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Prize for RGU architecture lecturer’s reimagining of Union Street


An architecture lecturer at Robert Gordon University (RGU) has won a prize for exploring innovative methods of teaching.

Dr Amar Bennadji was awarded an educational merit prize as part of the eighth Forum 8 design festival in Tokyo, for spearheading a project investigating the teaching of architecture and planning online.

It is the second prize for the university at the festival, with a student team made up of James Nicol (23), Sabin Maguregui (23) and Fajar Rezandi (24) picking up the special Judges’ Award for their vision of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Village in the Virtual Design World Cup competition.

Combining a real project focused on reimagining Aberdeen’s Union Street using new visualisation techniques, Dr Bennadji also explored the best methods for teaching urban planning to distance learning students thanks to a grant from the university’s IDEAS (Innovation, Design and Sustainability) research institute.

The new vision for Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare would see cars removed from a section of Union Street, from before the Trinity Centre to Market Street, allowing access for pedestrians and trams.

Dr Bennadji explained: “The project worked out really well, allowing me to not only investigate solutions for re-imagining Aberdeen’s Union Street but also to test the teaching of urban planning via distance learning.

“It came about by chance, as my researcher for the Union Street project, Fajar Rezandi, unexpectedly had to go to Asia for the summer so I started to develop a double strategy for exploring distance learning methods while communicating with him online using the Cloud environment.”

He added: “There is a big debate and a lot of opposition around teaching architecture and planning via distance learning, and although I had a positive experience, face-to-face debate and the opportunity to scribe magical lines on paper should not become a thing of the past.”

Dr Bennadji, who is part of a group of international researchers looking to develop digital media capabilities applied to the built environment called World 16, said: “I’m very pleased that the project has also been recognised with an award as part of the design festival, which has proved to be a very successful trip for RGU.”

Watch a virtual reality video of Dr Bennadji's proposal for Union Street

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Jenny RushCommunications Officer | Design and Technology