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School of Architecture Work-in-progress Show Displays Critical Engagement with Society and the Urban Domain

In a highly polished and vibrant Work-in-progress Show, the School of Architecture presents itself at the forefront of new thinking on the nature of architectural practice, social innovation and the role of the interior. Collaborative studio working processes shine through in an exhibition that asserts ideas over individuals, positioning the disciplines of architecture and interior design in a critical context and exploring vital contemporary political and civic debates.

The role of the architect is changing radically, as practices respond to a need to encompass a wide range of roles that affect the built environment, from lighting and industrial design, to community consultation and urban planning. In response to this expanded definition, the School of Architecture is embracing diversification and collaboration as key tools for practice, giving students the skills of discussion and exchange to enable their involvement in all stages from research to planning to making.

This Work-in-progress Show is an opportunity to gain real insight into how students lay the foundations for their time in the School of Architecture. Films responding to the question, ‘What is the role of the interior today?’ take the pulse of the Interior Design programme as it settles into its third year, with students presenting the interior environment’s potential to influence and radically improve daily life, in the context of health care, hospitality, transport, industry, the office, retail and the home. 

Core to the School is the competition to design a Live Project, open to all first-year Architecture and Interior Design students in their first term. The three winning proposals from this year’s project to redesign the Exhibition Road Tunnel are on view, alongside a film documenting previous Live Project winner, the Helix Design Lab. This is the first Royal College of Art student-designed building to be completed, and the first of a series of constructions addressing London’s public realm, highlighting a key area of concern in much of the work in progress on display. 

In an extremely outward-looking show, many students are seen to be taking an entrepreneurial approach to addressing real questions of urban living, housing, garden cities, new towns and community empowerment and agency, establishing projects, partnerships and relationships that will form the grounding of their practice for years to come. 

Clementine Blakemore’s Project Lacey Green involves the collaborative construction of a new classroom for a local primary school, while Tom Dobson’s Plant Room: A Room for a Resilient Neighbourhood asks if ‘we citizens can assume the role of developer to destabilise existing power structures and reclaim a right to plan’. 

Interior Design students are working together to design a Maggie’s Centre, a drop-in centre offering support to people with cancer and their families and friends. Self-initiated projects by second-year students in Interior Design ask: What is the future of education? What is the future of the office environment? How can we disrupt and have a positive impact on the public realm? How can we create space to meet and interact in cramped living conditions? What would a post-gender interior be like?

This year’s Work-in-progress Show represents collaborations across programmes, across the College and beyond, to critically engage with the social and urban context. Exhibiting at this point in the year allows another form of collaboration, as audiences are invited to participate through forums, salons and discussion events. 

Approaching real-world problems while retaining a playful and sometimes speculative approach, students are taking full advantage of their position in London, one of the most diverse and exciting cities in the world, which constantly throws up new urban and social conditions. The School of Architecture shows it has the energy, skills, enthusiasm and imagination to meet these future challenges.