The RIBA President's Medals Student Awards

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Fascinated by secret, sacred, and sublime space within the Baroque, this project explores magic for its conceptual and illusionary potential in contemporary architectural experience.

The portfolio begins by exploring how Harry Houdini’s ‘Vanishing Elephant’ trick is manifested within Albrecht Dürer’s ‘cone of vision’ merging showmanship, optics and mathematical geometry.

The resultant building, a Theatre for Magicians, is located in the National Botanical Gardens in Rome. By the manipulation of perspectival illusions such as cone and text anamorphosis, a ‘landscape of deception’ is created whose ornamental and dynamic tectonics are revealed to the spectator.

Sara Shafiei


Far more than a display of patience, precision and creativity, Sara’s portfolio of beautiful drawings, poetic narratives, and stunning models, presents a building preoccupied with inhabitation, space, and structure.

Look beyond the virtuosity of Sara’s surgically laser-cut magic; read the circuitous circulation, the subtle spatial complexity and enter a realm of continuous projections, performances and altered perceptions.

Here, architecture is not about frills, gadgetry, or technicalities. It is constructed, choreographed, and meticulously contextualised; it is driven by contemporary structural, spatial and linguistic preoccupations. It is experimental and experiential, exuberant and explicit; It is secret, sacred and sublime. True magic.


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