Bartlett Environmental Design Prize 2024: 'Engraved Cycles' by Jeff Qu Liu

AI generated, rendered impression of a construction on the sea shore, with mountains in the background.

Members of the Max Fordham team have been tutoring at UCL Bartlett School of Architecture for many years. We’ve established a great relationship with the University over that time and we formally recognised that relationship in 2013 by sponsoring an award at the annual student Summer Show.

The Max Fordham Environmental Design Prize is given to the 5th-year design project that demonstrates the greatest level of ambition, originality, technical innovation and philosophical rigour in the field of environmental design and sustainability.

The prize consists of £1,000 to help the student cover project-related expenses. In addition, they present their project to our whole practice and receive ideas from our engineers and sustainability consultants to help them further develop the environmental premise of their project.

The winning project

‘Engraved Cycles’, a marina complex in Sicily inspired by the geological conditions of the island, is this year's winning design.  

The design by student Jeff Qu Liu is inspired by Sicily’s independent scales and geology. The project weaves the life cycles of a marine, human and regenerative lithosphere (the solid, outer part of Earth) using local limestone and granite. Located in Addaura, the proposed design features a marina complex and a civil registry, revitalising the old port’s industrial remains. 

A registry and archive trace the past of the nearby historic shipyard ruins, carrying a deeper dialogue between the human lifecycle and Addaura’s broader lithosphere. In the proposal, building operation, maintenance and evolution is conducted via a flow of the building stones, from quarrying the landscape to cutting, assembly, usage, weathering, reusing and recycling. It reflects a practicality beyond the model of stone being imported for just a single architectural lifespan, which is the current dominant model, while extending the rhythm of the circular economy. 

A raw design engagement is emphasised across construction technique and material innovation to create an environmentally sustainable proposal that aligns with the Sicilian landscape’s lifecycle. Rammed limestone plants an environmental root to the project as it seeks the possibility of an architectural lifecycle tailored to the use of the entirety of the lifecycle of local stone.

This design research opens new architectural interplay in the built environment between material life and the rich recorded human interactions over time.

Prize winner Jeff Qu Liu and a colleague post for a photo in front of a board with a display of his design

2024 winner Jeff Qu Liu