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Architecture Live Projects

MA Architecture

The ‘Live Project’ at the RCA provides Architecture students at the College the unique opportunity to participate with external partners, expanding their design practice through developing and challenging briefs, testing sites, engaging with different communities and realising projects.

HELIX Centre
HELIX Centre
The Healthcare Innovation Exchange (HELIX) Centre is the first Live Project to be built; designed, developed and implemented by students Ralf Alwani, Joanna Hyland and Matthew Volsen and opened in January 2015. The HELIX centre, a collaboration between Royal College of Art and Imperial College, is a design studio that operates within the grounds of St Mary’s Hospital as a hub to engage frontline NHS staff and patients as co-design collaborators promoting design-led innovation in the field of health-care. The project was Highly Commended at the Wood Awards 2015 for being ‘a beautifully clear concept that is exquisitely detailed’, demonstrating the potential of inspiring students through live briefs.

Now in its fifth year, the Helix Centre is just one of many projects students have participated in; from community practice in Wembley, pedestrian networks for TFL, to street furniture next to the Thames; all rich examples of the distinctive results that come out of the programme. The Live Project operates within the Architectural Design Studios (ADS), each brief offering bold and varied interpretations and challenges to the mode of external engagement as part of design education. The programme has a diverse range of projects currently active in the studios including student build projects and prototypes, collaborative research with NGO’s and proposals for research projects and conferences.


ADS1 Live Project
ADS1 Live Project
ADS1: The Shape of the City, The Shape of the Home are addressing one of the most vital topics for contemporary practice: dwelling. Housing produced at scale is in a state of acute crisis throughout London, the UK and beyond. Government, clients and architecture must be ready to contribute new ideas of dwelling to shaping environments and communities. As part of this studio research and experimentation, first-year students are working with British Land on a prototypical apartment, a portion of which will be realised at 1:1 on-site.  The studio are working closely with the British Land housing team to debate, test and explore new modes of living and housing typologies against industry models, construction methods and market strategy.


ADS3: Banking Nature are working with independent arts project and community drinks enterprise Company Drinks, to transform a vacant bowling green club, awarded to the initiative by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, into a production facility for Company Drinks’ foraged drinks. The project seeks to turn a production facility into a facilitator for an alternative future for the neighbourhood. Students are developing projects that look at the different networks of existing resources (human, environmental, economic, social) to propose and envision different forms of usage for this collective piece of infrastructure.


ADS4 Live Project
ADS4 Live Project
Under the theme of ‘Economics as Fiction’, ADS4: Series 6 is collaborating with Squint/Opera and director Jonas McQuiggin, to produce a film and exhibition for the 2017 Renewable Futures Conference. The film explores the shock of the EU referendum result to the currency and stock market, which has led to an environment of economic and political uncertainty while also revealing a great deal about London’s relationship with the rest of the UK. The film explores these themes through a speculative economic scenario focusing on the future of work, extrapolating current shifts in employment such as the gig economy, sharing economy and the on-demand economy, the automation of labour and the inevitable end of retirement.


ADS5: Architecture and World Systems  are looking at Burning Man/Black Rock City as a ‘world system heterotopia’. The complexities and contradictions of Black Rock City’s conditions of existence are staggering, and exceptionally revealing regarding many aspects of the leading edge of global capitalism today.  The first year students are submitting building proposals and a new masterplan for the Burning Man honoraria funding, with the intention of building at Burning Man 2017.


ADS6 Live Project
ADS6 Live Project
In another collaboration with British Land ADS6: The Deindustrial Revolution are working alongside the office team to explore co-working spaces and test the frontier for contemporary office design. The studio is collaborating with furniture manufacturer Ercol to design and build a modular and flexible pop-up system for co-working spaces, experimenting with the overlap between furniture design and architecture to create spaces that allow for transformative opportunities of display (identity) and inhabitation (enclosure).  The studio continues to research and explore how the transfer and development of material knowledge can inform architecture and design.


ADS7 Live Project
ADS7 Live Project
ADS7: Collective Equipment are collaborating with the Centre of Research Architecture (CRA) and Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths University and a series of NGOs to address the blockade of Gaza. Through a series of workshops have set-up a long-term research platform on collective equipment in Palestine. Emerging from the research on the restricted existence inside the blockade and the challenges to construction that this presents, the students are currently developing a manual for designing, approving and implementing projects inside the Palestinian territories.


ADS9: Institutional Forms and Urban Logics continue to explore the tactics and spatial innovations latent in institutions. The students are using the live project to test how scales and measure have become institutionalised and ubiquitously inform our spatial surroundings. The students are currently engaged with national, private standard making body DIN (Deutsches Institut fur Normung) in an attempt to design and register their own standard.


While broad in approach, context and partners, all of the briefs seek to test the boundaries of architectural practice. The Live Projects provide a platform for students to work with external parameters, opinions, briefs and forces, generating a context against which to test design innovations and the potential relevance and agency of architecture.