Doyenne of Barking: London Met architecture alumna wins Female Frontier Award

The Female Frontier Awards recognise remarkable, talented and visionary women of all ages, at every level across global architecture.

Date: 23 April 2021

London Met Architecture alumna Jess Phillips has been awarded a prestigious Female Frontier Award in recognition of the quality and innovation of her Unit 14 design thesis work. 

Jess, who currently works for the Peter Marlow Foundation, said, "I often think I should have pursued my first dream of being a historian, as opposed to a designer. I marched forward with the latter due to my belief that my writing skills were well below par and I found it easier to articulate myself through drawings than words.

"However over six years of architectural education, I have slowly comprehended that I can infuse both for the benefit of the other."

One module she undertook as part of her master’s at London Met stood out in particular: Unit 14, under the tutelage of Pierre and Pereen d’Avoine. The Unit focused on the Roding River in Barking, East London and invited students to contribute to wider research being carried out by Barking and Dagenham Council. Its aim was to contribute to the revitalisation of the borough for the benefit of local residents as well as newcomers; and focused on designing scenarios that resist ‘big development’ which are understood as restrictive and limit opportunities for local enterprise as well as diminishing the public realm.

Her final project in this Unit, Doyenne of Barking, for which she received the Award, was a master plan for the Abbey Green Conservation Area in Barking. She proposed the creation of a cultural centre celebrating women’s history and an opportunity for local women’s groups to congregate and operate safely from, while offering support and accommodation for vulnerable women in the community. 

Her project focused on highlighting the prominent but often overlooked women from British History, particularly those with ties to the East End. She explained her motivations in "challenging how history is perceived and using this platform to illustrate history from women’s perspectives, challenging gender stereotypes, and proposing new role models for the community of Barking and further afield. 

"Female-only institutions have existed throughout history, but nowhere in this country can we boast a museum and library that has been purposely designed to celebrate the achievements of women. 

"The site’s intrinsic link to women’s history is currently bound by laws to ‘protect’ the historical context, and this proposal looks to breathe new life into this area of Barking."

The judges of the Awards commented that Jess’ design represented "a thoroughly engaging piece of research on the social, spatial and ethnographical history of a richly interesting part of London. The evidence-based approach towards the final design is beautifully articulated in varied devices: in words, drawings, mappings, graphics and images making. It was a pleasure to review this dissertation - a project with humility and grace."

Launched in 2020, the Female Frontier Awards recognise remarkable, talented and visionary women of all ages, at every level across global architecture. They are run by World Architecture News.


Plan of a city

Part of Jess's final design