Unit 08: Both-And Midland cities III

Unit brief

This year Unit 8 will explore the language of architecture in relation to the ethics of construction.

We begin with Venturi’s definition of design which is ‘Both-And’ - that which embodies contradictory levels of meaning and use. We will propose buildings that allow inconsistencies and redundancies, encouraging the seemingly dissimilar to exist side by side. We will experiment with the form of civic architecture in Stoke-on-Trent, a city with a legacy of expressive building and industrial heritage that is now diminished. Branded the ‘Brexit Capital of Britain,’ the decline in the potteries has side-lined the six towns of Stoke, now aggregated together with no appreciable centre and a poorly developed public realm. 

We will conduct workshops exploring the changing nature of construction, designing and making details, in parallel with our programme of seminars on architectural theory. In reading the Ten Books of Architecture by Leon Battista Alberti, and Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradictionin Architecture, we will compare the two texts, and will confront the Vitruvian assumption at the root of Alberti’s books - that when utility and structure are adequately addressed, beauty is the inevitable result. We will discuss how, over the course of the twentieth century, Modernism redefined the expression of structure and utility. Today, a new notion of truthful construction driven by efficiency dominates discourse - and it is within this contemporary palette that we will experiment. 

The unit remains focused on public building and will again explore the potential of the individual artefact to influence the public realm. Our sites will be scattered across Stoke-on-Trent. Taking our cue from the characterful buildings of the industrial past, we will start by designing new council service centres for the constituent towns of Stoke. The unit will conclude the year with the design of buildings with public character, experimenting with the language of the ‘Both-And’ to define the civic in the every-day.


Image: Vanna Venturi House, Construction Drawings, Sepia Set, May 24-27th, 1963 © The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania

Blueprint of architectural details


Architecture MA
Tutors Takero Shimazaki (t-sa)
Summer Islam 
Where Goulston Street
Room GS1-19
When Monday and Thursday


Architecture Postgraduate Studios


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