Studio 01: Character

Studio brief

“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

Line drawing of side elevation of the Elephant and Castle Public House by John Farrer, 1897


Tutors Alex Bank
Sam Casswell 
Where Goulston Street
Room GS1-13
When Tuesday and Friday

Architecture studios


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