Unit 15 strives to produce projects that are grounded in economic reality and hands-on practice. Lead by Assemble and by Ellie Howard at the Greater London Authority (GLA), the group will explore what agency our abilities as architects equip us with to challenge the status quo and address critical, contemporary urban issues, employing the diverse skills our architectural education equips us with to produce diverse strategic architectural proposals that have the potential to become prototypical models of the future.
This year, Unit 15 will produce a common vision for Erith in the London Borough of Bexley, working on publicly owned sites across the high street, industrial estate and riverside to realise an ambitious vision for the town. At a time where London’s cash-strapped boroughs are implementing deeper cuts to public services, high streets are ailing and land for industry is increasingly vulnerable to housing development, we will test the potential for new forms of civic architecture, social enterprise and proactive policymaking to positively and radically renew the built environment.
We will begin with a month-long collective project to produce a publication that will form the basis of our proposals this year. A detailed portrait of the physical and social fabric of Erith, it will examine how the techniques that we use as architects to understand a given context – such as drawing, modelling, photography and data mapping – each shape our perceptions of place. This project will involve workshops at City Hall with key figures at the GLA and the pan-London public-sector planning research programme, Public Practice.
Our trip will take us to Stockholm, where we will participate in a workshop with students of art and architecture at Konstfack, the largest university of arts, crafts and design in Sweden. The workshop will explore the legacy of modernism in the city and the capacity of material and architectural form to resist or accelerate subsequent urban transformation.
Following the trip, we will work collaboratively to develop a critical and ambitious strategy for the town. We will draw upon the group research to produce project proposals on a range of sites, which will form the point of departure for individual thesis proposals for the rest of the year. After the Christmas break, projects will be developed through an intensive design process that will begin with a detailed precedent study and develop through design workshops with architects from leading London practices. A programme of Monday seminars will introduce a diverse set of texts that will underpin our discussions throughout the year and give our proposals a strong critical, ethical and architectural position.
This year we will take a special interest in the facade and the tectonic potential of ceramics. A key part of the year will involve the construction of 1:1 material prototypes that explore the architecture at the detail scale.
We will work with engineers Structure Workshop to continue our exploration of timber construction. The unit will have an emphasis on designing buildings which demonstrate an economy of means, acknowledging that the construction of buildings today is driven above all by consideration for cost and that an understanding of how to build resourcefully is critical to realising buildings that are spatially generous and programmes that are accessible to all.
Above all we will run a course that is exciting, critical and practical. We will expect you to explore broadly, read deeply, experiment radically, and to be bold in your and ideas and ambitious in your propositions.
Image: Archipelago. Credit: OM Ungers
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.