Since the Renaissance and the rebirth of humanist classical culture, it became conceptually possible for architects to detach the design of a building's facade from its overall form.
As construction techniques evolved and typologies adapted to contemporary formations, modernist architects sought to supersede the facade's symbolic value by focusing on their buildings' function.
This year we will explore the potential of the architectural facade to make a meaningful contribution to the city and its streets.
Our conversations will focus on the ability of the facade to express at once the inside and the outside of a building and relate the public to the private realm.
The facades of London retain for the most part a simple figurative logic that links the building to the space of a seemingly improvised pattern of streets and public spaces that have, in many instances, remained unchanged for centuries.
In the past decade, a type of co-working space has emerged in the city, that promotes social interaction and collaboration. As the model develops we are witnessing the appearance of an increasing number of buildings of introverted character and commercial outlook that offer little in return to the city. We will ask you to consider this issue and make your own architectural proposals in response.
We will start the year with a visit to Sir John Soane’s Museum to discuss its street facade, its rooms and furnishings. We will continue with a month-long exercise asking each student to draw and model a well-known London building and propose an alternative facade to reinvent its relationship to the city. The selection will range from Erno Goldfinger’s Willow Road house to Neave Brown’s Winscombe Street terrace.
In November we will travel to Venice and the Veneto to see the facades of Venetian Palazzos and Palladian Villas and study their relationship to their urban and natural environments. Your main project for the year will be to design a new place for co-working and co-living in west London. The mixed-use building will be of intermediate scale and will offer accommodation across the spectrum of uses and tenures but our focus will be directed to the design and modelling of its facades at a large scale.
Image: Faience plaques, Knossos Palace, 1700-1600 BC
Creative Commons License © Zdenek Kratochvil
Architecture Postgraduate Studios
Unit 02: Low in energy, high in style
Tony Fretton and Katherine Nolan
1. In a location in Regents Park: Design an Embassy, consisting of a Residence, the house of the Ambassador, and a Chancellery, as well as the offices of the Embassy. 2. Concurrently, study aspects of the location, and an architect from a list given.
Unit 04: The Space of Event
Nate Kolbe, Jonas Lundberg, Andrew Grant
Our course of study and proposition takes on the mutable and adaptable spatial and architectural strategies around events, gatherings, demonstrations, spectacles and large-scale societal interchange.
Unit 05: The tectonic language of timber
Alex Ely and Michael Dillon
This year’s programme considers the implication construction methods and materials have on the landscape. We will explore the tectonics of timber construction to form tactile and expressive collective housing, buildings with a civic gravitas and urban gardens. Cement is prohibited.
Unit 06: Arrival City
Professor Maurice Mitchell, Dr Bo Tang, Jane McAllister and Sandra Denicke-Polcher
This year Unit 06 will focus on the contribution that architecture can make to the integration of refugees into a host community. Students will be offered a choice of: Athens, Greece; Calabria, Italy; or Freetown, Sierra Leone (Year 5 only). All three are migrant gateways, and transitional settlements for the uprooted.
Unit 07: Absurd Pragmatism: Pragmatic Absurdism
David Grandorge and Colin Wharry
This year’s major design project, run in parallel to a program taught by Professor Geir Brendeland to students at NTNU, will address the future life of a former submarine bunker - Dora II - in Trondheim, Norway. The Unit has also been invited by the city to design and build an ambitious timber structure within the bunker that will perform the dual functions of exhibition space for archival photographs and a gathering place for organized and more informal events.
Unit 08: Lightness and Weight
Takero Shimazaki, Paolo Emilio Pisano and Karabo Turner
Unit 08 will explore lightness in architecture, crucially as a disposition that favours touching the earth lightly. We will pursue an architecture that is irreducible – one containing urbanity and continuity within the lightness of its approach. We will propose buildings with a civic dimension in the complex urban fabric of Battersea, overlaying education and public use within a singular project, and deploying lightness and weight toward a renewed civic life.
Unit 09: Between room and city
Stephen Taylor and Theodoros Thysiades
This year Unit 09 will explore the potential of the architectural facade to make a meaningful contribution to the streets of London. Against a current of introverted and commercially minded co-working and co-living developments, that have emerged across the city in recent times, our design research will investigate the design of buildings with a figurative presence on the street and of spaces that promote social interaction and collaboration for living and working.
Unit 12: Everything is Transformation
Peter St John, Fabienne Sommer, Ben Speltz and James Hand
The studio will make propositions for a new architecture school for The Cass at its site in Aldgate. The year’s work will focus on a transformation of the existing buildings.
Unit 14: Mad about Barking [and Dagenham]
Pierre d’Avoine and Pereen d'Avoine
Unit 14 has been invited by Barking and Dagenham Council to work in the borough again this academic year, after a highly successful collaboration last year researching and making proposals for the newly formed Creative Enterprise Zone along the River Roding. This year we invite students to speculate on what constitutes an inclusive public realm and to design scenarios for exchange which impact positively on the extensive new mainly commercial development under construction in the borough.
Unit 15: The Land We Live In
Assemble w/ OMMX
Unit 15 will explore how architecture can respond to challenges facing society and the environment today through collaborative research and projects in Bridport, Dorset. Working with the local think-tank Stir to Action, Wessex Community Assets and the environmental arts group Common Ground, we will use detailed contextual research and material investigations to develop projects on two sites – the first in an industrial context in the town and the second on a rural site on the edge of Bridport.