Karla’s Travel Bursary Presentations

LOM awarded the Karla Roman Travel Bursary for 2022 to two architectural students; Jemima Brakspear and Isaac Lawson. Both with very different adventures and challenges along the way, we hear from both students as they share their wonderful experiences.

Jemima, a student at London Metropolitan University, chose to spend three months in south-east Asia – learning about and participating in sustainable development, with a particular focus on building with bamboo.

She embarked on her journey in January 2023, starting off at Langkawi Bamboo Shapers in Malaysia, a family-run camp set up in the heart of the Malaysian jungle, fully emersed with what nature has to offer. The organisation was set up and run by Ahmed and Rose – a Malay Muslim couple, passionate about promoting the use of bamboo as a construction material. She helped draw up an ambitious masterplan for the site including a community café, bamboo workshop, store and treatment centre. Learning how to harvest and treat the bamboo plant in order to make it suitable for construction, Jemima quickly became hands-on and practical with this material.

Locally, bamboo is known as the ‘green gold’ – earthquake resistant, extremely strong, quick growing and completely renewable – it is the key to sustainable futures. Working alongside Ahmed and local craftsmen, they managed to construct the basic skeleton (photos above) of a bamboo workshop.

Jemima spent February in Johor at the Rainforest Treehouse – a forest school, cafe and guesthouse run by a Chinese community. Situated in a rainforest just outside of Singapore, the ethos was to live within nature, meaning that they washed and slept amongst the monkeys, snakes and spiders. There were over 12 different treehouses on site – these functioned as classrooms for the school, sleeping quarters for the teachers and volunteers. Working alongside a local architect to support his design, they built a new classroom as well as carrying out day-to-day maintenance of the makeshift structures.

The days led to hosting guest walking tours and providing guidance on the surrounding forest; explaining the formation of the houses, how they have been carefully constructed and everything bamboo of course!

In March the trip took Jemima to Bali, Indonesia, where she worked with Jiwa Community Garden, an organisation set up to collect food waste from local hotels and cafes on the tourist island. They turn waste into a rich compost which they can grow all manner of plants in the allotment plots on site. Tasks included repairing the bamboo garden shed structures to maintaining the garden paths through the jungle like environment.

Overall, Jemima’s trip was adventurous, hands-on and offered her an opportunity to learn new skills as well as develop a passion for wood crafts and carpentry. The experience abroad reignited her love for the built environment inspiring the commencement of her Part II at London Metropolitan University.

“What a special way to remember and commemorate a loved colleague and friend – opening up opportunities for young architects to broaden their horizons through travel. The experience was one I will remember for many years, especially the skills I developed across all of the sites in southeast Asia.”

Jemima Brakspear, student at London Metropolitan University

Isaac Lawson, a student studying at Oxford Brookes University, became very interested in modern timber construction methods and where better to see this in practice than Sweden? Isaac explained “The laws in Sweden are very different from here in the UK, and there has been a boom in using wood as the key building material in tall timber construction projects. The cultural emphasis on ecological and social sustainability and the revival of the advantages of wood systems gave me an exhaustive laundry list of projects to visit.”

Isaac’s trip was the first time travelling alone and outside of the UK, so it was a daunting yet fun experience. It began with a touchdown at Stockholm airport. With a well-planned timetable packed with plenty of activities, Isaac followed the route onto the train station, although it wasn’t such an easy ride! The train at Arlanda had derailed and services were suspended, not exactly the start you would hope for on arrival to somewhere new and ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime.

“Sweden has a long history of timber construction and many of these surviving buildings are exceptionally well-preserved. Seeing in person how well-received modern timber construction has been there, makes me optimistic that we could see a similarly positive result in the UK in the future. It has been the most wonderful experience and I recommend future applicants to plan their time carefully to make the most of every moment.”


Isaac visited some interesting residential sites which included; Strandparken Apartments, where the structure’s load-bearing frame was constructed using prefabricated modules made from solid wood, and anchored to the foundations by metal rods that ascend to the height of the attic. The trip continued with numerous activities across the country, between the cities of; Skellefteå, Västerås and Stockholm, over the course of a very intensive week.

“We are delighted to have had the benefit of presentations from two students this year. They were both enjoyable and inspiring in equal measure. A packed office enjoyed accounts of their travel stories including those unique moments that are one of the joys of travel. Most importantly, these two students helped us remember and celebrate Karla, a talented architect who loved to travel. Thank you both. ”

Richard Hutchinson, Director at LOM architecture and design

We hope these two journeys will inspire others to consider applying for the 2024 travel bursary, we will be announcing our opening for applications very soon, so please do watch this space!

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