Third year Cass students awarded dissertation prizes

The Cass celebrates its third year students with school-wide awards judged by a panel of experts.

Third year students at The Cass have been recognised by the School for their outstanding work as part of their dissertation module. This year's prize winners include Philippa Longson, Jonathan Smith, Antje Maroussi, Francesca Miles, Marika Heikkilä and Antonio Sequeira.

After adopting a studio-based teaching structure for the first time in 2014, the Cass Dissertation module once again saw students from all subject areas offered a choice of 24 studios, which were run by a diverse group of tutors from different disciplines, as well as the opportunity to develop their dissertations under an expert supervisor.

This approach is unique in the UK’s creative higher education landscape and produces a broad range of outstanding work that The Cass celebrates with school-wide awards judged by a panel of experts and prizes for each subject area. This year’s judges were Martin Iddon (University of Leeds), Helen Thomas (ETH Zürich and London Met) and Danielle Hewitt (London Met).

Congratulations to the winners! You can find the full list and what the judges commended them for below.

Cass School Best Dissertation, submission to the RIBA Dissertation Medal – Philippa Longson

Dissertation title: Are you my mother? An exploration into the bonds between people and places

What the judges said

"A vivid imaginative facility fed by a wide but appropriate range of references and starting points runs through the writing that sometimes brings to mind the deeper psychology of JG Ballard’s unwell-tempered environments. Excellent work."

"The dissertation displays great skill in telling a story well. This is a fine thing to accomplish while at the same time rigorously and intelligently communicating the material surveyed. The work is beautifully presented and in all aspects shows a care for the reader – this is a thoroughly engaging work."

"Apart from its other qualities, this is beautifully designed and presented. The care and attention to all aspects of the work is felt immediately. There’s an impressive ability on display to write engagingly and directly, while the text is still underpinned by a rich theoretical discourse. There’s a rather lovely balance struck between some highly specific historical narratives – extremely well told too – and some smart and expansive reflection, modelling itself too, I think, on some of the finer recent Semiotext(e) or Zone Books editions. That it’s successful while juggling all these balls is remarkable."

Cass Research Prize – Jonathan Smith

Dissertation title: An investigation into the theory and practice of guitar intonation

What the judges said

"For a layperson this is a fascinating read (which is no small feat) and I learnt a great deal from this exemplary dissertation. The lucid writing unfolds a clear narrative that creates the detailed, well-researched background understanding necessary for absorbing the subject and critical comprehension of the argument."

"Complex issues in tuning are explained with relative ease, such that one might imagine the non-initiated not only being able to follow both the maths and the problem but also be genuinely engaged by it – no easy balance to strike given the sheer volume of variables involved."

"The dissertation is enlightening to a non-expert audience, which says much about the skillful writing and structure. It is clear that the research and investigation have generated findings that will be of interest to practitioners in the field, and this contribution is to be commended."

Cass Writing Prize – Antje Maroussi

Dissertation title: London Council Logos (1965-present)

What the judges said

"This is a great subject and the dissertation opens up many perspectives on it – social, political and anecdotal – by investigating possibilities that go way beyond a mere history of graphics. The story is told in a comprehensive and thorough way, with a clear and well-communicated methodology at every stage. Personal descriptions give the reader an enjoyable sense of joining the writer on their research journey."

"This is a gripping piece of work! A very enjoyable read which speaks volumes of the passion you have for your subject and the engaging writing and structuring of the dissertation. This is a fascinating investigation of an under-explored area and in this suggests a real and original contribution to knowledge. Great energy and attention to uncovering primary material is shown. The work successfully writes a history, rather than merely narrating an existing history, which is to be commended for undergraduate study."

"A topic which might be a touch dry is rich and compelling. The way in which these almost invisible, everyday pieces of design are brought into a political context brings alive the way in power and design are intertwined in these tacit local contexts, making it possible for some provocative suggestions to be made regarding logo design for the London Boroughs more generally."

Cass Travel Prize – Francesca Miles

Dissertation title: Images, Places and Rituals: Medieval Siena and the lives of its citizens

What the judges said

"This is clearly an exceptionally carefully researched piece of work, drawing on an admirably wide range of sources. An enormous depth and richness is drawn from the specificity of the study, with (art) objects in particular used to potent effect to reflect and question representations of the realities of lived experiences in medieval Siena."

"This dense study is the product of a deep historical imagination that constructs ideas from and makes an argument with some fascinating fragments. Some of these are myths, and a facility for story telling runs through the dissertation, which uses images well as markers and catalysts. Reading requires concentration but there are rewards – for example a new knowledge of medieval Siena’s inner-workings, which allows the reader and the argument reflect on how history is produced. The narrative is successfully sustained throughout examination of the different subjects – the representational, the spatial and the ritual, to make an interesting dissertation."

"This is a very elegantly pursued work, and at times feels quite magical in its revealing of both moments of great spectacle and more humble encounters. The writing is eloquent and achieves success in relating objects, places and much less tangible historical objects to the reader."

Cass Critic Prize – Marika Heikkilä

Dissertation title: The meaning of objects: Why do we have things?

What the judges said

"This is a thoughtful and sensitive enquiry, skillfully balancing personal experience and insight with a confident reading of the cited texts. The self-reflection is well handled and maintains an openness in the text which engages the reader in a subject that is presented as universal and personal at the same time. A clear line of thought keeps the many references together, along with well-paced moments of reflection and synthesis taking us neatly on a tour through the writer’s thoughts without ever becoming hermetic. The final thoughts on personal value assigned to digital objects is particularly suggestive and nicely plays back to interrogate the more familiar arguments followed earlier in the text."

"A timely and essential question is raised here about the meaning of and need for objects, which is thoughtfully set up within a philosophical and historical framework as it is described and analysed. Engaging anecdotal descriptions draw the reader into the complex discussion on memory and association that convincingly underpin the argument."

"This is an elegant, rather graceful set of thoughts where the theoretical and the personal intersect in ways which are enlightening regarding both. It is, I think, precisely because of this interlacing of perspectives that quite familiar thoughts, like those of Bachelard or Bergson, are reinvigorated in fresh ways. The ways in which everyday objects, antiques and art objects intersect here is undertaken in a similar way, and with similar illuminating effects."

Cass Highly Commended Prize – Antonio Sequeira

Dissertation title: Altered Cut: Fans’ Reactions

What the critics said

"The investigation into the reasons underlying commercial and artistic reasons for variation is informative and provides a good basis for original reflection on the implications of audience opinion and the role of the author. This is clearly the work of someone who knows a lot about films and knows how to analyse and enjoy them."

"The clash of aesthetic judgements between the authority of the artistic creator and the aura of the original is cleverly set up here, speaking both to an intriguing specific topic and, too, to a much broader issue in aesthetic thought more generally. Tacitly, there’s a smart theorisation of the tropes of alternate releases. The obvious enormous enthusiasm the writer has for these films and for film in general is harnessedhere in supporting the reader’s engagement, rather than one ever feeling that the fan overtakes the scholar. It’s a perilous balance, well managed."

Best dissertations by subject area

Noora Luhtala (3D)
Jonathan Craven (Architecture)
Olivia Sully-Karlis (Music)
Guy Marshall-Brown (Fine Art)
Sophie Helman (Graphics)
Vicky Papazoglou (Interiors)
Annalena Oestreich (Film)

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