The American photographer Berenice Abbott returned to New York in 1929 and struck by the rapid transformation of the scale of the city, she took a series of 300 images in almost a decade, she called this series Changing New York. Abbott photographed the changing face of the city with deliberate pace and attraction to contrast, capturing the energy of its gigantic buildings filtered through the familiarity of its low-rise neighbourhood streets. In juxtaposing these two orders Abbott produced a model of change that draws attention to the relationship between buildings and their urban environment rather than their individual idiosyncrasies.
Cities by their nature experience ‘scale shifts’ in their evolution over time, usually towards the demands of a growing population, a changing demographic, economic upturns and political ideals.
We have seen this in London in the late 19th century, with the introduction of the mansion blocks and tenement buildings, and again during the post-war reconstruction with the London County Councils programme of estate social housing construction.
Today it could be said that we are in the midst of another revolution in scale shift, the demand for new housing is unparalleled. After several decades of under provision, as well as an underwhelming market-led planning environment, London’s 32 boroughs together with the Mayor's good growth by design programme are charged with seeking opportunities to build housing in a dense, sustainable and qualitative way.
This Year, Unit 9 will engage with these interests, focusing our attention on outer London sites in particular, where the low-rise condition of suburbia has hitherto established scale limits to any new development. Where previously planning policy has restricted adjacent jumps in scale we will now make our projects in an environment of refreshed ambition and renewed optimism. We are interested in the dynamics of these moments of change and the contrast in scales brought with them.
Extra large of their kind
Like Abbott’s images, our projects this year will be above and beyond their immediate context, they will set a new scale for an evolving city. We can imagine that they will be extra large of their kind, in other words, the array of London typologies from town house to tower block, from terrace street to tenement block will form the composite DNA of our projects only to be stretched and squeezed, distorted and dismembered.
As Alvaro Siza puts it "architects don’t invent anything they just reinvent what is known", to this end we will be discussing the transformational architecture of the Baroque, this was an animated architecture that recedes and advances in space, one that achieves fullness of form whilst allowing shapes to emerge from one another. We will visit Naples to look at the extraordinary inventions of its Baroque compositions, the staircases of Sanfelice, and the audacious mutations of forms that emerged in its urban Palazzo’s - the liveliness and gigantism of its building elements and the entanglement of its architecture with the city.
Image: Photo credit: Berenice Abbott, West Street Manhattan
Architecture Postgraduate Studios
Unit 02: Ideal World
Ideal World is about creating delight with the basic components of architecture: urban design, plan and facade making, construction and drawing.
Unit 04: Virtual Laboratory | Adaptation to Extreme Topography
Jonas Lundberg, Andrew Grant and Nate Kolbe
Buildings and infrastructure of the Sicilian volcanic landscape in the vicinity of Mount Etna have integrated with the extreme topography by exploiting the available building material and construction methods. Unit 04 strives for an architecture adapted to the extreme topography but with character and ubiquitous qualities springing from a combination of digital design technique and a meticulous exploitation of the local volcanic and timber materials used in combination with emerging technology.
Unit 05: The House and Garden
Alex Ely and Michael Dillon
Focusing on first hand experience, developing working methods and understanding context, we will examine the complex constraints of modern housing. We will look at vertical living in London, and communal space as a method of improving connections between the interior and exterior of all dwellings.
Unit 06: Civic Edgelands
Professor Maurice Mitchell, Dr Bo Tang, Jane McAllister and Sandra Denicke-Polcher
A city, a countryside from a distance is a city and a countryside; but as you approach, they are houses, trees, shingles, leaves, grass, ants, legs of ants and so on to infinity: all this is enveloped in the name [edgelands] (apologies to Blaise Pascal in Thoughts). Unit 6 offers students a choice of three settings each consisting of migrant gateways and transitional settlements: Eleonas, Athens, Greece; Belmonte, Calabria, Italy or Kaningo, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Unit 07: Polyvalent Models
David Grandorge and Paloma Gormley
This year, the unit will focus on the practice of architecture as a partially autonomous discipline, addressing the issues of polyvalence and material culture in the design of a city scaled building and a structure that will be built at 1:1 on Margent Farm in Cambridge.
Unit 08: Both-And Midland cities III
Takero Shimazaki (t-sa) and Summer Islam
Unit 8 will explore the language of architecture in relation to the ethics of construction. Beginning with Venturi’s definition of design which is ‘Both-And’ - that which embodies contradictory levels of meaning and use, we will propose civic buildings in Stoke on Trent which allow inconsistencies and redundancies, encouraging the seemingly dissimilar to exist side by side.
Unit 09: Gigantism and the Baroque
Stephen Taylor, Theodoros Thysiades and Jamie Dean
Unit 9 will make large residential buildings in London that explore a shift in scale well beyond their immediate context. The Architecture of the Baroque will be explored for its artistic and compositional qualities of scale and distortion.
Unit 14: Roding Riverfront
Pierre d’Avoine and Pereen d'Avoine
Unit 14 will study the Roding River in Barking, East London. We will engage with a variety of protagonists with interests in the area to evolve proposals for the Roding riverfront and environs.
Unit 15: Good Values
James Binning, Ellie Howard and James Pockson
Unit 15 will work across Erith in the London Borough of Bexley, proposing projects for public sites across the town. Against a backdrop of deepening cuts to public services, ailing high-streets and a purge of industry from the city, we will explore forms of civic architecture, social enterprise and proactive policymaking with the potential to positively and radically renew the built environment.