Unit 1: Urban Gestalt – Origins of a Town

Unit brief

Urban Gestalt – Origins of a Town

What are the elements that give a town its urban form and essential spatial character? We are searching for the primary spatial structures that offer the potential for a town to form. The buildings that we will design will be constructed in an authentic, direct and artful way. We will find ways of seeing and interpreting a given site, whether it is a natural topography or a place filled with the remains of previous constructions and inhabitation, and we will transform these found elements into a town with a poetic dimension.

London is a conglomerate of many towns. Kentish Town in north London is formed by a high street, a lifeline that gives it identity, orientation and its urban structure. Clerkenwell in central London is formed to a large extent by Clerkenwell Green, an irregularly shaped sloping open space on the edge of the former Fleet River Valley. 

Design project 1

The urban structure and architectonic elements within the interiors, buildings and the extended landscape surrounding the Roosenberg Abbey in Waasmunster, Belgium designed by Dom Hans van der Laan will be the subject of our careful study. Working in parallel with students at KU Sint Lucas Ghent and TU Delft, we will come to a deep understanding of the architectonic space that Van der Laan has constructed, and consider the abbey as a little urbanity. 

Design project 2

On a site west of the Kentish Town underground station in north London, we will re-interpret the workshops, warehouse buildings and storage yards scattered next to a main line railway as a town. This site has a certain quality of vacancy that has its own beauty and enigmatic potential. 

Sub-programmes will include:

  • a one-week intensive sketching project
  • study of compositional orders based on a selection of artworks
  • visit to the Roosenberg Abbey in Belgium
  • unit trip to the St Peters Church in Klippan and the Eastern Cemetery in Malmö, Sweden designed by Sigurd Lewerentz
  • study of a number of primary town origins in London
Image of Florian Beigel, a design sketch of the 104 village project, Seoul, Jan 2014.


Course Professional Diploma in Architecture - RIBA 2
Tutor Professor Florian Beigel
Professor Philip Christou
Where Central House, Fourth Floor Studios
When Monday and Thursday

Professional Diploma in Architecture (RIBA part II)