit the disenfranchised. It was through a direct reaction to this inhumanity that the concept of a Retention Centre was born. The Retention Centre seeks to nurture arrivals by granting them the facilities to overcome barriers to vital, resourceful and existential equality, such that they can make an informed, voluntary decision to remain. The project aims to foster the bilateral exchange of skills, experiences and cultures to emphasise how symbiosis between native and foreign populations will lead to mutual prosperity. Whilst acknowledging that a single building alone cannot solve a global crisis, we intend to use architectural design to communicate how a progressive and inclusive standpoint can influence wider political discourse.
The judges commented:
“Adopting a collaborative approach provided Tom and Toby with the opportunity to be in constant critical dialogue, to be more iterative, more efficient, and to support and learn from each other. This process has been instrumental in allowing them to develop a rich and sophisticated project that adopts a highly considered socio-political position that developed out of a response to the studio themes and their own research into site. The project successfully utilised digital, multimedia, hand drawing and model making to develop and refine a project that is materially and spatially sophisticated at all levels. The final outcome is an extraordinary body of work which highlights the benefits of mutual and joint working.”
Toby and Tom commented;
“We wanted to choose a studio brief that was addressing a current issue with a humanitarian agenda, so the crisis of global mass migration seemed the obvious choice. Additionally, working on a project in a different country has given us valuable experience in designing for a different context, climate, and with different construction methods.
We started working informally as pair during our fifth year as Collaborative Practice students and found that we had complimentary skill sets. During the joint thesis we certainly played to our strengths but at the same time we used the process as a mutual learning opportunity where we would teach each other. “
The Bryan Jefferson Prize for Excellence was created in partnership with the Sheffield School of Architecture to award the highest scoring fifth year student(s), posthumously following the passing of our co-founder. Having designed some of the city’s most striking architecture and having been a student and visiting professor at the school, the practice thought it fitting to continue his legacy by recognising emerging architectural talent.