The Alexander Thomson Scholarship 2021: Narratives of Isolation

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The Glasgow Institute of Architects, as Trustees of the Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson Scholarship, are pleased to announce the launch of the Alexander Thomson scholarship 2021, Narratives of Isolation.

The ongoing pandemic has opened avenues of thinking and reflection on the relationship between humans and the spaces they inhabit, with the extensive transformation of the built environment as a result of restrictions. In 2020, we saw our cities turn into hollow and desolate spaces, whilst our balconies, rooms and gardens took on the role of spaces of interaction and activity. From drone footage of empty streets to social media videos of neighbours socialising through their balconies at safe distances, humans have manipulated architecture in order for it to serve a new way of life. This has in turn created new, personal narratives of how we, as users, have adapted our environment to satisfy our developing needs.

Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson himself faced similar circumstances during the global cholera pandemic between the 1840s and 1860s. The architect experienced bereavement following the tragic loss of four of his young children to the infection. During that time, one of the major risk factors associated with the spread of cholera was poor sanitation, making the conditions of the built environment a facilitator of the pandemic. In response to these devastating losses, in 1868, Thomson presented a proposal for the improvement of living conditions within Glasgow, through the introduction of a series of tenements with streets covered overhead with glass to provide children with clean and safe playgrounds.

Much like Thomson, we challenge you to do the same and reflect on the built environment around you and how it could be improved to serve your needs in the context of a pandemic. We ask you to draw on your personal experiences and reflections to convey these narratives. There are no restrictions to the scale of the spaces you investigate, as these are open to your interpretation. They can range from a room, to a building, a street or a city.

We invite you to submit a single A3 sheet, illustrating a narrative or a storyboard. The image(s) within it is open to your interpretation and may be completed in any media. It should provoke conversations about architecture’s relationships with humans and how it could alleviate the effects of the pandemic, in a physical or psychological sense. The sheet should be supported by a statement of no more than 500 words articulating the concept.


IMAGE: 1 no. sheet in JPEG format 300 DPI to fit an A3 page. The sheet can include 1-3 illustrations to visualise your narrative. The illustrations can be drawings, photographs, digital art or another graphic format of your choice.

SUPPORTING STATEMENT: Please include 1 A4 sheet of no more than 500 words describing your narrative.

ANONYMITY: The submissions will be judged anonymously, please identify your A3 and A4 sheets by selecting a random 6 digit number to include on both pages.

ENTRY FORM: The entry form must be completed online and correct to the best of your knowledge. You can find the entry forms on our website.


The competition entries will be registered and processed by the GIA Education Committee. The competition will be judged anonymously by the judging panel. The judging panel will consist of:

Phil Zoechbauer (President of the Glasgow Institute of Architects)Scott Abercrombie (Chair of the Alexander Thomson Society)Nadia Malekian (John Gilbert Architects)Ruta Turcinaviciute (Architecture Fringe Festival)


A sum of £1000 will be awarded to a single winning entrant at the discretion of the judges. The shortlisted candidates will also be invited to write short pieces about their submissions for the GIA What’s the Chat? Blog.


Competition Launch: Monday 21st June 2021Submission Deadline: Sunday August 22nd 2021 5.00 pmResults Announced: Monday 13th September 2021


The competition is free to enter and is open to all UK-based architects and UK students of architecture who are current students studying towards their Diploma / Masters (or other Part 2 exemption), or who have completed their Diploma / Masters (or other Part 2 exemption) within the last 6 years.

For more information, visit our website at