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ShowRCA 2016: School of Architecture – Systems and Contexts of Inhabited Space

At ShowRCA 2016, the School of Architecture boldly addresses current global issues and proposes solutions for emerging and future problems. Across both Architecture and Interior Design, students have taken a human-centred approach, anticipating how the requirements of shifting populations can be met through these evolving disciplines. 

For this year’s Show, the 56 graduating Architecture students are exhibiting individual projects, arranged roughly by scale, from the human sized to the planetary. The exhibition also includes a library and reading area to allow visitors to browse in depth the research and writing behind each of the students’ projects.

 ‘Architecture is primarily a mode of investigation, a mode of enquiry,’ Dr Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture, explained. ‘What is exciting about this year’s show are the tensions that arise between the students’ work when it is shown together.’ The students tackle diverse, global issues using varied research methods, from working through making, to practical field trips, conducting interviews with local groups and collaborating with experts across different fields.

Starting with the needs of the individual, Kamil Hilmi Dalkir has focused on the impact of the refugee crisis in Lesvos. Rather than suggesting provisions for emergency physical shelter, Kamil has considered ways that infrastructure can help refugees to access knowledge and resources in preparation for their onward journeys. Other students have tackled the problems of housing in increasingly crowded urban environments. Ohyun Kwon has proposed a model for cohabitation for young workers in Seoul. Taking into account current employment trends, his modular structures are designed for self-employed workers living, working and socialising in shared spaces.

Many of the students’ graduate projects prompt social change through giving people autonomy over means of production. Their research is driven by the needs of communities and utilises collaborative methods of co-design. During sustained visits to the Philippines, Georgia White has worked with inhabitants and local government to tackle the problem of urban slums. Her project proposes a method for strengthening temporary dwellings with structural supports, which would improve living conditions, provide an alternative to slum clearances and return power and agency to local people.

The provision and division of valuable resources, from the tangible to the digital, permeates several projects. Charles Proctor has created a design for future global metal shortages. Rather than being permanent structures, Charles imagines buildings as a form of metal deposit, storing resources to be recycled and put to use again in a circular economy.

Closer to home, Kit Stiby Harris’ project poses the provocative suggestion that the Parthenon marbles should be re-united in London. This proposed loan would redress the debt between Greece and Western Europe, exploiting the value of cultural assets and culture’s ability to create capital. Another speculation concerning debt and value is Johnny Lui’s project, which collides architectural practice with futures trading. Johnny imagines the shift of value away from material properties to more speculative elements that could be traded, creating new controls over the right to build.

A range of techniques has been put to use by students to image and understand urban and rural spaces in innovative ways. Marina Andronescu has used thermal imaging as a way to interpret and bring attention to the underground community in Bucharest, who during the winter inhabit spaces where subterranean pipes emit heat. Satellite imagery was a key tool used by Adrian Yau, who has researched the way that communities in Bolivia are shaped by the cultivation and trade of coca.

A holistic approach that considers overarching contexts is also evident in the Interior Design students’ projects. The predominant focus of the programme is on the re-use of existing space and the way that people interact and shape spaces they inhabit. These dual concerns are explored across a range of scales, from that of the object, to the room, building, street or entire city.

The perceived dissatisfaction of suburban life is tackled by Hailey Darling. Focusing on an actual street in a London suburb, Hailey has transformed the failed project of suburbia with distinct elements taken from the city, breaking up the architectural monotony and making the suburbs more appealing to those accustomed to the vibrancy of inner city life.

Other students have considered how sites of refuge can be created within busy urban environments. The unused spaces hidden within London’s many church spires are transformed by Eve Hoffmann into spaces for reflection, meditation or escape. Similarly Jessica Wang has designed a series of spaces that appeal to the senses and provide spaces to alter mental states, through quality of air, light and surrounding elements.

Margate provided an apt case study for several of this year’s students interested in transforming unused, abandoned or deteriorating spaces. The town has a diverse migrant population and the students’ projects focused on the needs of these communities, proposing new uses for spaces, which in turn would contribute to wider regeneration.

Margate’s lost pier was the starting point for Katalin Kristof, who has designed a climatic baths on the footprint of the old pier. Using both natural and engineered elements, her proposal features a series of spaces for leisure and pleasure, from open-air swimming facilities to steam rooms. Caroline Barske has drawn on the healing properties of Margate’s natural resources in her design for a therapeutic centre for women recovering from eating disorders. Her proposal makes use of a building once used by the Royal Bathing Hospital and promotes unity with time through exposure to the changes in tide, weather and seasons.

The iconic Arlington House in Margate was the focus for several students. Mi Ree Kwon has designed a food-sharing scheme that transforms the first three floors with communal spaces in which residents could share meals and cook together. Another project proposes the establishment of a cultural hub in a former Primark building. Paulina Niebrzydowska has created a Fixmaker Factory, where discarded objects and materials such as broken furniture and clothing can be renewed in workshops making use of the skills possessed by the local community.

Outside of the Margate, the issues surrounding migration are explored by Zara Ashby, who has proposed to transform 94 Piccadilly, a Grade I listed mansion, into an embassy for the transient. The building is currently being redeveloped and set to become one of the UK’s most expensive homes, making it a site of controversy due to the scarcity of affordable housing in the capital. Zara’s proposal is to create an embassy for those without a nation, as a monument to transient people and to raise awareness of migrant alienation.

ShowRCA 2016 takes place in Battersea and Kensington 26 June to 3 July (closed 1 July), 12 midday – 8pm; see more Information about opening hours and events.

Find out more about the School of Architecture and how to Apply.