Unit 10

Unit brief

An architecture of relationships

This year we will investigate territories in the Miyagi Prefecture of Japan, one of the regions worst hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

In doing so we will work with Professor Senhiko Nakata and colleagues at Miyagi University with the ambition to instigate longer term collaborations with The Cass, and learn from some remarkable post-disaster projects and initiatives, which indicate a shift in planning and urban design thinking.

 "...The Japanese awareness of tradition and progress, global and local, specialist and tradesman; these features of Japanese society were all embedded within the highly collaborative pavilion. It was a clear message to the world that architecture is not only about the selfishness of having one fantastic project or product, and instead presented people working together, within a very dramatic moment in time, to push beyond their current situation. Sometimes a crises makes people incredibly creative."
Wiel Arets, Jury of the thirteenth International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale.

In parallel with the year’s work in Japan, and for those whom are interested in the unit agenda and methodology, but wish to work within the UK, the Unit will have a second location on Cumbria’s Irish Sea Coast, between Whitehaven and Barrow-in-Furness. Also called the Energy Coast, with the Sellafield nuclear plant located within this area, and sites of energy production from gas, tidal, wind and biomass, West Cumbria also has a rich industrial and cultural past, yet suffers socio-economic deprivation in contrast to the neighbouring Lake District.

We will be seeking to work in collaboration with the local authorities and energy companies on strategies for strengthening local participation and engagement in the future of this landscape and culture, searching for architectural, urban and landscape strategies enriched by all involved, searching for sensitive, sustainable and brave proposals.

In both locations we will pursue Unit 10’s concern with developing and designing interventions across a range of scales and ambitions, and seek as far as possible to develop authentic proposals in socially, economically, politically and environmentally challenging contexts. Central to the philosophy of the unit is the notions of tolerance, generosity, an economy of means and time.

The unit is looking for inspiration from the ordinary and every day as well as carefully designed and crafted architecture and urban spaces that has stood the test of time.

Through our design processes we encourage students to develop their own individual design sensibilities in response to the given context.

Starting from a concrete situation of urbanity the unit stresses the use of a combination of research, thinking methodologies, and creative practice to propose strategic interventions that span extremes of scale, from the immediate and personal, to the collective and geographical. A common attitude and investigation into the material manifestation of the environment underpins continuity from the detailed to the large scale. Architecture, landscape and urbanism themselves are not seen as a shift in scalar thinking, but as overlapping and inseparable fields occupying the same territory.

We emphasise the development of intuition and process to test and develop new forms of architecture, landscape and urbanisms in practice as well as questioning the current state of play. We work with students as fellow innovators in a programme that is both visionary and hands-on in seeking to propose architectural and urban futures that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, distinctive and enjoyable.

Rooted in our individual and unique experience we will again start the year with two initial short projects aimed to develop and fine tune spatial and social observations, explored through drawing, making, mending and repair. We promote notions of ambiguity and imperfections as productive to the design process, looking at how ordinary spaces can hold the extraordinary, taking inspiration among others from the art of Kintsugi.

The parallel field trips to Miyagi and West Cumbria will further develop the methods of observing and recording from the earlier work and add a third way of experience and observing through walking as a landscape and urban practice.

Two images, one of a Japanese Pavilion model, and the other of a wind turbine/industrial buildings


Course Professional Diploma in Architecture – RIBA Part 2
Tutors Signy Svalastoga
Jonathan Cook
Nina Scholz