Gold Coast architecture student Miyuki Suzuki’s work stands out for its superior blend of imagination, function and design. These qualities are taking her to France as winner of the 2014 French Embassy Award conducted through Griffith University and City of Gold Coast.

Yet while understandably excited about all that such an opportunity will provide, a humble Miyuki is also determined not to be distracted from other goals, particularly those informed by tragic events in her Japanese homeland.

Miyuki hails from the town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, close to the city of Fukushima so devastated by a nuclear meltdown triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

More than 15,000 people died in the disaster, 300,000 more were evacuated from the city and nearby towns and the ongoing recovery process is anticipated to take decades.

Humanitarian desire

Three years later, the tragedy is driving Miyuki’s humanitarian desire to apply her architecture for people in crisis wherever they may be. She hopes to achieve this through creative innovation in features such as shelters, temporary housing and medical centres.

Her ambition is professional and deeply personal.

“My family was lucky to survive everything that happened but they cannot go back to Namie. They have been resettled in Soma City, about 40 kilometres north of Namie,” says Miyuki, who came to Australia 10 years ago and met her husband William at Griffith University.

“While I have been to William’s family home in Spain and we had visited Japan together before the Fukushima disaster, it’s very sad that we can no longer go back to my home town. No one can,” she says.

Still, rather than become mired in the past, Miyuki is looking to the future. Winning the French Embassy Award is an ideal place for that future to begin.

Green bridge concept

The brainchild of Associate Professor Karine Dupre from Griffith’s School of Environment (Architecture), this year’s award involved third-year students working on a “green bridge” concept for the City of Gold Coast. The French Embassy in Australia provided $1500 for the winner.

Miyuki’s design, entitled gatheRING, comprises a bridge between Chevron Island and the proposed Gold Coast Cultural Precinct at Evandale. Its standout features include a striking use of Corten Steel latticework and an arch that, when reflected in the water below, gives the appearance of a ring.

“This is a place to gather, to meet with an open mind and connect,” says Miyuki. “The intent of my design is based on a unique sense of gathering that has existed on the Gold Coast since Aboriginal settlement. It explores the merging of nature, man-made structures and people.”

The award was judged by Gold Coast City architect Mr Ed Haysom and Ms Amy Degenhart, principal architect and a director Gold Coast architecture and urban design firm degenhartSHEDD.

As winner, Miyuki will travel to France in September and enjoy a tour of Paris before working with Masters students at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquees de Strasbourg(INSA), where Associate Professor Dupre previously worked as Head of Architecture.

INSA architecture-engineering students worked on the same green bridge brief as their Gold Coast counterparts and this will culminate in exhibitions in Strasbourg in October and on the Gold Coast in November.