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Unit 11 – Bartlett School, UCL

[Top 10 London Units: Part 2 level] Tutors: Laura Allen and Mark Smout

The unit has followed enquiries into architecture that synthesises landscape and its relationship with culture and environment. Recently our focus has widened to scrutinise organisations, regulatory bodies and institutions that have influenced the contemporary context of landscape and controlled its development, designated its use and consequently altered our perception of the natural and the manmade.

This year we continued our adventure into the capricious nature of the environment and its culture by delving into the marginally murkier world of parody and prophecy, which blur the distinction between reality and imagination. The friction between progress and conservation precipitates irreconcilable antithetical relationships such as Protected Species versus genetic engineering, National Park versus Silicon Valley, whilst provocative “collections” such as the Museum of Jurassic Technology and the Centre for Post Natural History question the aphorism that ‘life is stranger than fiction’.

The implication is that a kind of neo-nature has evolved that forms a more suitable context for architecture. Consequently we have invited a miscellany of “urban speciation” which synthesise myth, mystery and the profound peculiarity of reality into intriguing and richly visualised architectures.

Unit references: Superstudio, Corradino D’Ascanio (engineer), Cedric Price

Student Projects:

Rae Whittow-Williams (winner of the Ambrose Poynter prize for excellence)

‘Empirical Ecologies, Vulgar Visions’ explores the concept of ‘vulgar knowledge’ through modeling and imagining parallels between myth and technology, belief and superstition. Rae proposed an Ecology Research Institute (ERI) in the UNESCO biosphere of Lanzarote, intended to be both an educational and scientific tool for the island, utilising the concept of projection as an educational device. By embedding the timescales of projections into the building, rather than designing a building that can change in the future, she intends that the architecture will contribute towards visualising climate science data in a way that traditional forms of scientific visualisation fail, through an interactive engagement between the environment, architecture and public.

Chris Wilkinson

In ‘Teesport Phytoplankton Farm’ Chris observed the changing industrial topography of Teesport and imagined a future where the forces of rising sea levels, diminishing heavy industry and the build-up of waste are used together to ‘farm’ phytoplankton that sequestrate carbon. He designed from two fronts; firstly, the mechanistic device as a hybrid of redundant farm machinery and secondly, by beautiful aerial scenes that anticipate the slow encroachment of the sea and the construction of densely engineered landscapes surrounded by plankton blooms.

Erin Byrne

Erin’s work takes an unusual methodology for design at the Bartlett - she looked at issues and theories surrounding play and playfulness within the context of architecture. She also established the ‘PLAY/WORKS’ programme at the ICA in order to observe and partake in play through the appropriation of architectural processes. Her live research was transposed into a book of iterative architectural drawings, which playfully subvert, question and analyse the nature of play.

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