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Improving lives through focus on research and evidence in architecture

As Professor of Architecture in the Built Environment at the University of Reading, Flora Samuel's ground-breaking work is benefitting students first-hand. She is a driving force behind the School's ethos that excellent architectural education should balance practical knowledge with skills in academic research. Flora is pushing research higher up the architectural agenda as the first Vice President for Research of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

An increased focus on evidence-based research better equips architects to communicate their value to clients, policymakers and the public, enabling them to continue designing productive, healthy and inspiring spaces.

In collaboration with RIBA and along with fellow staff at the University of Reading, Flora is involved in leading and shaping the future of the profession. With a focus on the social impact of design and communities, a Social Value Toolkit for Architecture has been developed.

"The primary aim of the Social Value Toolkit is to provide a method for demonstrating and measuring the social value of architectural design in terms of wellbeing. This is really important if we are to make the case for designing and building better buildings and places, something that is particularly important after the pandemic. Our students are being taught to design with social value in mind and are learning techniques to describe and measure the impact of their proposals."

The importance of Flora's work in mapping social values has been well-recognised, winning a RIBA President's Award for Research 2020 in the category of Cities and Community.

New generation of architects

Flora believes that tomorrow's architects will be instrumental in conveying architecture as affordable, accessible and vital. Reading students have the opportunity to develop research skills and learn to overcome modern-world issues, such as sustainability, spatial constraints, and affordable housing. Students work on real projects with industry partners, tackling relevant problems.

"Architecture is not just about buildings; it's about people. We support our students to develop critical, transferable skills, including research and communication."

Flora and her colleagues are developing a new generation of architects: active researchers with a formidable skill set, able to communicate their value and improve the overall quality of our world.

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