7 December 2016

CUHK Architecture Graduate Receives Hong Kong’s first RIBA President’s Silver Medal over Past 180 Years



Thomas Chee King-hei, a 2016 Master of Architecture graduate of the School of Architecture at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), has won this year’s RIBA President’s Silver Medal, one of the most prestigious international awards in architectural education, for his design project entitled ‘Crafts Vault: The V&A Academy of Artisanal Crafts’. He is the first graduate from an architectural school in Hong Kong to have been awarded this prestigious award from the RIBA in its 180 years’ history.

The honour was announced at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London on the evening of 6 December, where Thomas was presented with the traditional hand-engraved silver medal from RIBA President Jane Duncan. His design project is the best out of 130 entries received by the RIBA this year, after its call for nominations was issued to 320 universities in 65 countries.

In regard to winning the medal, the emerging architect called it a ‘dream come true’. ‘While it is an exceptional recognition of my work,’ he said, ‘the award also helps bring architectural education in Hong Kong and even China to a broader audience from around the world, which I think is fascinating.’

Thomas’s award-winning project responds to the uncertain future of traditional crafts in the UK. Owing to the 2008 economic downturn and the rise of digital manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing, the living prospects for self-employed craftsmen who are less resilient to financial crises are gradually tightening. The project introduces crafts workshops to a new extension of London’s Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, promoting a new typology of museum building that makes artisanal skills relevant to the modern city again. Situated at a strategically chosen brownfield site in North Kensington left by a local gasworks, the proposed project serves not only as a museum of craft but also an archive of knowledge, as well as an academy for preserving and retrieving the lost art of craftsmanship.

The project was envisioned during Thomas’s exchange at the University of Cambridge from September to December 2015, where he was tutored by Prof. Ingrid Schröder at the Department of Architecture. Its concept and design were further developed after he returned to CUHK to finish his Master of Architecture (MArch) thesis, supervised by Prof. Peter Ferretto at the School of Architecture.

‘To win the RIBA President’s Silver Medal is an incredible milestone for Thomas and a proof to all students that belief and commitment foster excellence,’ said Professor Ferretto, who was impressed not only by Thomas’s exceptional design skills, which enabled him to develop experimental and sophisticated projects, but also by his enthusiastic learning attitude. ‘I am very proud of Thomas who always came to the studio with the biggest smile, eager to discuss his latest design.’

Prior to his Master’s education, Thomas completed his Bachelor of Social Science (BSSc) degree in Architectural Studies at CUHK in 2013. He is currently a designer at Gravity Partnership Limited.

About RIBA President’s Medals

The RIBA President’s Medals were established in 1836 and are the RIBA’s oldest awards. They reward talent, promote innovation, and encourage excellence in the study of architecture worldwide. Every year, the RIBA invites international architects, academics, designers and artists to join the judging panels and award the Bronze Medal for the best undergraduate design project, the Silver Medal for the best postgraduate design project, as well as the Dissertation Medal.

RIBA President Jane Duncan (left) presents the President’s Silver Medal 2016 to Thomas Chee King-hei, a graduate of CUHK School of Architecture.
RIBA President Jane Duncan (left) presents the President’s Silver Medal 2016 to Thomas Chee King-hei, a graduate of CUHK School of Architecture.

Thomas Chee gives a thank you speech at a ceremony at the RIBA in London.
Thomas Chee gives a thank you speech at a ceremony at the RIBA in London.

Thomas Chee (right) and his MArch thesis advisor Prof. Peter Ferretto.
Thomas Chee (right) and his MArch thesis advisor Prof. Peter Ferretto.

‘Crafts Vault: The V&A Academy of Artisanal Crafts’ by Thomas Chee.
‘Crafts Vault: The V&A Academy of Artisanal Crafts’ by Thomas Chee.

‘Crafts Vault: The V&A Academy of Artisanal Crafts’ by Thomas Chee.
‘Crafts Vault: The V&A Academy of Artisanal Crafts’ by Thomas Chee.

‘Crafts Vault: The V&A Academy of Artisanal Crafts’ by Thomas Chee.
‘Crafts Vault: The V&A Academy of Artisanal Crafts’ by Thomas Chee.

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