“Outstanding research” of Manchester lecturer wins top award

21 Oct 2010

A senior lecturer from The University of Manchester has been given a prestigious award by the Royal Institute of British Architects for her anthropological research of architecture.

Dr Albena Yaneva, who has recently been appointed Co-Director of The Manchester Architecture Research Centre (MARC), was awarded the RIBA President’s award for outstanding university-located research for her study, An Ethnography of Architecture.

Dr Yaneva’s work explores the process of architectural design and investigates how new buildings emerge and how they change cultures and societies.

The findings are based on ethnographic observation and interviews at the Rotterdam based Office for Metropolitan Architecture, run by Rem Koolhaas.

She also used photo documentation on projects, archival materials and press clippings documenting the design of different OMA buildings.

The project results have been published in the form of two single-authored monographs.

Part of the School of Environment and Development and the Manchester School of Architecture, MARC researches how design, together with and socio-economic processes shape cities.

According to the judges, her research, adds a new and enjoyable perspective to the way we understand architectural processes.

Dr Yaneva is the Principle Investigator of the EU-funded project Mapping Architectural Controversies.

Professor Andrew Ballantyne, Chair of the judging panel, said: “The variety of work that the judges saw was matched by the entrants’ penetrating insights, and by the cultural and practical value of the results.

“The research is in every case the product of dogged tenacity, keeping the objectives in sight until the ideas have been tested and realized. The findings of the research are now available, and the rest of us can learn from them.”

Dr Yaneva said: “An Ethnography of Architecture tackles a well-spread myth in architectural research that invention happens in the head of a powerful creator.

“My work argues against such an understanding of the figure of the architect as a heroic genius by looking closely at the practice of an architect whose name is perhaps most covered by myths – Rem Koolhaas.

“I am delighted my work has been recognised in this way and thank everyone involved in making it come to fruition.”