Unit 15: Good Values

Unit brief

Unit 15 strives to produce projects that are grounded in economic reality and hands-on practice. Lead by Assemble and by Ellie Howard at the Greater London Authority (GLA), the group will explore what agency our abilities as architects equip us with to challenge the status quo and address critical, contemporary urban issues, employing the diverse skills our architectural education equips us with to produce diverse strategic architectural proposals that have the potential to become prototypical models of the future.

This year, Unit 15 will produce a common vision for Erith in the London Borough of Bexley, working on publicly owned sites across the high street, industrial estate and riverside to realise an ambitious vision for the town. At a time where London’s cash-strapped boroughs are implementing deeper cuts to public services, high streets are ailing and land for industry is increasingly vulnerable to housing development, we will test the potential for new forms of civic architecture, social enterprise and proactive policymaking to positively and radically renew the built environment.

We will begin with a month-long collective project to produce a publication that will form the basis of our proposals this year. A detailed portrait of the physical and social fabric of Erith, it will examine how the techniques that we use as architects to understand a given context – such as drawing, modelling, photography and data mapping – each shape our perceptions of place. This project will involve workshops at City Hall with key figures at the GLA and the pan-London public-sector planning research programme, Public Practice.

Our trip will take us to Stockholm, where we will participate in a workshop with students of art and architecture at Konstfack, the largest university of arts, crafts and design in Sweden. The workshop will explore the legacy of modernism in the city and the capacity of material and architectural form to resist or accelerate subsequent urban transformation.

Following the trip, we will work collaboratively to develop a critical and ambitious strategy for the town. We will draw upon the group research to produce project proposals on a range of sites, which will form the point of departure for individual thesis proposals for the rest of the year. After the Christmas break, projects will be developed through an intensive design process that will begin with a detailed precedent study and develop through design workshops with architects from leading London practices. A programme of Monday seminars will introduce a diverse set of texts that will underpin our discussions throughout the year and give our proposals a strong critical, ethical and architectural position.

This year we will take a special interest in the facade and the tectonic potential of ceramics. A key part of the year will involve the construction of 1:1 material prototypes that explore the architecture at the detail scale.

We will work with engineers Structure Workshop to continue our exploration of timber construction. The unit will have an emphasis on designing buildings which demonstrate an economy of means, acknowledging that the construction of buildings today is driven above all by consideration for cost and that an understanding of how to build resourcefully is critical to realising buildings that are spatially generous and programmes that are accessible to all.

Above all we will run a course that is exciting, critical and practical. We will expect you to explore broadly, read deeply, experiment radically, and to be bold in your and ideas and ambitious in your propositions.


Image: Archipelago. Credit: OM Ungers

Gridded map diagram with scattered objects


Architecture MA
Tutors James Binning
Ellie Howard
James Pockson 
Where Goulston Street
Room GS2-31
When Monday and Thursday

Architecture Postgraduate Studios


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