Jonathan Speirs Scholarship Fund – 2017/18 Winners Announced

The Trustees of the Jonathan Speirs Scholarship Fund are delighted to announce that once again this year there are two winners for the 2017/18 award. The recipients are Katie Corr of Queen’s University, Belfast and Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer, currently a student of the University of Michigan.

Katie Corr

Katie is currently a Masters student at Queen’s University, Belfast. Her passion lies in rediscovering the ‘alchemy of light’, a term she uses to describe a rich understanding of how light evokes mood and influences the experience of space – something she feels has been lost in our obsession over light levels and performance. Her exploration has involved modelling a scene from a seminal Ingmar Bergman film, in an effort to deconstruct the lighting composition, distilling the relationships that produce the mies-en-scene and give the film such character. She has studied the work of James Turrell and Luis Barragán and the way in which they carefully control light and use it to manage the effect of a space on people. This work has then informed the design of a small concert hall, and a lamp to be used within it; both with a strong focus on the experience of light. Her final thesis concerns the design of a music school centred on light, landscape and views, sited on the north coast of Ireland where the light is grey and even.

Katie plans to use her scholarship to help with the costs of completing her Masters, and in particular to create the models necessary to portray her ideas of the project.

Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer

Azadeh is a PhD student at the University of Michigan. She has a focus on architecture that is highly integrative in design and performance, and her studies focus on how we can improve our approach to daylighting design, to balance occupant comfort and interest with sustainability concerns.

Her Masters thesis was completed at Harvard University, using advanced modelling technologies such as computational fluid dynamics and a 5-axis robotic arm and castings to create integrated ornamental façade designs that increase indoor daylighting. Her techniques showed a 35% reduction in energy use compared to ASHRAE standards, and her paper won the Daniel L. Shodek Award for Technology and Sustainability at the GSD.

For her doctoral work, Azadeh’s perspective has shifted to people: exploring the relationship between the objective quantifiable characteristics of daylight and the occupant’s subjective visual impressions. Her first step was to use the Conceptual Cognitive Content Mapping technique to understand what aspects of natural light are important to people. She then developed a new simulation method to calculate the annual spatial luminance distribution through building facades without the need for HDR renderings, and applied this to several buildings across diverse climatic settings. In the next phase, the use of HDR renderings and Virtual Reality will be used to gain insight into the effect of the light distribution in these buildings on people’s impressions. This subjective information will be compared against the measured data to see how it has performed. This comparison has the potential to generate valuable insight that could aid the design of façades in the future, ensuring that we balance consideration for people with reducing energy use.

Azadeh plans to use the scholarship to travel to visit the buildings she has modelled as part of her work, to gain further perspective in comparing the simulated results with the actual physical environments.

John Roake, Chairman of the JSSF commented:

“This year the other Trustees of the Jonathan Speirs Scholarship Fund and I wanted to broaden our ability to assist potential scholars. The additional generous support we have received from our Benefactors, Sponsors and Contributors has allowed us once again to award two scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year.

We were delighted and impressed by the exceptionally high standard of nominations that were received from the many schools of architecture who contacted us. A broad range of students, all at different stages of their courses, applied. All had an amazingly wide range of interests and experiences. We were also encouraged to see that candidates were being nominated not only by schools that have contacted us before but also from a wider geographical spread.

There were some particularly glowing reports from the tutors that accompanied the submissions this year which made shortlisting the candidates all the more interesting. Despite the extremely strong competition we are happy to choose one worthy student from Queen’s University Belfast: Katie Corr and another from the University of Michigan: Azadeh Omidfar Sawyer. Whilst they come from different approaches, both scholars have that ‘special something’ we are always looking to find in the way they expressed their passion for light and architecture coupled with a clear financial need.

We therefore heartily congratulate Katie and Azadeh and their respective institutions on being awarded the JSSF scholarships this year and look forward to following their future development and career progress.”

Our award relies on the generosity of a number of companies and individuals. Our pledge was that we would make a minimum of one award each year until 2023. We would therefore once again like to appeal to companies, professional practices and individuals who knew Jonathan Speirs, or who have benefitted from his incredible insight into light and architecture, to continue to help us to support and nurture talented students in this field.

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