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Aspiring Architect wins prestigious industry awards

11th April 2024

An Architecture student at Northumbria University recently achieved a series of industry accolades for a community-based project focused on reviving and regenerating a town in Leeds.

Sara Hurley, who is in the final year of Northumbria University’s Architect degree apprenticeship programme, has won two influential architecture industry awards and has been recognised for her academic excellence in two other award schemes.

She won the esteemed Glover Prize at the Northern Architectural Association’s Hadrian Awards for her project, Reviving Chapeltown which was inspired by her hometown in Leeds. This builds on the success of previous degree apprenticeship students who have also taken home the award.

Her project utilises architecture through place making, to heal and unite a community which has been neglected and struggled through displacement and historic crime.

Place making refers to the relationship between places and people and looks at how public spaces can be transformed to improve an area. Reviving Chapeltown focuses on creating a safe space and sense of community for the people who live there.

Caption: Sara Hurley's 'Reviving Chapeltown' project plan

Sara explained her project, saying: “Chapeltown has so much potential but is at risk of losing its cultural significance through gentrification - which often forgets about the people who call it ‘home’ and leaves them behind as an area develops. I recognised the opportunity to create something which the people there could benefit from, so I focused on regeneration and making Chapeltown beautiful again.

“The purpose of Reviving Chapeltown was to help minority groups prosper in their hometown, giving them a safe space to gather and creating opportunities for them to grow. It goes beyond the actual architecture. I’m passionate about places and the people they serve, which is the epitome of this project. Chapeltown is a career inspiration for me, and I hope to continue using my skills as an architect to empower communities.

“This award is so meaningful to me because it gives recognition to the people who make up the community and the struggles they face. It shines a light on an important aspect of architecture which is often not talked about – how architecture can help people.”

Along with winning the Glover Prize for her Reviving Chapeltown project, Sara also won the GT3 Architects’ People and Place Award, was ‘highly commended’ at the RIBA North East Student Prize and was nominated for the national Architects’ Journal Student Prize.

Peter Holgate, Associate Professor in Architecture and Built Environment at Northumbria University and Sara’s personal tutor said: “The Northern Architectural Association has been instrumental in support for architectural students and graduates from Northumbria University with the Hadrian Awards, and particularly the Glover Prize. Sara’s extensive research into place making has been coupled with personal engagement with the Leeds Community Foundation, reflecting her personal values and beliefs. Her proposals celebrate Chapeltown's history and diversity, themes that are close to Sara's heart and we are very pleased with her recent award wins.

“Sara has exemplified best practice in critical experiential learning, applying her knowledge, skills and behaviours towards successful professional and academic development. She has underpinned her design process with continual research and testing, framing architecture as a socially-beneficial profession that seeks better outcomes for deprived populations.”

Caption: Sara Hurley, Architecture student and Peter Holgate, Associate Professor in Architecture and Built Environment at Northumbria University

Sara, who has one year remaining on her course, works at Associated Architects, an architectural firm based in Leeds, who have funded her degree apprenticeship.

David Bingham, Associate Director at Associate Architects, said: “Sara has been a superb addition to our team. She has been involved in multiple projects at all RIBA stages. With Associated Architect's broad sector base and involvement from design to delivery, we have been able to give Sara exposure to a huge range of experience. She can now start to consider the sort of projects and work that she enjoys, and begin to focus on developing her career while completing her course at Northumbria.”

Find out more about the Architect Degree Apprenticeship and experiential learning at Northumbria University.

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