Jamaican architect wins German award
Winston Quest scores a first in Alexander von Humboldt FellowshipSunday, October 01, 2017
A rchitect Winston Quest has made history by being the first Jamaican to be awarded the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, tenable in Germany.
Quest, a Munro College and Black River High School alumnus, will take up the one-year fellowship in March 2018, which will be preceded by a two-month intense language course starting January of next year. The fellowship ends in February of 2019, but can be extended by a further three months if it is determined that more can be achieved with additional time.
He won a recent poster competition in Germany that qualified him for the award and will look at: 'An Exploration into the possible replica of the Sponge City concept in Jamaica'.
Quest, an architect planner at the National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA), studied architecture in Santiago de Cuba and has been employed at NEPA since September 2014.
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grants fellowships under the International Climate Protection Fellowship Programme.
Up to 20 International Climate Protection Fellowships are granted annually, funded under the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety's International Climate Initiative.
Germany plays a leading role in climate protection and climate-related resource conservation and highly qualified international researchers and practitioners have significant interest in collaborating with Germany as an attractive location for research and further training. Prospective leaders from emerging and developing countries are an important target group for sustainable cooperation with Germany.
The International Climate Protection Fellowships allow successful candidates to spend a year in Germany conducting a research-related project they have chosen themselves. The programme is also designed to facilitate long-term contacts and collaborations with specialist colleagues in Germany, increasing the opportunities for successful international cooperation in climate protection and resource conservation.
Quest attended the selection meeting for the International Climate Protection Fellowship Programme between September 12 and 15, 2017 in Bonn, Germany, where each participant is asked at the selection meeting to present their research proposal in the form of a poster, a-10 minute presentation and an interview. There were 43 candidates, including postdoctoral candidates, from 19 countries defending their proposal - all aiming to secure themselves in the 20 available spaces given annually by the foundation.
“The journey to this award began from my visit to China in July to August 2016 for the seminar on Water Resources and Capacity Building for Jamaica the Sponge City concept was introduced to the participants,” Quest told the Jamaica Observer.
“The Sponge City concept sparked further interests as this seemed like a solution to Jamaica's problems with storm water run-off, flooding within our city, and other key factors. further research began on this since then.
“In November to December 2016, I participated in a short course in Sustainable Cities at the Centre for International Postgraduate Studies of Environment Management in Dresden, Germany. Within the course the participants were introduced to several options for further professional development, and this is where I learnt about the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In further research about the foundation the additional research needed for the Sponge City concept and its application within Jamaica synced seamlessly within the foundation requirements that would provide the necessary resources to complete a research paper,” the award winner stated.
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation combines individual funding for outstandingly qualified researchers with the lifelong integration of these researchers into a globally active network of excellence. This “Humboldt Family” connects leading scientists and scholars around the world to Germany. In competition for the topmost experts it offers various programmes to attract scientists and scholars at different stages of their careers.
Support involves both funding and personal supervision in all matters relating to the stay in Germany, and moreover numerous other kinds of sponsorship in the framework of the alumni programme. In this way, an active international network of more than 27,000 academics has grown up since the Foundation was founded in 1953.
“Based on the profile of this foundation over the years, it was believed that applying for this programme and if granted would not only contribute to my efforts in professional growth but more important towards my country's development, as this research paper would adequately outline the way forward with science based data and demonstrate the implementation process to the agencies of government and finally the government,” Quest stated.
Quest praised the support he has received so far from his colleagues at NEPA, emphasising the contribution made by Chief Executive Officer Peter Knight and director of the Spatial Planning Division, Leonard Francis.
An exploration into the possible replica of the Sponge City concept in Jamaica
Under climate change, unrestricted expansion of urbanisation, environmental degradation, problems associated with urban water-logging, misuse of water resources, and the pollution of aquatic environments, Jamaica's vulnerabilities are highlighted.
In recent years, the island of Jamaica has found itself grappling with the need to design and implement an effective development and planning management system to combat flood inundation and water shortages. This need has become even more evident with the rapid urbanisation of its cities, changing weather patterns due to global warming, and the need to put the country on a sustainable path where all its resources are optimally utilised.
The Sponge City phenomenon — as practised in China and other nations — appears to be an option worth exploring, and its relevance and adaptability to the Jamaican context could be examined.
Sponge Cities refer to a city where urban underground water systems operate like a sponge to passively absorb, store, leak and purify rainwater in an ecologically friendly way, reducing dangerous and polluted run-off, and release it for reuse when necessary.
There are several associated techniques involved, which include rainwater harvesting, permeable roads, rooftop gardens, rain gardens, green space, and blue space such as lakes and ponds. The Sponge City concept/term was derived from China after experimenting with sponge-related urban design ideas more than a decade ago and was only after the Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested that cities “should be like sponges” that the term became trendy among urban planners and designers.
The Sponge City concept offers new principles that are different from the traditional means of managing wastewater. Traditionally, water has been funnelled away from the major cities in the country or discharged into harbours. However, the Sponge City concept seeks to retain this water and reuse it to fulfil the country and people's needs in such a manner that the water is beneficial. This is done by creating an environment that absorbs the water then releases it when required — in a similar manner to that of a sponge. Implementation would be low-impact development with various comprehensive urban water management concepts and strategies. This concept promotes water ecological restoration, aquatic environmental protection, and water security.
The background information, principles, examples, guidelines and standards introduced throughout this paper will present the feasibility and possibility for Jamaica to possibly be the pilot country for the Caribbean to develop a flagship Sponge City.
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