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ADS2 – Royal College of Art

[Top 10 London Units: Part 2 level] Tutors: Clive Sall, Bobby Desai, Tom Teatum, Will Hunter

With Gordon Brown’s government increasingly in turmoil and a forthcoming general election set for May, we asked our design studio to begin their architectural voyage with a feeling of hope that, hey, things can only get better.

As the demographic least likely to vote, our twenty-something students have been largely ignored by the political class for some time. Defined by the think-tank Reform as the ipod Generation, those that came of age after the revolutionary gadget’s invention in 2001 are Insecure, Pressured, Overtaxed and Debt-ridden.

While perhaps there have never been so many opportunities to personalise your world at a micro level, no generation in history has had a worse macro-legacy from its elders. Not only are the young increasingly hemmed-in by crippling debt, their wider inheritance includes global banking structures and ecosystems at the point of collapse - and few obvious solutions. Our challenge to the students of ADS2 was to band together and grasp back the agenda for themselves.

The studio addressed two possible sites, King’s Cross and Chelsea Barracks: large-scale urban development opportunities that strongly contrast geographically, socially, culturally and economically. These contexts have grounded the student projects in contemporary debates about urbanism and redevelopment. While the pantomime antics of the Prince of Wales and Lord Rogers make the Chelsea Barracks certainly a higher-profile story for the national newspapers, there are also many fascinating aspects to the de-industrialising King’s Cross site being developed by Argent.

Both sites require reinvention for the 21st Century. While the architectural language employed by each student has evolved to be highly personal, connecting the projects is an uncompromising pioneering spirit. Some highly provocative, others more propositional - individually they offer a glimpse of what our city might become.

Unit references: Jeff Koons, Jeffrey Archer, Robin Hood

Student Projects:

Lucy Wood (winner of Will Alsop Prize for Urbanism, and winner of Helen Hamlyn Prize)

Titled Foyerism, this project challenges the conventions of the two-dimensional, programmatically-zoned masterplan. Instead it offers an enticing four-dimensional, urban topography governed by chance, juxtaposition and surprise, to be explored by the urban ‘flaneur’. The borough-wide context of Camden is blighted by social segregation and extreme school overcrowding. To solve this, this project redevelops the outdoor space of schools within one-mile radius of Kings Cross with additional teaching facilities. This outdoor space is consolidated in a ‘condensed urban playground’ between Kings Cross and St Pancras stations. Centralised sports facilities, arcades and performance spaces - for orchestra, theatre and dance - are used to activate the public realm, (re)creating ‘place’ in this once-overlooked skirting zone.

Stuart Evans (winner of New London Architecture Prize)

My project exposes the fantastical conceit of Prince Charles’s desire to create a traditional village on the Chelsea Barracks site, when most people acknowledge that only a handful of English people were ever likely to buy there. Instead, my proposal repackages the site for its new super-rich inhabitants from the United Arab Emirates. Three high-end residential towers triangulate a landscape of sporting amusements - inspired by the site’s previous use as a pleasure garden - which sits atop a luxury retail plinth. The architectural language explores the gap between notions of discreet wealth favoured by the British aristocracy and the more flashy opulence of their invading nouveau counterparts.

Megan Charnley (Shortlisted for Helen Hamlyn Prize)

Taking its lead from Cedric Price’s Pottery Thinkbelt, the Railway Wikiversity will break down barriers to education by reusing the national railways to create an accessible alternative to traditional learning institutions. A learning landscape between Kings Cross and St Pancras stations will form the main Wikiversity campus, allowing education of varying durations, from formalised qualifications to informal - yet informative - conversations. Trains to satellite campuses will offer classes during the commute and disseminate knowledge throughout the country. The Wikiversity exploits the infrastructure of the railway network, the urban locations of stations throughout the country, and the time spent travelling or waiting to travel to offer informal learning opportunities both in transit and at transport hubs.

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