Unit 12

Unit Brief

The Nature of Gothic

We think that architecture is a living culture and that architecture from the past is a source of invention and inspiration that can be reinterpreted in new contexts. We will continue with our attitude that history is a quarry – a place to visit and gather materials with agility and discrimination. This year we will be working in a northern city, on several sites in central Manchester, a place strongly associated with the industrial revolution and the Victorian Gothic Revival. Manchester is key to regional industrial vitality,with plans for growth in diverse industries including enamelling, laser production and textiles. We will ask what working in this place could mean now and how architecture should reconcile a vivid civic tradition with the city’s need to reshape itself.

As a point of departure, we will start by looking at Gothic architecture. The Gothic spirit is mysterious and compelling. Less easy to define than Classicism, Gothic is, nonetheless, a broad principle, a potent sensibility, applicable to both contemporary buildings and the architecture of the past. It is this sensibility that we want to capture and examine. We are inspired by Ruskin’s subtle analysis of the nature of Gothic in which he pinpoints freedom, savageness, changefulness and redundancy as defining characteristics. In the ‘Stones of Venice’ Ruskin describes the flight of a swallow on its long migration from the south to the north. The swallow flies first over terraced gardens and scented flowers around the Mediterranean Sea, with its peacefulness and light, then over the rainy green and darker forests of Europe with their grey swirls of rain cloud, and on to the mossy moorland of the north, with their grisly islands amidst the northern seas. Ruskin observes how, comparing the Arabian horse with the Shetland pony, the image of animal life changes with the weather and the landscape, and with these parallels why the architecture is also different. The burning smooth gems of Classicism are southern, and the uncouth, wolfish life of the Gothic is northern. This year we will be working in the spirit of the north.

We will begin the year with studies of craft techniques in construction. In the second semester we will design an office building for a company headquarters referring to the character of Manchester and investigating the public and representative role of facades. This year we will visit Scotland and the North of England on a journey to the islands of Orkney. On the way we will stop to see examples of Gothic, Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts.

Plaster workshop, crypt of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona


Course Professional Diploma in Architecture - RIBA Part 2
Tutors Peter St John
Rod Heyes
Website carusostjohn.com