This year, the unit will focus on the practice of architecture as a partially autonomous discipline. A degree of autonomy in the design process can enable a more holistic way of approaching a project and greater clarity in defining design intentions. Though we have great sympathy with the idea of design as a response to its immediate and broader context, we think that it is sometimes useful to approach design from the opposite direction, to apply a pre-defined model to place and to see what dialogue emerges.
The pre-defined model that we are interested in is characterised by polyvalence – meaning that it should be able to adapt, with minimal modification, to accommodate different uses. This thesis will be tested in two projects at different scales.
The first will be to collectively design and self-build a polyvalent structure made of grown materials, timber and hemp, at full scale on land at Margent Farm in Cambridgeshire. The project will build on research and built projects undertaken by Practice Architecture on land bought by its owner to explore the cultivation of hemp and its use in products that range from packaging to construction components. You will be introduced to significant new research in material culture that looks at how different parts of the plant can be combined to make stiff composites. The construction period will be compact and take place in two phases.
The major project will address polyvalency at the scale of the city in the design of a model that could be adapted to accommodate programmes of dwelling, education and work. The polyvalent model will be developed through a number of iterations that will be considered initially as autonomous from place but contingent to the following issues:
- material selection (their sources, capabilities and impact on the environment)
- the setting out of structure (the permanent)
- the composition of space (the permanent or mutable)
- the route taken by services (the necessarily adaptable)
- the external expression (necessary for architectural probity)
The next phase of the major project will look at how the model might be adapted further when applied to sites inside and at the edges of social housing estates in London above the 100-year flood plain.
The unit continues to be concerned with how material and industrial cultures will shape the world in the near future and are still driven by a desire to intelligently and creatively challenge the regulations, supply chains and processes that to a large extent prescribe how the buildings we inhabit are made, function and feel.
Image: Hempcrete & Oak Columns, 1:10 model. Joseph Bodansky, 2014
Architecture Postgraduate Studios
Unit 02: Ideal World
Ideal World is about creating delight with the basic components of architecture: urban design, plan and facade making, construction and drawing.
Unit 04: Virtual Laboratory | Adaptation to Extreme Topography
Jonas Lundberg, Andrew Grant and Nate Kolbe
Buildings and infrastructure of the Sicilian volcanic landscape in the vicinity of Mount Etna have integrated with the extreme topography by exploiting the available building material and construction methods. Unit 04 strives for an architecture adapted to the extreme topography but with character and ubiquitous qualities springing from a combination of digital design technique and a meticulous exploitation of the local volcanic and timber materials used in combination with emerging technology.
Unit 05: The House and Garden
Alex Ely and Michael Dillon
Focusing on first hand experience, developing working methods and understanding context, we will examine the complex constraints of modern housing. We will look at vertical living in London, and communal space as a method of improving connections between the interior and exterior of all dwellings.
Unit 06: Civic Edgelands
Professor Maurice Mitchell, Dr Bo Tang, Jane McAllister and Sandra Denicke-Polcher
A city, a countryside from a distance is a city and a countryside; but as you approach, they are houses, trees, shingles, leaves, grass, ants, legs of ants and so on to infinity: all this is enveloped in the name [edgelands] (apologies to Blaise Pascal in Thoughts). Unit 6 offers students a choice of three settings each consisting of migrant gateways and transitional settlements: Eleonas, Athens, Greece; Belmonte, Calabria, Italy or Kaningo, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Unit 07: Polyvalent Models
David Grandorge and Paloma Gormley
This year, the unit will focus on the practice of architecture as a partially autonomous discipline, addressing the issues of polyvalence and material culture in the design of a city scaled building and a structure that will be built at 1:1 on Margent Farm in Cambridge.
Unit 08: Both-And Midland cities III
Takero Shimazaki (t-sa) and Summer Islam
Unit 8 will explore the language of architecture in relation to the ethics of construction. Beginning with Venturi’s definition of design which is ‘Both-And’ - that which embodies contradictory levels of meaning and use, we will propose civic buildings in Stoke on Trent which allow inconsistencies and redundancies, encouraging the seemingly dissimilar to exist side by side.
Unit 09: Gigantism and the Baroque
Stephen Taylor, Theodoros Thysiades and Jamie Dean
Unit 9 will make large residential buildings in London that explore a shift in scale well beyond their immediate context. The Architecture of the Baroque will be explored for its artistic and compositional qualities of scale and distortion.
Unit 14: Roding Riverfront
Pierre d’Avoine and Pereen d'Avoine
Unit 14 will study the Roding River in Barking, East London. We will engage with a variety of protagonists with interests in the area to evolve proposals for the Roding riverfront and environs.
Unit 15: Good Values
James Binning, Ellie Howard and James Pockson
Unit 15 will work across Erith in the London Borough of Bexley, proposing projects for public sites across the town. Against a backdrop of deepening cuts to public services, ailing high-streets and a purge of industry from the city, we will explore forms of civic architecture, social enterprise and proactive policymaking with the potential to positively and radically renew the built environment.