This year, Unit 15 will host an open discussion about how the architecture profession might develop into a discipline with the skills and capacities to meaningfully contribute to the challenges that face both society and the environment today. The scale and complexity of these issues demands collaborative responses, and we will emphasise the importance of working together through the year to think critically, openly and fearlessly about our role in the world. We will draw deeply from architectural history and engage with an uncertain future firmly, ambitiously and propositionally. Climate breakdown is becoming an increasingly prominent concern for architects across the world but so far it is still generally understood as primarily a technical challenge. We believe that the challenges of ecological and climate collapse are, in fact, first and foremost imaginative challenges, because architecture not only reflects the human order but actively re-makes it.
This year our work together will focus on Dorset broadly and the town of Bridport specifically. A centuries-old town on the Jurassic coast, Bridport’s charming and characterful high street and its location within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty mask a more complex and turbulent reality. Income inequality is amongst the highest in the country, affordable housing is beyond the reach of almost all local young people and substantial new developments will alter the fabric of town, stripping out employment land, compounding local social and economic problems and damaging a sensitive ecological site.
In the first part of Semester One we will deepen our understanding of the town and the wider territory to equip ourselves with the necessary tools to propose projects for the town that are ecologically responsive and architecturally rich. We will use drawing, modelling and photography alongside primary research to produce a civic survey of Bridport that describes the town’s physical form and cultural use, and will then build our understanding of the county as an active geography by extending our investigations out into the surrounding regional networks, creating a large-format site model and an inventory of available local resources and materials with which we will work.
This work will act as the foundation for two propositional projects for two of the most contentious sites in the town. Following a UK road-trip visiting sites of special interest and manufacturing facilities, we will develop projects within an industrial area adjacent to the high street. After Christmas, we will develop more strategic and complex proposals for Vearse Farm, a large, open agricultural site on the town’s edge. Our work will develop in dialogue with the local economic think-tank Stir to Action, community-led development group Wessex Community Assets and the environmental arts organisation Common Ground. Workshops and seminars throughout the year will develop thinking from the urban scale through to an understanding of material production and processes at 1:1.
The teaching this year will emphasise the value of collaboration and co-production. We will actively encourage students to work in groups and develop the skill and confidence to work together effectively, believing that the complex challenges we face today require the profession to move beyond the narrow conception of the architect as a individual author.
Image: Peter Doig, Concrete Cabin 1995-1996 © Peter Doig
Architecture Postgraduate Studios
Unit 02: Low in energy, high in style
Tony Fretton and Katherine Nolan
1. In a location in Regents Park: Design an Embassy, consisting of a Residence, the house of the Ambassador, and a Chancellery, as well as the offices of the Embassy. 2. Concurrently, study aspects of the location, and an architect from a list given.
Unit 04: The Space of Event
Nate Kolbe, Jonas Lundberg, Andrew Grant
Our course of study and proposition takes on the mutable and adaptable spatial and architectural strategies around events, gatherings, demonstrations, spectacles and large-scale societal interchange.
Unit 05: The tectonic language of timber
Alex Ely and Michael Dillon
This year’s programme considers the implication construction methods and materials have on the landscape. We will explore the tectonics of timber construction to form tactile and expressive collective housing, buildings with a civic gravitas and urban gardens. Cement is prohibited.
Unit 06: Arrival City
Professor Maurice Mitchell, Dr Bo Tang, Jane McAllister and Sandra Denicke-Polcher
This year Unit 06 will focus on the contribution that architecture can make to the integration of refugees into a host community. Students will be offered a choice of: Athens, Greece; Calabria, Italy; or Freetown, Sierra Leone (Year 5 only). All three are migrant gateways, and transitional settlements for the uprooted.
Unit 07: Absurd Pragmatism: Pragmatic Absurdism
David Grandorge and Colin Wharry
This year’s major design project, run in parallel to a program taught by Professor Geir Brendeland to students at NTNU, will address the future life of a former submarine bunker - Dora II - in Trondheim, Norway. The Unit has also been invited by the city to design and build an ambitious timber structure within the bunker that will perform the dual functions of exhibition space for archival photographs and a gathering place for organized and more informal events.
Unit 08: Lightness and Weight
Takero Shimazaki, Paolo Emilio Pisano and Karabo Turner
Unit 08 will explore lightness in architecture, crucially as a disposition that favours touching the earth lightly. We will pursue an architecture that is irreducible – one containing urbanity and continuity within the lightness of its approach. We will propose buildings with a civic dimension in the complex urban fabric of Battersea, overlaying education and public use within a singular project, and deploying lightness and weight toward a renewed civic life.
Unit 09: Between room and city
Stephen Taylor and Theodoros Thysiades
This year Unit 09 will explore the potential of the architectural facade to make a meaningful contribution to the streets of London. Against a current of introverted and commercially minded co-working and co-living developments, that have emerged across the city in recent times, our design research will investigate the design of buildings with a figurative presence on the street and of spaces that promote social interaction and collaboration for living and working.
Unit 12: Everything is Transformation
Peter St John, Fabienne Sommer, Ben Speltz and James Hand
The studio will make propositions for a new architecture school for The Cass at its site in Aldgate. The year’s work will focus on a transformation of the existing buildings.
Unit 14: Mad about Barking [and Dagenham]
Pierre d’Avoine and Pereen d'Avoine
Unit 14 has been invited by Barking and Dagenham Council to work in the borough again this academic year, after a highly successful collaboration last year researching and making proposals for the newly formed Creative Enterprise Zone along the River Roding. This year we invite students to speculate on what constitutes an inclusive public realm and to design scenarios for exchange which impact positively on the extensive new mainly commercial development under construction in the borough.
Unit 15: The Land We Live In
Assemble w/ OMMX
Unit 15 will explore how architecture can respond to challenges facing society and the environment today through collaborative research and projects in Bridport, Dorset. Working with the local think-tank Stir to Action, Wessex Community Assets and the environmental arts group Common Ground, we will use detailed contextual research and material investigations to develop projects on two sites – the first in an industrial context in the town and the second on a rural site on the edge of Bridport.