Runner Up: Joe Swift, London, UK
The Redundant Architects Recreation Association spawned from London Metropolitan’s ‘Free Unit’
The Redundant Architects Recreation Association (RARA) furthers the debate about both how architects should operate in the world and how they should be trained at architecture school. A product of London Metropolitan, RARA was started by two of its students, Sam Potts and Joe Swift.
After setting it up, both Potts and Swift gravitated towards Robert Mull’s and Peter Carl’s ‘free unit’, where students generate their own briefs and have to enact them in the real world. At its most basic description, RARA is, says its website, ‘a flexible project work space established in Clapton, London’. But beyond that, it operates as a piece of professional and social infrastructure to make small projects happen.
Doggy vision: a 9-metre high periscopic sculpture made at RARA for the Secret Garden Party, Cambridgeshire by Roding Projects
Yet while RARA does actually build real projects − that rarity in itself in contemporary architectural education − the most complex part of its architecture is the design of the organisation itself. This was the focus of Swift’s work when he entered the free unit for his final year. RARA had already had quite a lot of industry attention by then. As part of its pedagogy, each free unit student is asked to identify its ‘friends’ who will help make their project possible. Swift identified organisations such as the Royal Institute of British Architects, who had made overtures.
A fruitful line of enquiry opened up, however, when these august institutions were considered as enemies instead. This led to a critical interest in RARA’s constitution, and Swift is now making the organisation a registered co-operative. Very sadly, in his second year, Potts was tragically diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Swift has been determined to carry on the work he started with his friend and RARA goes from strength to strength.
RARA participants recently completed a table tennis table for 3 players
Three Little Worlds Installation, Photograph: Daniel Hewitt