Studying in autumn 2020 during coronavirus

MDX Living Pavilion nominated for Guardian University Award for Teaching Excellence

18/03/2020
Scheme gave students opportunity to work on every stage of a construction project on campus, and offers practice-based learning across disciplines

The Living Pavilion, a flagship MDX project to promote innovation, practice-based learning and collaboration through a sustainable construction on campus has been shortlisted for a Guardian University Award in the ‘Teaching Excellence’ category.

The winner will be announced later this year. MDX is vying with two other universities, Huddersfield and The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama for the prize.

Architectural Technology BSc students worked alongside contractors and MDX's Estates department on every aspect of the project including internal financial processes, site logistics and health and safety, throughout the project lifecycle from planning through design development to delivery and completion. The Pavilion will evolve in future: students are currently designing a flexible enclosure for the space.

With the help of construction professionals and materials specialists, the students designed the 70 m² sustainable Pavilion integrating adaptive technologies and using bio- and waste-based materials including organic refuse biocompound (Orb) and mycelium, a biodegradable fungal material. Students were fully responsible for designing elements and sourcing materials for either the superstructure or the substructure.

The project provided practice-based learning opportunities to other disciplines. BA Photography students captured the construction process, BA TV Production students have used it as a set and backdrop to prepare a promotional video, and a competition ran across all University courses to design the ceiling panels and signage artwork. BA Graphic Design students worked this term on preparing marketing material for an official launch event. MDX academics in the Sustainable Development Research Cluster have been invited to contribute ideas for the use of the Pavilion for Barnet's Digital Green Corridor project. The Pavilion has also been used for a wide range of activities, from induction programmes to yoga to art classes.

Senior Lecturer in Construction Architecture and BIM Homeira Shayesteh is the Architectural Lead and coordinator of the Pavilion scheme, Senior Lecturer in Construction Architecture and BIM Tong Yang, who originally conceived the idea of a construction project on campus in 2016 is the Engineering Lead. Their vision was to create a real-world practice-based learning experience, championing innovation through collaboration across disciplines and industries in a project that sat within students’ Architectural Technology modules and assessments and was aligned with the University’s five-year strategy.

Construction and design firms have generously sponsored the project through its development, and support from across the MDX community has been crucial. Chief Finance Officer James Kennedy gave his backing and coached students around finance and risk strategies, head of department Professor Mehmet Karamanoglu provided leadership and Zuzana Botkova (Head of Estates Projects) and Kate Fregene (Project Manager - Building and Construction) from the Estate Team were involved at all stages.

Homeira says: "I am extremely delighted and proud. I have had the opportunity to work with a fantastic range of academics and professionals without which the Pavilion would not have been possible. It required a certain degree of risk-taking and huge amount of commitment, to inspire a generation of innovative leading graduates who appreciate the economic, social and environmental impact of their projects.

"I am a strong believer that our educational space is as important as what we learn/teach and that learning does not happen only in the classroom. It is a great feeling to have walked past the Pavilion every day and seen people using it for learning, dance, socials, exhibition etc which proves that it is a great addition to our campus."

Tong says: "We are thrilled to be nominated in the ‘Teaching Excellence’ category. Close communication between academics and the estate management team enabled knowledge-sharing on innovative materials, technologies and processes.

"This ongoing project is attracting more award-winning architects, suppliers and Royal Horticultural Society Gold medallist alumni to guide Phase II designs. Colleagues from Natural Sciences, Economics, Law and Eco-entrepreneurship disciplines are eager to jointly develop optional interdisciplinary modules for a range of degree courses.

"MDX Pavilion is the live demonstration and R&D test hub for students and staff to develop integrated knowledge and skills for community engagement, and meanwhile also seeks to encourage all to actively contribute to sustainable campus development and eco-transformation."

Ehab Sayed, Innovation Director of Biohm which provided the ceiling panels said: "Congratulations to the entire team behind the Pavilion. [It] sets a fantastic example for how a new way of learning through building and interactive engagement in real-time projects can have a transformational impact on students' learning experience and future career, while also enriching the university."

Guardian Universities Editor Rachel Hall says: "This is the eighth year of the Guardian University Awards. We received more submissions this year than any other, and all our judges were impressed with the calibre of projects.

"As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and government advice on social distancing, we're postponing the ceremony until later in the year. We look forward to celebrating the most inspiring people and projects in UK universities then."

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