Being a student of architecture is as much about spatial considerations (and sleepless nights, apparently), as it is about finding and nurturing your own voice. Given the events of the past week (aka Brexit), the role of students as part of the wider conversation has never been more important, and their voices in the wider spectrum of politics antics and humour shouldn’t go unnoticed. In fact it should be applauded and encouraged and celebrated to the point of bloody hands. To pay homage and do our share of clapping, we visited the Central Saint Martins, Architectural Association, Westminster and Bartlett summer shows to give you the what’s what of each one. Here we go!
Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
The show is beaming with good intentions and the students club together and deliver in spades, with heart—it’s an absolute diamond of a show. The sense of cohesion between the students, tutors and the institution as a whole seems to ring true after the sales pitch from the course leader was nicely corroborated by each and every students work: individual schemes anchored in speaking to humanity and community. Most notably, the work produced was believable. The biggest achievement of the show was its accessibility, speaking for (and to) the heavy-hearted and dejected architect, the aspirational student and the lost laymen two pints deep who’s come in from Lighterman.
To pick the best is to do disservice the breadth and depth on display. But also, winners have already been picked and egos boosted, so we can sit two steps back—and three and a half to the left—and consider alternative good ‘ns to see. In this case, the people of note are the full roster of Jonathon Howard, Connor James, Mona Gluosynte, Tanya Anand, Chiad Ming Lin, Jammerson Tu Gon Kwa, Kane Caroll, Oscar Murray, Ryan Lewis, Summer Zhad, Lish Ai and Linda Nobilio, who worked with Crisis to engage with the long-standing and often poorly answered issues of homelessness. Now, not to blow too much wind in their general direction, but having the capacity and willingness to understand, engage and seek answers for one of the world’s most persistently difficult client is noble—and not only that, the proposals were interesting, the presentation uplifting. My favourite part? It rejected the fall-back position of homeless proposal as rainy and sad.
The architecture show runs alongside other graduate shows, including ‘Material Matters’, which is populated by a range of designers from architecture to fashion, exploring a varied and strange application of materials on the world. One student patented and grew a piece of Alexander McQueen’s skin with future proposals for McQueen clothes made out of him. Also, you’ll find a project on seaweed bacon—a proposal to end meat-eating by looking alternative sources of food as real and workable synthetic—but made in the form of cattle, both in its external appearance and its internal one (she had a butcher cut up a seaweed ‘pig’ as part of her final show).
Where You Go:
Well you missed it this year, but you haven’t missed the geniuses at play (the show took place at CSM’s Granary Square campus, behind Kings Cross Station). Follow this link to find their work online. The good news is the show will be back in 2017 with what’ll most likely be another impressive year. Also, their building is a tad on the beautiful side, so let yourself bask in the glory of both their theoretical and physical architecture.
The Architectural Association
Year on year it is disgustingly brilliant. The work is brilliant. The presentation is brilliant. The white painted walls are brilliant. The handrail to the next floor is brilliant. The haze of brilliance is only slightly marred by the challenges of actually finding the place, but beyond that hurdle, brilliance is what you will find if what you are looking for is architectural brilliance in what was some bloke’s house some time ago. This is the student architecture show for architects. The work is so brilliant it is sometimes too brilliant to penetrate, and requires a mind far more adept than mine to pin back the layers and discover the polemical mess that lay within. However, this is not to take way from student’s ambition and desire, which is clear and incorruptible from undergraduate level through to diploma. Go, but take a dictionary with you.
‘Sick City Rehab: London as a City of Care’, the title of Diploma 13 for this academic year has been the catalyst for some intriguing investigations covering some challenging issues—from the peculiar to the principled—but all with an intent to communicate a comprehensive and tender understanding of healthcare and its implications on architecture and the community it serves.
Where You Go:
Do not be afraid of the big black door. It’s shiny and presumptive and makes you feel poor. Ignore it and push through it. It has the number 36 on it, and it’s on Bedford Square.
University of Westminster
A sort of arcade of architecture studios, the Westminster show is a behemoth of work and requires diligence to get up and down the two-tiered street of work, but it’s yummy stuff. The sheer scale of the show and the relatively small amount of real-estate per student highlights the mass of wowrk on show, creating a marvelously eclectic output. The models are various and vast, the drawings are various and vast, and the unit briefs are various and…breathy. The contrast in unit outputs is staggering, with stoic models of propositions in disaster zones by Andreas Christodoulou sitting across the room from the unapologetically pink Music Valley by Jean-Paul Tugirimana. It’s an interesting pick-n-mix show with every added sugar you can get that’s free. You can gauge your way through two floors of challenging and memorable work, and not have the runs at the end. Perfect.
Two are on the hit list. The first is the first year foray into design by the Interior-architecture students. Not least because this serves as a great counterpoint to the Bartlett students, it demonstrates the creative ability of the unhindered, confined to the limitations of a typical two-up, two-down house. Over twenty models stand at 1:20 and they’re fun, and given there is little fun in Brexit land, it’s a nice antidote. The second on the list is graduate students’ Jaywick Sands interventions, bringing a little sass, silliness and smiles to what could otherwise be a morbid affair. With proposals evoking an alternate (but achievable) seaside town future—with one proposal featuring an adorned pot of tea, cups and saucers—it was wonderfully British, but also hugely international.
Where You Go:
The shows over, but don’t think Madame Tussauds and Benedict Cumberbatch are the only things outside Baker Street Tube. Make sure you are there for opening night 2017, and bring a change of shirt, it get sweaty.
The Bartlett School of Architecture
The Bartlett consistently manages to deliver a comprehensive and unrelenting show that dominates the walls over their entirety of what is now the basement level of their temporary home in Hampstead Road. It is an immersive experience in that it is impossible to look away from, unless you close your eyes to take a moments reflection, which isn’t a bad idea. The true success of the show is the quality that is delivered famously by their year one students, all the way through to the haggard and battle-hardened graduates. The units remain defiant and clear in their agenda, yet they have maintained clarity in their own propositions using the briefs as effective catalysts to explore ideas further. Basically the students did good with their ideas, but they did good-er with the execution of those ideas: models and drawings worthy of illicit websites.
A good start is fourth years’ ‘Design Realisation Reports’…they’re often conceptually and technically brilliant documents. However, for the absolute must see is Unit 17’s collaborative project, ‘Ghost Building’, a real, live, actual little building in Ireland designed and built for the pilgrimage day of St. Mac Dara. This has already received much praise, and us throwing more praise on top will do nothing for their ego, or the U in our USP. Nevertheless, what the students achieved was simply lovely. They and their tutors can talk for hours on the architectural merits of the folly, its use of 3D scanning, strange concrete form work, the trial and error of the curing process, the issue of getting the sodding thing over there, who got involved, the history of why, their future of how to the being of it, and they should keep telling that story to inspire future years and other units to do likewise.
Where You Go:
Off a busy boring road between Euston Square and Mornington Crescent, it has BARTLETT painted in massive letters on building 140 Hampstead Road. Go in that and find a fella named Don who should point you in the right direction.
–All photographs courtesy of Petr Esposito