[Top 10 London Units: Part 1 level] Tutors: Geoff Shearcroft, Vincent Lacovara, Tom Coward
The Thames Valley today, defined by the river’s catchment area, is a 215-mile-long town-of-towns, as diverse historically as it is demographically and home to 13 million people. We believe a careful documentation and non-judgmental analysis of the Thames Valley is as relevant today as were studies of Haussmann’s Paris or Renaissance Florence to earlier generations.
Our particular focus has been the means of production - of ideas, myths, objects and energy. In the post-suburban Valley, production occupies the multivalent park rather than the prescribed piazza; it occurs in business parks, service estates, office villages and production centres.
The first term’s investigations allowed each student to interrogate the form, use and character of one of these productive parks. Seeking appropriate methods of representation we watched Rayner Banham, read Jencks, emulated Ruscha and worked with contemporary photographers. As a studio we toured throughout the Thames Valley and made comparative visits to Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.
Developed from the lessons learnt, each student’s final proposal is a building, or collection of buildings, that forms a new centre of production, a prototypical place for work in the contemporary city. The architecture aims to be appropriate for the Valley’s democratic aspirations - popular and communicative, participatory and productive.
Unit references: Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Frank Gehry (particularly work up to 1984), Cedric Price, Louis Kahn
Elly Ward (winner of Best Undergraduate Portfolio)
In Elly’s ‘Valley Palace’ project, an abandoned Asda warehouse is transformed into a civic recreation facility that alludes to the atmosphere and activities normally found in a public park. Using ready-made elements and a scattering of iconic, narrative structures, with a subtle manipulation of natural light and a light touch on existing fabric, this adaptive re-use project enjoys the exploration of a contemporary industrial form while presenting a pragmatic response to the needs of a growing town.
The remains of the Swindon Railway Works are in the process of being adapted for contemporary use with new elements, including the National Trust headquarters, closely following the forms of the robust Victorian sheds. Rolando’s proposed rail enthusiasts’ centre provides a continuity with the past use of the site whilst developing an alternative architectural language. A collage of sampled, rail-related elements are synthesised through the graphical extrusion of contemporary railway maps and the continuity of materials to create a historically resonant, user-relevant public building.
Roche Pharmaceuticals’ headquarters in Welwyn Garden City exemplifies contemporary corporate architecture - a conditioned box, isolated in a wire fence compound of car parking. Maria’s project seeks to develop the relationship between the locally specific and the internationally generic. By formally manipulating the existing fence - cutting, stretching, layering, sampling - she creates spatial opportunities for local residents to interface with corporate workers. The site-specific proposal suggests a generous, mutually beneficial spatial relationship between corporations and the areas in which they work as a reflection of an increased political engagement.