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Design Studio 15 – University of Westminster

[Top 10 London Units: Part 2 level] Tutors: Kester rattenbury, Sean Griffiths, Camilla Wilkinson

This unit is a 15-year-plus collaboration with Fat, regularly reinvented (as proper design research, and to stop us getting bored), but always exploring and challenging the conventions of design thought. We mix art tactics and extreme experimentation with a strong interest in precedent, and chivvy students to design ‘real’ proposals, working out ideas (however extreme) in plan and section. Set exercises at the beginning give way to actively supporting the students’ individual design approach - the opposite of group ‘style’. Last year, we explored geometry and symmetries in modern design techniques. That interest continues here.

This year’s super-tough brief was a Museum of the German Democratic Republic (DDR) on the symbolic Palast der Republik site in Berlin’s Museum Island - we aimed to give Chipperfield a run for his money. The work began with short exercises: find and display 100 objects; in groups, design 500 museums in a week; using five types of symmetry, invent patterns and develop them as fragments of a museum; select five key exhibits describing the history of the DDR and consider how they might be displayed; and so on. The students collaborated to build a vast site model of central Berlin, and diversified to develop their own museum designs.

Unit references: Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Piranesi, SITE.

Student projects

Emma Brown (winner of Cities of London and Westminster Society of Architects prize for best student in the school at Dip 1 level)

For ‘Museum of the DDR: Backpackers’ Museum’, Emma unpacked her 100 objects straight out of her rucksack and the project unfolded from there. Making patterns from fragments of maps and models casting and quilting the vanished relics of the DDR, and learning from Piranesi and collages, she developed a great, fragmented ruined landscape, featuring real and reconstructed ruins of East Germany’s monumental architecture in a vast Romantic folly exploring the vanished ideals of the East. It also doubles as a great campsite for backpackers: a new must-see on the latterday Grand Tour of Europe.

Eddie Blake

‘Museum of the DDR: Ostalgia/ Bleeding Between the Lines’ is a brilliant, elusive, highly-resolved proposal exploring the subjectivity of history in a museum invisibly split in two, and cranked to reflect the axis of Unter den Linden. Ed began by making disturbing patterns from DDR memorabilia, developing maquettes of exhibits: extruded as display stands; hidden in fissures; sliced by two-way mirror. A double promenade developed, with unwittingly separated visitors viewing the same exhibits. From the two stair spirals under the flat/3d Politburo dome to the great shroud wrapping the final ramped kilometers of Stasi files, dramatic effects are disingenuously folded into a near-dumb box, always mirrored in plan and reality.

Matt Barnes

Matt tells us that Erich Honecker shot so many deer that they had to be imported from other Eastern Bloc countries. The Communist elite altogether shot 2,500 deer per year. Using spectacular classical/computer drawings and rapid prototyping, Matt’s ‘Museum of the DDR: Der Mausoleum des Politburos’ project explores the monumental possibilities of such excesses, combining the German love of hunting and its trophies with studies of taxidermy, Mausoleums and the Chapman Brothers and the formal structure of the Politburo’s forest enclave Waldsiedlung Wandlitz, in its terrifying, highly resolved black (or blood-red) comedy.

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