Unit 09: Between room and city

Unit brief

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

Faience plaques at Knossos Palace


Architecture MA
Tutors Stephen Taylor
Theodoros Thysiades
Where Goulston Street
Room GS2-35
When Monday and Thursday

Architecture Postgraduate Studios


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