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Urban Planning + Architecture

Edible Landscape Pioneer Vikram Bhatt wins $50,000 UBC Award

Margolese National Design for Living Prize goes to maker of low-cost food and housing solutions.

Tyee Staff and Contributors 4 Dec

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McGill professor Vikram Bhatt: 'Designers should pay an equal degree of attention to the needs of all -- particularly the other half.' Photo: Juan Osorio.

[Editor's note: The Tyee is proud to be media partner for the Margolese Prize, an award given to innovators who make our landscapes more livable for everyone. The third winner has been announced. This is the press release with all the details.]

The UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture announces Vikram Bhatt the winner of the 2014 Margolese National Design for Living Prize. Bhatt, a professor at McGill University's School of Architecture, is recognized for his decades-long work on minimum cost housing and more recent work on urban agriculture.

The $50,000 prize is awarded annually to a Canadian who has made and continues to make outstanding contributions to the development or improvement of living environments for Canadians of all economic classes. The prize was created by a generous estate gift made to the University by Leonard Herbert Margolese.

Born and raised in India, Bhatt graduated from the School of Architecture, CEPT University, Ahmadabad, in 1973 and obtained his Master of Architecture from McGill University in 1975. After briefly working for the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, he joined the faculty of the School of Architecture at McGill. Bhatt has received numerous awards including an AD Architectural Design Research Award, an American Institute of Architects' Sustainable Community Design Ideas Competition Prize, two Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute's Faculty Research Fellowships and two Graham Foundation for the Fine Arts Grants. In 2008, his team won the National Urban Design Award of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Canadian Institute of Planners and Canadian Society of Landscape Architects. 

When informed of his receipt of the prize, Bhatt responded: "I feel honoured that the committee acknowledges my work and design approach, and by doing so, the award also recognizes that designers should pay an equal degree of attention to the needs of all -- particularly the other half. I am grateful and eager, because this prestigious prize will allow me to further my urban agriculture and food security interests and also venture into new areas such as the synergy of built and aquatic environments."

The jury -- composed of Marta Farevaag, principal at Vancouver-based planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm PFS Studio; Robert Freedman, former director of urban design for the City of Toronto; Lisa Rochon, author and architecture critic at The Globe and Mail; and Bing Thom, Vancouver-based architect and urban designer and 2013 Margolese winner -- praised Bhatt for embodying the spirit of humanity, generosity, equality and social and environmental justice that distinguish Canadian values internationally.

"Vikram Bhatt has dedicated his life to the application and teaching of appropriate technologies for the improvement of community life, not only for Canadians but for communities throughout the developing world," said Thom. 

"His work on edible gardens and productive rooftops over the last decade has focused not only on the need for self-sufficient villages in the developing world but, also, for a critical re-evaluation of the bucolic lawn-scape in Montreal," noted Rochon.

Currently noted for his work on transforming neighbourhoods through urban agriculture, Freedman called out Bhatt's extraordinary accomplishments over the past four decades in the area of minimum cost housing. "In his own modest and incremental way, Professor Bhatt has had, and continues to have, an enormous and positive impact on Canadian architects, urban designers and urbanists." 

"In a world increasingly obsessed [with] eye candy architecture," Rochon praised Bhatt's patient and meticulous enquiry on ways to create practical, low-cost domestic interventions as well as the design of culturally meaningfully communities around the globe.

Bhatt has done much to make urban environments more livable. Farevaag added that "[t]he Margolese Prize will bring well deserved attention to the quiet and creative work that Vikram Bhatt has done on behalf of livable and sustainable urban environments throughout his career."

As part of the award, each prize winner is invited to give a public lecture on their work. Bhatt will give his talk at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 19, at UBC Robson Square in downtown Vancouver.

To learn more about the Margolese National Design for Living Prize, click here.  [Tyee]

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