Studio 11: Well Built

Studio brief

Well Built

“More even than the work of great architects, I loved buildings that grew silently with the centuries, catching and keeping the best of each generation, while time curbed the artist’s pride and the Philistine’s vulgarity, and repaired the clumsiness of the dull workman.”

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

This year we turn our gaze to some of the oldest institutions in the world, places that will become your home for several formative years in the pursuit of ‘higher education’ – universities. We will be posing the simple question – how do we build well? 

The most enduring universities emerged from the building form of Cistercian monasteries such as Le Thoronet Abbey in southern France. Clusters of interconnecting quadrangles at once define a spatial and organisational logic for rooms within a college whilst contributing significantly to cities' urban streetscape and civic qualities. 

Longevity does not necessarily rely upon static and unwavering edifices. Waugh conjures the provocative image of building as an almost accidental accumulation of comfort and patina, more grown than conceived. Even the most ancient buildings undergo a process of repair, remaking, or as Ruskin put it ‘changefulness’.

Sir Alex Gorden’s popular mantra of the 70’s ‘long life, loose fit’ provokes reflection on how buildings might be as generic, flexible and ‘loose fitting’ as possible, inviting the resourcefulness and improvisation of successive generations to impress their own ideals.

Studio 11 will explore universal forms of architecture, built to stand the test of time and will challenge students to conceive a new university building on a constrained urban site to house academic communities and unknown pursuits for centuries to come, embodying values of academic freedom, critical enquiry, and institutional autonomy; a building of long life and low specificity, timeless and changeful.

The year will begin with short intensive drawing, photography and model-making workshops with students exploring both new and old buildings forming the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. Our main trip will take us to visit Cistercian monasteries in Belgium, the great work of the architect monk Dom Hans van der Laan, St Benedictusberg Abbey and the celebrated works of Marie-José Van Hee in Ghent. 

Axonometric pencil drawing of St. Benedictusberg Abbey, Mamelis in Vaals (1956–1968)


Course Architecture BA (Hons)
Tutors Edmund Fowles
Ingrid Petit

Goulston Street
Room GSG-19b

When Tuesday and Friday

Architecture Studios