John Spence Curating UCLA Design Contest

Karma Group Founder & Chairman John Spence has always been passionate about educating and empowering the younger generation – interests that have seen him forge strong ties with some of the world’s leading educational institutions – including the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). In 2018, John was invited to undertake a Distinguished Visiting Fellowship at the illustrious university in the Department of Architecture & Urban Design.

Now, he’s been invited back. Over the course of the next couple of months, he’ll be working with UCLA students on a special project that aims to hone their skills and knowledge around sustainable architecture and design in a specific destination – in this instance, the South of France.

The students’ brief invites them to think about the countryside not as an empty canvas, but as a richly detailed environment with complex ecologies – both natural and man made. As such, they must first understand what is there, before considering what they want to build, in order that their design is effectively integrated – whilst still being unique and even iconic! What better way to illustrate these qualities than the historic citadel of Carcassonne – a beautifully preserved example of Mediaeval architecture cleverly restored by famous French architects. “La Cité” is at once monumental – and yet manages to marry itself with its topography and the modern town of which it is a part.

The highlight of the two month course is a field trip for the students to Carcassonne, home to Karma Chateau de Samary, where the students will be tasked with designing an ecologically integrated extension to the property suited to the local environment and climate – under John’s watchful eye of course!

We’ll be sharing updates as the project unfolds – including of course the winning design. What’s more, we’re inviting you, our Members, to vote for your favourite design. The winning design will then be assimilated into the Karma Group’s global portfolio of properties. Stay tuned to Karma Community and our social media streams for regular updates as the project unfolds – and before you know it, you could be booking your next holiday at a stunning new ecologically integrated property in the South of France…

Project Design Brief


  1. Excited ! Let’s see what would unfold..
    when the new meets the age-old !!
    More excited as my daughter’s bestie is part of UCLA.

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