PG Architecture Unit 12: The Dream of the Metropolis

Unit brief

The Dream of the Metropolis

In his “Letter from Zurich” written in 1988, the swiss architect Marcel Meili writes about the underlying characteristics of his home city, and the process of its urbanisation. He describes how the complex transformation of the city centre, from an area of industry to a financial centre, had resulted in interruptions and unresolved places in the middle of the city, situations that allowed modest or temporary places to survive, preliminary situations to flourish, and where fragile and precious social structures were protected, without having to conform with their surroundings. His dream of the metropolis is an ambiguous urban milieu of reality and myth, in which these diverse and contradictory worlds can coexist. The letter today sounds like an elegy to a more open city of a previous time, whose differences have since been ironed out and increasingly privatised, as they have been in London.

What is the interest in being together in the centre of the city today, of social interaction, performance and display? At a time when its celebration is under threat, the studio this year will look at how we protect public life and sociability, by looking at the provisional and the festive social spaces of the city. In a subversive reflection on some of the important questions of this time, we want to look at architecture that is independent of the permanent buildings of the city, and is instead immediate, short-term, diverse, independent and public.

The year’s study of metropolitan life will start small and finish at the large scale. We will look first at small temporary interiors designed for social interaction; cafes, bars, diners and immersive exhibitions. We will look at influential examples, and study their ideas, atmosphere and social context. Working in pairs, students will then design their own version for today, an intimate interior world in a small found space, in a location of their choice. In the second semester we will work outdoors at the scale of the city and make a more experimental and collective public project. We will design a park in south London, filled with public programme; cafes, theatres, galleries and sports facilities. The park we imagine is a version of artificial nature, a kind of temporary city within the city.

Night photo of city street with people hugging


Course Architecture RIBA 2 - MArch
Tutors Peter St John
Fabienne Sommer
Ben Speltz
James Hand
Where Goulston Street
When Monday and Thursday


Architecture Postgraduate studios


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