The American artist and social activist Theaster Gates has talked about his belief that almost everything can have a second life. In his practice, discarded materials, objects, collections and under-occupied buildings are rearranged for alternative purposes. The source and social memory of this material is an important part of its new power. The artist’s Dorchester Project, in the depressed area on the south side of central Chicago, involved the salvaging and refurbishment of whole buildings, and nurturing a new economy required for their regeneration. The basic nature of the materials used, and the limited energy required in their transformation, was critical for the project to be an effective alternative to the social and economic forces that brought about the previous decline.
This year the studio will investigate the theme of Second Life, in the context of the design of buildings. Our interest is wider than the theme of Reuse and will address the broader question of a Renewal of our approach to construction, how construction can be less energy-demanding, moving towards a future where buildings are indivisible components of a regenerating ecological system. In recent years the studio has worked with related themes looking for example, at the Transformation of existing buildings (Everything is Transformation eBook), the culture of Metropolitan Parks and short-term buildings, and designing a Permaculture for living and growing food in the countryside (The Garden eBook). The themes are connected by an interest in imagining alternatives to our problematic present, and a renewed relationship between humans and nature.
This year we will visit forests and quarries in Europe to understand more about the source and flow of natural resources through the economy. Our main project will be the design of a timber building for a Housing Collective in South London. The year will have an emphasis on making, and the possibilities of exploring design with large models. We will begin with studying examples of timber buildings, making study models using timber from felled city trees.
Architecture Postgraduate studios
PG Architecture Unit 02: Building in the Landscape of the City
Tony Fretton and Jillian Jones
To design an Embassy in Park Square, a large enclosed garden in the south of Regents Park, consisting of a Chancellery, the offices of the Embassy and a Residence, the home of the Ambassador and their family, and a place of social and political gathering. There is space enough on the site to allow design in radically sustainable materials and processes.
PG Architecture Unit 03: New Ways of Seeing
Pippa Nissen, Marie-Lise Oulmont, Andrea Hickey, Kate Coghlan
This year our studio will be designing a major public building in East London by the Regent’s Canal. The brief will be to design an art gallery or museum, that includes an archive and learning spaces around a collection of objects or art. The response will need to challenge traditional display; discussion, debate and learning embedded in the whole. The studio’s theme builds on our work at Nissen Richards Studio, where we have a particular focus on cultural buildings and narrative spaces.
PG Architecture Unit 04: The Palimpsest of Futures Past
Jonas Lundberg, Nate Kolbe
Working on several UNESCO world heritage sites in Sicily as an integral part of provincial and rural development in collaboration with invested actors. You are asked to imagine, design, and develop a time-based architecture adding a layer to the historical palimpsest of an UNESCO world heritage site. Unit04 urges you to regain the agency of architecture as the harbinger of change, delight and vision adding equally precious layers to the present and the near future to the palimpsest of the site.
PG Architecture Unit 06: After the Arrival City
Dr Bo Tang and Robert Barnes
“Never demolish, always transform. Transformation is the opportunity of doing more and better with what is already existing. The demolishing is a decision of easiness and short term. It is a waste of many things — a waste of energy, a waste of material, and a waste of history. Moreover, it has a very negative social impact. For us, it is an act of violence.” Lacaton & Vassal, Winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize 2021. Unit 06 will explore housing and social infrastructure in Athens
PG Architecture Unit 07: Poetic Pragmatism I: Housing in the Hinterlands of Hackney
David Grandorge, Ted Swift
The studio will continue to address how global heating impacts upon the practice and production of architecture, in this case, through the design of low and medium-rise housing for social rent in east London.
PG Architecture Unit 08: 余白と間 – yohaku and ma
Takero Shimazaki, Paolo Emilio Pisano and Karabo Turner
Starting from the concepts of 余白と間 – yohaku and ma, we will focus on existing sites in London – proposing a future life for overlooked buildings, structures, and landscapes to incorporate new public programmes. We will continue to work with the notion of re-use – challenging ourselves to propose ambitious, civic architecture using an economy of means within our current climate crisis.
PG Architecture Unit 09: HOUSE AND GARDEN
Stephen Taylor, Giles Townshend
This year Unit 9 will undertake live projects, focusing its attention on the remote hill town of Florac in the French mountains of the Cevennes National Park. Working with the local mayor we will design a cluster of houses, gardens and workshops.
PG Architecture Unit 12: Second Life
Peter St John, Fabienne Sommer, Ben Speltz and James Hand
The studio will investigate the theme of Second Life in the context of the design of buildings. Our interest is wider than the theme of Reuse and will address the broader question of a Renewal of our approach to construction, moving towards a future where buildings are indivisible components of a regenerating ecological system. With an interest in imagining alternatives to our problematic present, our main project will be the design of a timber building for a Housing Collective in south London.