Unit 15: The Land We Live In

Unit brief

This year, Unit 15 will host an open discussion about how the architecture profession might develop into a discipline with the skills and capacities to meaningfully contribute to the challenges that face both society and the environment today. The scale and complexity of these issues demands collaborative responses, and we will emphasise the importance of working together through the year to think critically, openly and fearlessly about our role in the world. We will draw deeply from architectural history and engage with an uncertain future firmly, ambitiously and propositionally. Climate breakdown is becoming an increasingly prominent concern for architects across the world but so far it is still generally understood as primarily a technical challenge. We believe that the challenges of ecological and climate collapse are, in fact, first and foremost imaginative challenges, because architecture not only reflects the human order but actively re-makes it.

This year our work together will focus on Dorset broadly and the town of Bridport specifically. A centuries-old town on the Jurassic coast, Bridport’s charming and characterful high street and its location within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty mask a more complex and turbulent reality. Income inequality is amongst the highest in the country, affordable housing is beyond the reach of almost all local young people and substantial new developments will alter the fabric of town, stripping out employment land, compounding local social and economic problems and damaging a sensitive ecological site.

In the first part of Semester One we will deepen our understanding of the town and the wider territory to equip ourselves with the necessary tools to propose projects for the town that are ecologically responsive and architecturally rich. We will use drawing, modelling and photography alongside primary research to produce a civic survey of Bridport that describes the town’s physical form and cultural use, and will then build our understanding of the county as an active geography by extending our investigations out into the surrounding regional networks, creating a large-format site model and an inventory of available local resources and materials with which we will work.

This work will act as the foundation for two propositional projects for two of the most contentious sites in the town. Following a UK road-trip visiting sites of special interest and manufacturing facilities, we will develop projects within an industrial area adjacent to the high street. After Christmas, we will develop more strategic and complex proposals for Vearse Farm, a large, open agricultural site on the town’s edge. Our work will develop in dialogue with the local economic think-tank Stir to Action, community-led development group Wessex Community Assets and the environmental arts organisation Common Ground. Workshops and seminars throughout the year will develop thinking from the urban scale through to an understanding of material production and processes at 1:1.

The teaching this year will emphasise the value of collaboration and co-production. We will actively encourage students to work in groups and develop the skill and confidence to work together effectively, believing that the complex challenges we face today require the profession to move beyond the narrow conception of the architect as a individual author.

Image: Peter Doig, Concrete Cabin 1995-1996 © Peter Doig

Painting of concrete cabin in woods


Architecture MA
Tutors James Binning
Jon Lopez
Elli Ferrant
Louise Underhill
Ellie Howard
Where Goulston Street
Room GS2-35a
When Monday and Thursday

Architecture Postgraduate Studios


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