School of Architecture Work-in-progress Show 2016: Ambitious and Future-facing

Students from across the School of Architecture have created an impressive exhibition that highlights both a deep engagement with historical contexts and hopeful projections for an enhanced future. Thought-provoking presentations offer an expanded vision of architecture and ambitious applications of interior design strive to improve the everyday spaces we inhabit. 

The Interior Design work on display demonstrates the programme’s holistic approach to the discipline. Throughout the programme, students consider who uses spaces and how, the political, historical and social contexts of inhabited spaces, and the social changes that can be affected through design.

Outcomes from the first-year project Proximities explore the context of specific buildings in Margate. Hand-drawn sketches, models and digital renders are used to present research into these buildings, from consideration of vertical and horizontal aspects, to the entrance sequences, apertures, openings and links within the buildings. Students have developed an understanding and curiosity towards working with what already exists, be that a room, building, street, district or a whole town or city.

Second-year projects can be seen from across three studios. The Sensory Algorithm studio embraces the processes of interior design, exploring sensory, mathematical, and technical inputs as well as the conscious or unconscious decision-making involved. Through a continual process of research, testing and documentation, students have created rich, layered design proposals, firmly grounded in their unique contexts. Projects range from Gabriella Geagea’s Cleansing Space, which explores notions of identity and memory within Tripoli’s Rachid Karami International Fair site, to The Gymnasium by Lucy Sanderson, which proposes a social model to create community connections in Canada Water, London.

The Escape studio considers ideas of the resort as an escape from everyday life, but also as an essential element of survival. Encroaching pressures from digital technologies, along with the increasing rationalisation of space within the built environment, has caused an increasing diminishment of experience within the physical realm. Projects from this studio consider what it means to escape, whether that is through fantasy or seclusion, seeking rehabilitation or necessary extrication. The designs question what new forms of retreat are needed and how interior design can provide them. They range from Katalin Kristof’s proposal to capture the weather, to Eve Hoffmann’s sites of exile at the top of London’s church spires.

Through Studio Incomplete, students are challenged to reconsider how abandoned and seemingly redundant urban spaces can be reprogrammed and utilised. Focusing on Margate’s modern ‘architectural confections’, which have been left to degrade, the students considered whether these spaces are really dormant or only waiting for transformation. In observing, scrutinising, analysing and mapping these spaces and the people who use them, the students have developed informed, intuitive and insightful suggestions of how they might be repurposed. Suggestions include Margate Playscape by Junseok Moon, an area for young people to come together, and The Gate, by Paulina Niebrzydowska, a making and fixing space to unite the existing community with vulnerable newcomers.

The Architecture programme is similarly divided into a series of studios, and the work on display demonstrates a vast breadth of architectural practice, from the domestic, through urban sprawl, to forecasts of post-capital spaces, structures and platforms.

Sprawl, one of the studios focusing on urban development, has this year created an installation of a supermarket. Here ‘consumer goods’, made by second-year students, explores the economy and culture of urban sprawl. These products include a three-way de-isolating headphone, by Catherine Mollett, designed to encourage communication amongst friends rather than isolating users from their surroundings, and Emmeline Quigley’s Cleanie Beanie, a playful appropriation of Beanie Babies from 1990s that explores how brands manipulate their resale value.

The Domestic Imagination studio considers housing, architecture’s most prevalent and greatest challenge. For the show, they have also collaboratively created an installation. This cross section of a domestic interior includes objects such an East Meets West tableware set by Jamie Ka Yu Wong, which represents the amicable relationship between China and Britain in the Royal Albert Dock, and a child-sized doorway by Llywelyn James that promotes the importance of spaces at home designed exclusively for children.

The way that people live is approached from a broader perspective through the Ecologies of Existence studio. Student research on display considers a wide variety of situations, from coca growers in Bolivia to domestic environments that comfort people living with dementia. They also consider more precarious modes of living, such as the journeys made by migrants and the transient spaces inhabited by bike couriers.

On a larger scale, the Super Models & Supporting Actors studio considers the mathematical, scientific or economic models through which we understand the world. A series of objects playfully present new models, such as the repurposing of the Palace of Westminster as housing, a personal metal stockpile and a series of augmented objects that question the aesthetics of information we share through social media. Similarly, models and work in progress from the Institutional Forms and Urban Logics studio explore how architecture can act as an interface between new institutions and the everyday enactment of the ideals they perpetuate.

Speculations for the near future are made by the Postcapital – Platforms, Structures and Spaces studio. Through radical imagination, politically enlightened thought and ‘underdog ideas’ they consider the role architecture can play in a post-capitalist world. Propositions presented explore ideas such as increased automation and the rise of intelligent machines, the complex systems and architectural surroundings of high finance exchanges, and the labour involved in natural birth.

Taking a perhaps more down-to-earth approach, by focusing on the capabilities of different materials, the De-industrial Revolution studio explores tensions between increasingly digitised means of fabrication and craft techniques. The objects on display explore the value of folk culture and the contribution local knowledge can make to architectural practices. Alex Assael and Jamie Wright have created a structure from discarded wooden pallets and industrial plastic sheeting, challenging the boundary between landfill and useful. Whereas Andres Vilaros Souto, has used Rebar, a building material ubiquitous to the uncontrolled urban development in Mexico State, to make a set of tools for self-building, transforming the perception of this material.

Projects from the Multi-Use Public Space Design Competition, developed with St James and Future City, are also featured in the exhibition. The competition provided an opportunity for students to develop innovative, future-facing designs for the public realm, anticipating ways that public space might be used for work and leisure. The winning project was inspired by the historic ceramic industry in Lambeth and the revolutionary approach to sanitation pioneered in London. Using the column as a traditional storytelling device, the humble drainage pipe becomes a tool through which the past, future and present of ceramics on the Albert Embankment can be explored.

Alongside MA projects, work in progress from research students is also on display, taking equally diverse and surprising approaches. A video by Claudia Dutson explores the metaphors, idioms, and synonyms used to describe temperature, testing the idea that attitudes towards heat emerge from the contested ground of power, economics, desire, productivity and war.

The School of Architecture Work-in-progress Show is open 5–7 February, 12–5.30pm

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