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Contents INTRODUCTION About Me


Tagal Hut SAFE Power House CREATE Centre


Final Submission City Planning - Yuan Waste Water Treatment Tower Green Connection

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Planning Permission Building Warrant


4 9 11

13 15 21 28

30 32

YEARS 1-3 Studio


Achievements 2013 -15





About Me


About Me

Rory Thor Dickens RIBA Part II

My passion for architecture has provided me with many great opportunities since I started studying the subject at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen in 2008. I have been given great opportunities by Arkitrek which have enabled me to travel to the other side of the world (Malaysia) and to lead projects in exotic and remote locations such as the Borneo rainforest. Here I was able to work with experimental construction techniques and to learn about, and experiment with, new materials such as bamboo and biocrete. During my time working in Malaysia I developed an appreciation of the benefits of sustainability in architectural design. I have a keen interest in ways of reducing waste through recycling, the repurposing of materials and reducing the dependence on the oil economy.

This experience has in turn led to my work being globally recognised in the architectural magazine Boundaries in 2013 and the receiving of an Honorary Mention in the 2014 SEED Awards for Excellence in Public Interest Design for the project on which I was the lead. This has led to several local newspaper articles about my work on these projects and my achievements over the last few years. In April 2015 I was also a guest speaker at the Structures for Inclusion Conference. I have also made presentations on my work experiences to other groups of students on the architecture course at Robert Gordon University. My achievements have helped to keep me focused and extremely motivated during the final years of my studies, and I hope to add to those achievements by obtaining

a Distinction in my MArch course which I will complete at the end of the current academic year and which will drive me to do my best in my future projects. My work for Arkitrek in Malaysia has given me the opportunity to visit great cities such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur where I was able to see for myself some amazing and inspiring architecture. It also enabled me to visit Shanghai and Beijing. Away from Malaysia I have also traveled to New York, Barcelona and London, and will shortly be adding Toronto and Detroit to the list of cities I have visited. In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit and in the earlier years of my studies I rowed for my university. I obtained my Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving certificate while in Malaysia.

Design Build


The Tagal Hut

Team Leader for Arkitrek (June - Sept 2014)

This project was my first as a Team Leader for Arkitrek. It was one of the largest and most ambitious projects undertaken on an Arkitrek Camp and was finished on time and on budget. Tagal is a traditional fresh-water fish conservation method used by indigenous communities in Sabah, Malaysia. The Tagal hut is used for Tagal management meetings, fish food preparation, domestic tourism (fish spa and fish feeding) and sales of fish and other community products. The hut is located in the village of KG Meligan

and has a built-up area of approximately 40m2 and includes multi-purpose meeting spaces, a fish feed preparation area and storage plus a separate WC and shower. The Pondok Tagal (Tagal Hut) was funded by the Sabah Fisheries Department and supported by the Avantha Foundation Malaysia.

The main focus of the project was on the reduction of embodied energy in the construction process, so the design/build team used locally sourced and treated bamboo and reclaimed timber in the

Tagal Hut

construction of the primary and secondary structure. Waste from construction (sawdust) and crop production (rice husks) was gathered and combined with lime in replacement of aggregate and cement to build infill

walls. This biocrete is a brick/concrete substitute, which has hygroscopic and insulative properties that passively help to keep the building cool.


A 1.7m roof overhang on the southern elevation serves a number of purposes: it prevents rain penetration, sun penetration and encourages natural ventilation within the occupied spaces. A solar screen is also installed in the form of woven bamboo panels, produced by the women of the village in the traditional Murut style. Cultural values, identity and community involvement were important to the design team, and the inclusion of the bamboo panels, the traditionally painted Murut columns and the bamboo cladding features promote this idea. The team also promoted the importance of plastic recycling by arranging for the local

Design Build


schoolchildren to get involved in the creation of plastic bottle walls which were incorporated into the hut design. Observing the abundance of rainfall on the site, we incorporated a rainwater harvesting system to collect water for use in the building and WC, leading to the addition of a leach field to treat and disperse effluent from the septic tank. The Plastic Bottle Wall KG Meligan has a plastic problem. We often saw the village’s children throwing their water bottles into the river, damaging the ecosystem that the Tagal system is meant to protect, so we devised a scheme to involve the children in the building process. Through games at the local school the team got the children involved in collecting discarded bottles and the children encouraged their parents to keep bottles instead of discarding them. With help from the children, the bottles were then filled with food colouring and clear rainwater to create a colourful installation. Through design we were able to educate the children on sustainability, the sequestering of plastic until it can be disposed-of responsibly and hopefully encouraged future generations to become sustainable Arkitrekkers. The Forgotten Form Work One of the first stages of the building process was to source and build the formwork for the foundations. Often constructed from timber, these are placed

Donated bottles filled with food dye, freshwater and a drop of bleach.

(Above) A scale site plan in water colour done, by the team, after the initial site analysis and design stages. This drawing was used to communicate the scheme to the funders and village members.

on site, filled with cement, and then after a drying period removed, often never to be used again. This construction waste boosts the building’s carbon usage and overall cost, so from the outset the team knew that they wanted to address this problem and come up with better solution.

as the floorboards. The toilet roof was constructed from reclaimed corrugated steel sheets, resulting in this part of the building being made from almost 100%

Scrap timber from around the village was salvaged and enough material was obtained to build 14 600x600x600 mm boxes. The formwork was assembled using screws to avoid damage during dismantling, after which 224 pieces of 600mm length timber were recovered. These were later used as part of the toilet’s cladding, supplemented by the off-cuts from several of the other construction processes, such

Bottles were placed in the frames fixed with a thin wire to secure in place.

The children helped throughout the process, building their own part of the building.

Tagal Hut

recycled or reclaimed materials. The purlins were offcuts of bamboo, split in half. A feature the locals were sceptical about using but turned out to be successful.

Personal Summary

Reclaimed timber was also used extensively in the construction of the main building. This re-use also helped the project meet its tight budget.

This project was a huge challenge for me with a lot of responsibility to the design team, the clients and to Arkitrek. Despite the pressures of managing a team of 8 people on a tight budget within a limited time scale and in high humidity in a foreign country, I was able to maintain a professional attitude, overcome logistical problems,

Plan used for the wall presentation. Several things changed during construction.

An early concept model to explain the construction method to the team.


(Above) A photo of the toilet/changing area. Made from reclaimed timber and site waste.

develop good working relationships within the team, provide support and education throughout, resulting in a successful project that was completed on time and within budget.

Final model to explain to the client and achieve funding for the project.

Design Build


Due to the success of this project and

an ‘Honorable Mention’ in the Annual SEED

feedback from the team, Arkitrek has

Awards for recognition of excellence in

offered me a place at leading their next

Public Interest Design, and I have accepted

live build project during this summer.

an invitation to present at the fifteenth annual Structures for Inclusion Conference

I look forward to working with a new team,

in Detroit, Michigan. This is not only a great

and further developing my construction

opportunity for me to present my work but

and leadership experience on a new project.

also a great opportunity for me to meet like minded designers from across the globe.

The Tagal Hut project was recently awarded

A view of the completed building from the rope bridge over the river.

(Above) A sketch taken from the Arkitrek Design Handbook I pioneered and continue to develop during the camps. This example is of the Integrated water system. 1. Onduline Roofing, 2. Guttering system, 3. First Flush Diverter, 4. Water Storage Tank, 5. Manhole Cover, 6. Septic Tank, 7. Manhole For Leech Field, 8. Leech Field.


SAFE Power House Intern for Arkitrek

(Above) Front elevation . I was left to complete the project for the final 2 weeks so I fitted the elevations with peeler cores.

(June - Sept 2013)

The SAFE (Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems) Project Powerhouse was designed and built by the Arkitrek Camp team with help from SAFE Project staff. During this project I was an Intern for Arkitrek assisting the camp leader. The building was designed to house a biomass gasifier and diesel generator, part of the hybrid renewable energy supply for the SAFE Project field centre near the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve in Sabah, Malaysia.

world’s largest ecological experiments to understand the myriad ways in which logging, deforestation and forest fragmentation modify the functioning of tropical rainforest, impair their ability to deliver ecosystem services that people care about, and reduce their capacity to support the diversity of life. More information can be found on their website. (Right) An early concept model I created during the design development to communicate my elevation idea to the team.

This building should be called the ‘peeler core’ building after the materials that give it its distinctive appearance. A peeler core is the central core of a tree which is left over after a tree log has had its outer layers peeled off to make plywood veneer. We used them singly for cladding and in bunches of seven held together to make columns. The SAFE Project The concept of a ‘natural ecosystem’ is fast disappearing as humans modify the world at an ever-accelerating rate, meaning much of the world’s biodiversity must now persist in human-modified landscapes. The SAFE Project is conducting one of the

(Above) A quick concept model made by me and my partner to help sell the idea to the team.


Design Build


(Above) Two members of the design team and myself erecting the peeler core columns and the front beams.

(Above) A close up of the peeler cores column & their pre fabricated bases.

The Powerhouse was built over a period of two months. Logistical problems hindered the project, but with initiative from the team several design decisions were made that allowed the construction to continue by using locally & naturally felled trees to create specific design elements. The majority of the team had to leave before the project was completed, leaving me to work on my own to design the sliding door, and install the building’s facade which has lead to the buildings unique elevation. This remaining work took me 1 week.

were able to stay focused on the task in hand and we continued working to the best of our abilities.

Personal Summary This project put a lot of pressure on the design team due to its very remote location. We spent over a month without leaving the confines of the site in the heart of the Borneo rainforest. At night the power was turned off and one night elephants passed through our camp, adding to our stress, and making sleep difficult for fear of a future disaster caused by such dangerous wild animals. On the plus side I got to see many exotic creatures close-up in their natural habitats. Despite these distractions, we

An internal view of the sliding door, peeler core elevation and columns.

After this project, I was nominated by the team as a good candidate for a future team leader and this led to an offer of the Team Leader role on the Tagal Hut project the following year to great success. This project was also published in the 2013 issue of Boundaries Magazine.



(Above) Front elevation . As seen from the road.


(Below) An internal view of the teaching space, with bamboo railings and traditionally woven bamboo panels and sunscreens.

Volunteer for Arkitrek (June 2013)

The CREATE Centre project was a 30-day design/build camp. During this time I was in a team with eight other architecture students, who were accompanied by local villagers to complete the building. Over the first week we were tasked to design the project and allocate the best location on the small site for the CREATE Centre’s needs. This was to comprise workshop space to test micro hydro systems and a shaded classroom space to be used to teach the indigenous people of Malaysia how to maintain the equipment.

and bamboo panels.

A basic form and layout was agreed between the team and the client incorporating the use of an earth bag wall, bamboo columns

During the construction process, a coconut tree had to be felled to make way for the overhanging roof. Through much negotiation with the locals and the team

The site was originally an abandoned shed. This photo was taken after it was gutted.

The design team and locals after completing construction of the earth bag wall.

I am pleased to say that I was able to persuade them to make use of the tree to make a worthy and beautiful addition to the design, as columns on the ground floor. The project is now fitted with solar panels.

The group and building after 3 weeks of construction.

Masters Studio


Masters Studio Final Submission (May 2015)

The Masters Studio submission comprised of 2 years work. During the two years, one semester was group work, two semesters to the design of the Waste Water Tower and one final semester focusing on the landscaping in the city. These projects were all graded an A.

Final submission


(Below) A panoramic view of my final wall submission which was graded an A.

Masters Studio


View of Yuan from lake. Drawing done by the group.

City Planning

The first part of my two-year Masters was a project to further develop, in a group, proposals for a new settlement in Suzhou, China. Suzhou is a canal city and the proposed settlement contains an extensive network of canals. The settlement will accommodate a population of one million and the aim was to create dense, mixed-use districts at a human scale. A unique characteristic of the unit behind the project is an emphasis on the importance of hand-drawing in the design process.


Masters Studio


The location of Yuan in relation to China and the rest of the world.

The master plan of the city had been



stays in Asia I had experienced pollution

preliminarily designed by the 6th years

Industry, The New Public Space, Future



first-hand. The lake nearest to our scheme

at the time. Through analysis and further

Energy Production, Fast Construction and

was no exception, as the following extract

research, our goal was to further refine the

China and the rest of the world.

from the manifesto shows:

manifesto. In this manifesto we decided to

During the group work my role was always

focus on nine topics: Human Scale, Loss of

focused on dealing with the pollution

Agricultural Land, Connected Infrastructure,

aspects. During my travels and extended

“Lake Taihu and the surrounding waterways are polluted and the air quality of the city is poor. Urbanization has increased the volume of industrial waste. We will clean up and make better use of the existing waterways and lake. Throughout the design process, care will be taken to minimise further pollution. The Chinese government is attempting to address air pollution but we will look for opportunities to improve air and surface quality in our development proposals.�

master plan and design a more detailed

Integrating industry also was one of the areas I chose to focus on:

“ Industrial growth has given rise to very large industrial estates set apart from other urban activities. Industrial development is important for any settlement. Some site specific industries, such as fish farming, A sketch of the 6th years manifesto which was developed further by the group.

City Planning


Diagram showing main waterways and roads.

Diagram showing population density.

Diagram showing walking distance to hubs.

Diagram showing monorail routes & stations.

Diagram showing subway routes & stations.

Diagram showing main routes for park & ride.

can help a settlement develop a particular character. While zoning is often necessary the connection between zones must be dramatically improved for the benefit of the workforce and to improve the urban qualities of the city. “

“Coal, currently the main source of energy in Suzhou, is the biggest generator of industrial pollution. Renewable energy forms a small percentage of the total energy production and low carbon strategies are very limited. Our settlements will increase the production of renewable energy to help minimise the effects of coal pollution. Designers will be encouraged to favour passive design over mechanical approaches.�


Finally another aspect of the manifesto that got engaged in was the future of energy production, something that is particularly relevant in China:

Diagram showing the break down of the city.






created a preliminary master plan that had 52 districts that had the appropriate infrastructure. The goal of these districts was for each to be in-dependant from the other for power generation, waste, housing, healthcare, commerce and industry. Studies were also done to understand how density reflected the heights of the


MAsters Studio

CITY Planning

A series of diagrams showing the break down of each district, drawn by the group based on statistics I had compiled.


Masters Studio


buildings in each district. From all this research over three months each student was asked to look for an opportunity to design a piece of architecture that would improve the overall fabric of the city. Every project was located within the central district which was modelled, predominantly, by myself and two others on a 1:1000 massing model that measured 2.5m by 4m. From my research I concluded that the best option to develop a brief for was on a means of treating water within the city, in an effort to protect the waterways that our city relied on so heavily, from pollution. This brief was developed over the following 2 semesters to create the Waste Water Tower. (Right) A drawing showing a more detailed break down of the city’s layout showing the water ways as the main transport route, and large volumes of trees place along the streets and water’s edge.

A photo of the hand crafted 1:1000 scale model , made by myself and 2 others.

Waste Water Tower

WASTE WAter Tower Masters Studio

(February - December 2014) “The sewage disposal system devised by Joseph Bazalgette in 1859 was considered in many ways to be a breakthrough particularly in public health and sanitation. The current reality, as predicted by his critics at the time, it is one of the biggest loss of nutrients in the history of civilisation.” Justus Von Liebig This quote along with the books Biomimicry in Architecture by Michael Pawlyn and Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough helped me to rethink the idea of sewage treatment. Traditionally the water treatment process is located outside of the city and it is a smelly process that uses lots of chemicals and energy to neutralise the sludge. ‘The Living Machine’ uses a technique inspired by nature which is based on tidal wetlands. Despite its function it is odourless and can be seen used indoors and on the roofs of structures such as the Port of Portland Headquarters, Portland, Oregon. This lead me to the idea of stacking this process in order to conserve space in the centre of a city. The technology for this already exists and a centralised system is possible which produces very little odour. Originally I tackled the project purely focused on functionality. This created an industrially focused scheme without much architectural expression. I also soon realised that there was much stigma associated with dealing with sewage - even amongst my tutors. I therefore took a different approach to my design. The scheme had to be iconic, hopefully

(Right) Hand Drawn Section through the Waste Water Tower. Original Drawing was A1.

‘rebranding’ the idea within the population of Yuan and my tutors on what a waste water treatment system could look like. This is where the twisting element of the architecture evolved from. The scheme is broken up into four key elements: Underground is the plant room with the settlement tanks and methane burners which generate the power for the tower. A public museum that educates the public on the process and workings of the tower. This area is located on the south section of the lower three levels. Offices and control rooms are located on the northern three levels. The main functioning ‘Living Machine’ section is a controlled environment that takes up floors 4-22. Structurally I had to address the loading issues of the water on each floor. To reduce the weight of the structure I used ETFE prominently as the cladding, which is much lighter than glass. This reduced the overall weight of the structure. Through a rough Bill of Quantities I calculated the weight of the structure on the foundations and the



MAsters Studio

A sketch of the WWT , viewed from the proposed tallest skyscraper in the city.

A sketch to demonstrate how the ETFE panels end and the tower meets the ground.

Waste Water Tower

A sectional drawing of the ‘living machine’ levels. This drawing was originally scale 1:50.

A series of sketches showing how the structural form of the ETFE could affect the shadows.


Masters Studio


A detailed section of the lower 3 floors.

A hand drawn elevation from the south. This drawing was originally 1:200

Waste Water Tower

Ground Floor Plan of the museum, and admin spaces showing the landscaping and incorporation of the dock. This drawing was originally 1:200

Fifth Floor Plan showing the main factory area, populated with the living machines organics. This drawing was originally 1:200


Masters Studio


Final Model Photo. Catching the reflection of the cladding in the water.

Final Model Photo. View from the top.

Waste Water Tower


savings due to the replacement of the glass. It became apparent that due to the reduced loads from the use of the cladding, the weight savings balanced out the increased load of the water within the structure at any one time. Based on precedent examples such as Norman Foster’s 30 St Marys Axe, I was able to calculate the approximate thickness of the steel elements in the required diagrid structure which made the overhangs possible by transporting the loads directly to the ground. Despite its complex form, the steel structure follows a certain level of modularity as it is based on a diagrid structure. The diagrid structure also allows for thinner structural elements which in turn lets in more light to the structure. In an effort to make this design as sustainable as possible I considered the energy use and supply in the city. Most renewable such as wind and solar suffer from power reliability, requiring a battery system or dams to ensure a steady flow of energy. By using the dam as inspiration I developed a method that allowed my building to act as a battery. By pumping the water up at times of high solar energy, the system can top-up the store the water/ energy. To be filtered through the system gradually. Once processed by the living machine gravity forces the clean water through turbines which capture some of the remaining energy, to be used in the initial pump system. At low energy times, the sewage is stored under ground, this settlement of the sewage provides methane, which can also be captured, burnt and used to provide energy into the system. This project was graded A by the marking committee for both semesters it was developed in.

(Left) Final Model Photo. This model was made for my final presentation. At scale 1:200 it is just under 1 meter tall and took 2 weeks to make. The trees in the model are made of moss taken from trees on campus.

masters Studio


Green Connection Masters Studio

(February - May 2015) The final semester of Masters Studio required an in depth investigation of the surrounding context of my WWT and how I could address further issues set out in the manifesto. Through analysis of the master plan, by using small 1:5000 3D printed models, I explored the density of the city and where a green space could be located. Which led to the relocation of my WWT and the inclusion of a park to be located on the north bank of the canal. This park was designed as a green route through the city which connects to other individual projects. The scheme uses small interventions to focus the viewer’s eye onto the water, and creates immersive routes to remove the viewer from the busy city. This project was explored with over 20 detailed models to investigate the scheme on macro and micro levels.

Site Analysis. Left Manhattan 1km (Laser Cut). Right Yuan 1km (3D Printed). Scale 1:5000

Detailed Landscape Models. Scale 1:100

Green Urban Connection


Final Site Model. Scale 1:500.


Professional Practice

Planning Application


Work PlacemenT Architecture JF

(Sept 2012 - May 2013) During my placement year I worked for Architecture JF, a small architectural practice in East Lothian. As this was a small practice, the head architect, who was mentoring me, was able to provide me with a great deal of wide and varied experience. I spent time seeing several projects through the stages of RIBA Plan of Works. During this time I focused on concept drawings, planning applications and building warrants. During my time at this practice I also volunteered to work as a site labourer on one of the projects that Architecture JF had been contracted to design. This experience was extremely beneficial to me as I was able to see how two-dimensional detailed drawings were interpreted on site, while also experiencing first-hand some of the failures of communication between the architect and the contractor. It also gave

me significant experience of pouring foundations, brick-laying and carpentry. My time there as an architectural assistant helped me to develop my skills in creating professional documentation such as building warrants and planning applications. I also gained an in depth understanding of the Building Regulations. I was also able to meet clients at various meetings which gave me valuable experience of dealing with clients as well as an understanding the finances involved in running a practice and the fees for various jobs. During the work placement I also further developed my Revit, Autocad and Sketchup skills, enabling me to complete drawings, building warrants and planning applications in less time.

(This Page) Here are some sample drawings taken from a planning application I worked on with overview from my mentor. The project was a small extension in West Lothian, Scotland. (Page 28-29) On this page are some examples of drawing I did for a Building Warrant application on the same project in West Lothian. (Page 30-31) On this page are some examples of Detailed Drawing for the same project in West Lothian.


Professional Practice

Building Warrant



Professional Practice

Building Warrant




Years 1-3 Studio

(Sept 2008 - May 2011) During my first few years at university most projects only lasted for a semester. This was where I quickly learned to develop my 3 skills, in an effort to communicate my ideas. On this spread are a selection of different projects from the first 3 years of university.

A CAD Isometric drawing of the spaces created within the St. Andrews Library Proposal. (2011)

A CAD drawing rendered with Photoshop showing the South elevation of the proposed sailing association meeting house. (2009)

A CAD drawing rendered with Photoshop showing the West elevation of the St. Andrews Library Proposal. (2011)

Years 1-3

A CAD drawing rendered with Photoshop showing the West Elevation of the proposed Waldorf School in the woods near Stonehaven. (2010)

A photo of the internals of a 1:50 model of my proposed sports pavilion into an art gallery. (2010)

A Revit render of the internal space of a proposed block of flats in Aberdeen. (2011)


Press Releases


pRESS rELEASES Achievements (2013 - 2015)

During the last two years the work I have done in Malaysia has been recognised by my university and has led to several articles about my work being published in the local press. One of the projects was featured in the international architecture magazine,


(Right) Boundaries Magazine, September 2013 (Below) East Lothian Courier, March 2015

(Right) Aberdeen Press & Journal, February 2014


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Rory Thor Dickens Portfolio June 2015  
Rory Thor Dickens Portfolio June 2015