“Too much attention cannot be given to produce a distinct character in every building... even a moulding, however diminutive, contributes to the character of the assemblage of which it forms a part. Character is so important that all its most delicate and refined modifications must be well understood and practised with all the fine feelings and nice discrimination of the artist. He who is satisfied with heaping stone upon stone, may be a useful builder, increase his fortune and raise a convenient house for his employer, but such a person will never be an artist… he will neither add to its power to move the soul, or to speak to the feelings of mankind.”
Sir John Soane
In this passage Soane enthusiastically muses on the idea of character in relation to the discipline of architecture. He makes a clear distinction between a pragmatic solution to a brief and what is required to create architecture. Whilst the theme of character has been in architectural discourse since the eighteenth century, its meaning and emphasis has shifted over time as the role of the architect evolved. We feel it’s appropriate, essential even, that this theme is reinterpreted again for our own time.
The essential characteristics of spaces will be explored during the coming year in design work, seminars and visits to buildings in London and Berlin. Students will learn to comprehend the poetics of architecture through understanding sequences of spatial figures and less tangible qualities of space – what Colin St John Wilson termed "the immeasurable" in architecture – those qualities that "make you walk on your toes". This is not about the spectacle of bizarre architectural objects, rather the play between spaces with different characters appropriate to their use that occurs in all successful architecture – from humble, everyday buildings to special civic buildings.
Design projects will be based in London and focus on the idea of the public house. The construction of London’s pubs peaked during the Victorian era but their influence on the character of the city is still felt today through their strong urban gestures and the energy they bring to moments in the city. Early projects will help to identify unique characteristics of these buildings and translate them into contemporary form. The final design project will be a reinterpretation of the public house for people today.
Image: Proposal for Elephant and Castle Public House, Newington Butts by John Farrer, 1897
Studio 01: Character
Alex Bank and Sam Casswell
Essential characteristics of architectural space will be explored throughout the year in design work, seminars and visits to buildings in London and Berlin. Students will learn to comprehend the poetics of architecture through understanding buildings as sequences of spatial figures and by searching for the less-tangible ‘immeasurable’ qualities of space.
Studio 02: City Rooms – Big and small, fast and slow
Charlotte Harris and Colin O’Sullivan
Following two years of exploring the potential of contemporary rural landscapes in Germany and Portugal, Studio 2 returns to London. Our projects for the year will be located in our borough of Tower Hamlets where Poplar HARCA, a major housing association, have invited us to work collaboratively with them to identify opportunities to add non-residential amenity to their estate. They will act as your client for the year and you will present your proposals to their regeneration teams.
Studio 03: Crossing Cultures – Skills Exchange
Sandra Denicke-Polcher, Jane McAllister, Rita Adamo (Academic facilitator in Calabria)
Our aim as a studio is to rethink architecture in order to address how the responsible use of resources shapes our environments as Skills Exchange. We will be provocative in live situations and share our knowledge with local stakeholders in the form of ideas, drawings, models and experiences, and through these, actively shape local discussions and reveal new opportunities to initiate and empower change.
Studio 04: Edgelands
Anna Ludwig and Rufus Willis
Studio 4 will consider notions of settlement and density on the Becontree Estate, East London. Engaging with Barking and Dagenham Council we will contribute to wider ethnographic research and community initiatives to celebrate the estate’s centenary.
Studio 07: Open City
Robert Barnes and Dr Bo Tang
Studio 07 is the degree studio within the Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources (ARCSR). Working collaboratively with MArch Unit 06 over the last 16 years in countries such as India, Nepal, West Africa and Eastern Europe, the studio allows for individual approaches to define self-motivated programmes supported by an extensive knowledge of techniques and investigative methodologies developed within ARCSR.
Studio 09: High Street: After the Shops
Jillian Jones, Ewan Stone and David Howarth
Studio 09 are interested in the potential for public and community buildings to fill the empty spaces left when the shops have closed. We will be developing new typologies of cultural and community buildings to redefine the High Street and enrich people’s lives.