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Show 2019 Architecture: Redefining, Reusing and Recontextualising

In his introduction to the Architecture Show 2019, Dean of Architecture Dr Adrian Lahoud stated, ‘Our School is an ongoing, collective experiment made up of students, parents, support staff, cleaners, administrators, teachers, friends, researchers, colleagues and collaborators. This experiment exists along multiple timescales, in different forums and across a wide range of formats.’ By dissolving the boundaries of who the architect is and what the architect does, Dr Lahoud encapsulates the atmosphere of this year’s Architecture Show, where students have explored form, material and purpose to challenge the parameters of the discipline. Architecture, the Show states, can be buildings, bricks and wood, but it can also be data, space, emotion – a spirit of redefining, reusing and revisiting that encompasses everything from wartime letters from an immigrant family, to indigenous grasslands and glitched cityscapes built from data.

MA Architecture

The Silicon Prarie
The Silicon Prairie, Matthew Darmour-Paul
This scrutiny of architecture’s functions, roles and aims runs throughout works by MA Architecture students. Head of Programme Beth Hughes categorises the exhibition as ‘manifesting across varied temporalities, scales and contexts, and tested in a rich multitude of formats’, stating that ‘each project offers new horizons and raises new questions.’ 

Among those examining the different environments in which architecture can thrive is Matthew Darmour-Paul, whose project The Silicon Prairie draws parallels between twenty-first century tech ventures and nineteenth-century frontier mindsets in the ‘Silicon Prairie’ state of the US Midwest. In Darmour-Paul’s visualisation, the transformation of farming technologies to data infrastructure is interwoven with the restoration of the indigenous prairie tallgrass landscape. 

Pink housing development on top of black and white railway arches
East Pass, Melanie Rich

The possibilities of data run up against the boundaries of architectural practice in Ibiye Camp’s Data, the New Black Gold (winner of the 2019 Dean’s Prize), which examines the data economy of West Africa. Tracing the history of oil production in Nigeria and the complex relationship between wealth, exploitation and environment, Camp maps Lagos’ digital boom physically and symbolically over the oil pipelines that run through the country, comparing their shared stories of privatisation and unchecked power, crude oil spills with data leaks. The final result is a glimpse at how citizens could take control of their own data. Using data from devices situated around Lagos and Freetown, Sierra Leone, an imperfect digital city is built; one that opposes western architectural ideals of modelling.

A radically different yet parallel recontextualising is seen in Melanie Rich’s East Pass, which investigates use of existing open rail tracks infrastructure to build the new homes London desperately needs. Using the example of the overground viaduct that runs between Shoreditch and Mile End, Rich proposes an elevated development that takes inspiration from Neave Brown’s iconic Alexandra Road Estate to create housing that makes use of land that is currently purposeless, tying it to existing streetscapes and providing new amenities such as a pedestrian and cycle bridge into the City. 

MA Interior Design

Students from MA Interior Design also grappled with the subject of reinterpretation, often aligning it with concerns around sustainability and ethicality. Head of Programme Professor Graeme Brooker typified this year’s approach as an examination of how a ‘disused or overlooked environment or element is not only a site of depredation, but a condition for mediation, and the site of the enactment of research and design processes that will ensure meaningful change.’ 

Cody Dock
Clay Slater Thompson, Cody Reed Co-op
Rhea Adaimi’s Capital Carbon reimagines an old warehouse at Cody Dock, a former industrial area in East London. In Adaimi’s proposal, the warehouse would become a place in which air pollution is filtered and transformed into dye. The site would act as an atelier, laboratory and retail space, selling textiles and clothes coloured by the ink, while improving the air quality of the surrounding area. Clay Slater Thompson also uses Cody Dock as the site for his project Cody Reed Co-op, which envisages a workshop, gallery and learning space housed in existing shipping containers on the Lea River. Interrogating our relationship to material, as well as encouraging the conservation of marshland and reed beds vital to the river’s ecosystem, Cody Reed Co-op positions reeds as an important ecological and building resource. 

A different mode of reinterpretation is seen in Eryk Jeziorski’s Halfway Home, which proposes a gallery dedicated to handwritten letters. In Jeziorski’s vision the exhibition would be centred around the letters of Roman Zawadzki, a Polish officer, immigrant, husband, father and friend, recontextualising his letters – mundane and important, intimate and businesslike – to build a depiction of separation, love and immigration that transcends the specific realities of their creation. This theme of reuse – of opening up histories to illuminate new meanings – is also evident in Ghost of the House by Yilei Xue. The project is situated in Clandon House, a historic stately home that was gutted by an electric fire in 2015. With only one room intact, the rest of the house stands as a shell, its charred bones once again revealed. Xue’s work marries the past and the present, detailing the house’s ‘ghost stories’ to audiences, and staging installations that encourage visitors to contemplate the house’s history and its future simultaneously. 

Halfway Home
Halfway Home, Eryk Jeziorski


The spirit of questioning that recurs throughout Show Architecture 2019 extends to its two research students, Soon Min Hong and Angeliki Sakellariou, with Head of Research Programmes, Dr Harriet Harris, summarising their work as demonstrating ‘how the School’s researchers are rigorously engaged in questioning what characterises the creation of a research project through’. Soon Min Hong’s project, A Design Guideline for School Shelters: disaster-resilient communities in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, links research to a practical outcome, interrogating how knowledge of local areas, design practices and communities can aid the government of Laos to build schools which also function as shelters. Angeliki Sakellariou’s The Architecture of Distributed Social Care: The Case of Athens focuses on how the formation of public space can aid distributed social care in post-recession Athens, examining how we can change perceptions of social spaces. 

The Architecture of Distributed Social Care: The Case of Athens
The Architecture of Distributed Social Care: The Case of Athens, Angeliki Sakellariou

Show 2019 runs from 29 June to 7 July (closed 3 July), 12–6pm daily. 

Find out more about degrees on offer in the School of Architecture at the RCA, and how to apply.