Congratulations to Keith Diplock, winner of the 2014 RIBA Wren Insurance Scholarship

KSA MArch student Keith Diplock has been award the 2014 RIBA Wren Insurance Scholarship. Keith has been selected along with four students from other institutions who will each benefit from a £5,000 bursary and invaluable mentoring from an architecture member of Wren.

RIBA President Stephen Hodder said:

“Congratulations to our fantastic five architecture students on securing a RIBA Wren Insurance Association Scholarship. The standard of work submitted this year was incredibly high and it was with great difficulty that the judging panel made their decision. The funds and unique mentoring experience now available to Keith, Thomas, Lucy, Rebecca and Victoria will undoubtedly help set them apart from their peers as they advance in their promising architecture careers.”

Keith is currently working at Architecture Project (AP) which is a leading Maltese Architectural practice. He said ‘I am thrilled and appreciative to learn that I have been selected as a recipient of the Wren Insurance Association scholarship. Currently, I am working on Renzo Piano’s City Gate project for a new entry to Valletta; the project includes the new Maltese Parliament building, now nearing completion, for which AP are the conservation and executive architects. I also write the foreign architectural supplement for Design and Lifestyle magazine Vamp. This year I have also contributed the new photography for Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin’s book Bleak Houses which was published last spring by the MIT Press’.

‘Thanks to the generous award of this Wren scholarship, my financial burden has been significantly lightened, and that means that I can focus more on the most important aspect of school, learning. The Wren Insurance Association’s generosity has already inspired me to help others and one day I hope to secure a teaching assistant position at the University of Kent, so that I can pass on the knowledge that I have learnt, in my various work placements, to new students. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as I have been helped myself’.

For more information about the Scholarships, please visit the RIBA website.

Folkestone Triennial prep underway

As part of this year’s Folkestone Triennial arts festival, one of KSA’s Structural & Environmental tutors, Ben Godber, has been working with artist Jyll Bradley, framer Mark Derbyshire and Creative Foundation to create the ‘Green/Light’ project.

Ben describes the project as follows:

“I have been working with the artist, Jyll Bradley, for just over a year to help realise Green/Light which will form part of the Folkestone Triennial 2014. Both the Triennial and the former gasworks site have a particular significance for Jyll, having been born in the town in the year the gasworks closed. The former gasworks site presents a number of challenges, and it was a pleasure to be able to involve former and current students of mine from the University of Kent in realising the artist’s vision”

Past and present KSA students have been on the site in progress and helped install screw pegs along a grid.

For more information on the Triennial, click here


[Image taken by Jyll Bradley, 2014, sourced from Godber & Co.]

Another successful summer school at KSA

The second Summer School at the Kent School of Architecture was a great success and we were lucky again with the weather!

Pupils, primarily from local Partner Schools, enjoyed three days on campus engaging with a variety of activities relating to the process of designing a house for themselves and creating a community.

Pupils made a tower in ten minutes from small wooden blocks as an ice breaker followed by two short lectures introduced ideas of home and community.

They chose a role from a list and created a self-portrait illustrating themselves as an artist, a book dealer, a bird watcher, a gardener etc.  Following a site visit on campus and choosing a plot, pupils began the process of sketching out ideas of a house in earnest to be developed into models. The house needed to include a space to eat, sleep, wash and relax. An area was also included to work in their chosen role. A formal session of drawing on a drawing board allowed the pupils to learn about scale, plans and elevations with the associated drawing conventions.

Another successful summer school at KSA

The second Summer School at the Kent School of Architecture was a great success and we were lucky again with the weather!

Pupils, primarily from local Partner Schools, enjoyed three days on campus engaging with a variety of activities relating to the process of designing a house for themselves and creating a community.

Pupils made a tower in ten minutes from small wooden blocks as an ice breaker followed by two short lectures introduced ideas of home and community.

They chose a role from a list and created a self-portrait illustrating themselves as an artist, a book dealer, a bird watcher, a gardener etc.  Following a site visit on campus and choosing a plot, pupils began the process of sketching out ideas of a house in earnest to be developed into models. The house needed to include a space to eat, sleep, wash and relax. An area was also included to work in their chosen role. A formal session of drawing on a drawing board allowed the pupils to learn about scale, plans and elevations with the associated drawing conventions.


Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Convents and Monasteries

English Heritage has just published its new ‘Introduction to Heritage Assets’ on Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Convents, written by KSA’s Gothic Revival specialist Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin.

These Introductions are written by experts and peer-reviewed before publication. They provide architectural enthusiasts and the general reader as well as conservation officers and other professionals with an outline of the history of important building types and an insight into priorities in conservation policy.

The Introduction can be freely downloaded from English Heritage’s website:

Dr Brittain-Catlin is currently working on other Gothic Revival projects, including a book based on KSA’s highly successful 2012 international conference ‘New Directions in Gothic Revival Studies Worldwide’, and contributions to the forthcoming volume on Material Reform in the University of Leuven Press’ series The Dynamics of Religious Reform in Northern Europe, 1780-1920, both of which will be published in 2016.

Dr Brittain-Catlin can be contacted on

Open Day rakes in a crowd for KSA

On Saturday 12th July the University of Kent held a General Open Day at the Canterbury Campus. The event was fully booked and KSA were looking forward to meeting lots of prospective students. After setting up a stall in the main sports hall on campus, visitors from across the country, as well as some international individuals, came to meet staff and students from the school and to find out what KSA had to offer them.


Two tours were given later in the day, with a total of approximately 200 people getting familiar with the department situated in the Marlowe building. A talk in the main Marlowe lecture theatre was delivered by both the Head of School, Professor Don Gray, and Deputy Head of School, Professor Gerald Adler. Three student ambassadors were also present to give more personal experiences of the courses and general student perspectives. Copies of the 2014 End of Year catalogue were available to purchase, so applicants could grasp a flavour of the quality of work KSA students produce.


We hope everyone who visited the Open Day found it useful, if you do have any further questions, then please feel free to contact us: The next Open Day will be held on Wednesday 17th September and you can book your place here.

World leading masterplanner to teach at KSA

John Letherland, Senior Masterplanner and Director at Farrells, the internationally renowned architectural practice run by Sir Terry Farrell, will be teaching the Urban Design module on our MA in Architecture and Urban Design programme this September. Opportunities are still available for those wishing to enrol in this programme.

The MA in Architecture and Urban Design will include academic study into the landscape character of Kent and the South East of England, and the practical application of theory in ‘live’ projects within the region. It will be taught at the University of Kent by John Letherland from Farrells, contemporary practitioners in urban design and advocates of pro-active town planning. Students will have access to a new study centre established by Sir Terry Farrell at Great Maytham in Kent, and will be able to contribute towards an archive of Landscape Character and Urban Typologies at the centre.

Kent is one of best-known and most cherished parts of the UK, recognisable around the world by its location and character as the ‘Garden of England’. How, within this explosion of growth, can we continue to create places that are truly live-able while accommodating the rapid increase in population?

How do we turn this issue of growth into an opportunity for place-making?

Landscape is the first infrastructure- it shapes our lives and culture. The urban planner must read and understand the landscape character of a place in order to shape its future successfully.

For more information about the course, please visit our postgraduate pages.

Architecture workshop: Container homes

Rebecca Hobbs ran a workshop today for students from local schools and colleges which saw students creating a holiday home using three shipping containers. The students started off the session with a game designed to test their memory and observation skills. A tray with 9 different objects was placed in front of them for 30 seconds and they had one minute to draw each item that they saw.


The students from St Anselms, Sittingbourne Community College and The Malling School were then introduced to plans and elevations. A selection of shipping containers being turned into living spaces were explored and Rebecca asked the students to imagine their favourite place. They were then tasked with designing a holiday home using 3 containers. The home could take any shape that the students wanted and they came up with various designs – some homes were built on three levels, some containers were used for swimming pools while others joined their containers together on one level to create a large open plan living space.


A reflection on the Passivhaus Project Conference held at Kent on the 27th June 2014

On 27 June 2014 a one day conference was held at the Bulb Innovation Centre at the University of Kent, exploring how the Passivhaus, an energy efficiency standard for buildings originating in Germany, has been adopted in the UK. The event, which was fully booked, was organised by the project coordinator, Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, in collaboration with Emma Lansdell of the EU-funded Environmental Innovation Network at Kent Innovation and Enterprise. The aim of the conference was to disseminate the findings of the research project ‘Interrogating the technical, economic and cultural challenges of delivering the PassivHaus standard in the UK’ and to engage professionals and academics in a series of cross-disciplinary discussions about the challenges and potential strategies for adopting the Passivhaus standard within the UK. The attendees comprises largely of practitioners from London and the South-East, but also included some of the industry partners that have been involved in the research project continuously over the past twelve months. The event was designed to present the findings of the research to a wider audience and to engage practitioners and academics directly in a series of discussions about the challenges of introducing the Passivhaus standard within the UK.

The coordinator of the research project, Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, gave the opening lecture, which provided an overview of the research project and some of the key areas investigated. The talk also included a reflection on the process of involving a team of students in collaborative research projects and engaging industry partners in the project through a series of workshops and project review sessions. This was an important part of the project, as one of the objectives of the project was to explore how far research projects can be used as a means to establishing collaborations between architecture students, industry, and university-based research. It is part of his effort to establish research and design as two pillars within the sustainability curriculum of the KSA’s MArch programme. Reviewing the process with the external partners,  Dr. Schoenefeldt  found that this model had worked well, but also that it required extensive coordination. The project enabled students, among others, to become familiar with different research methodologies to a high standard, giving research presentations and with producing a peer-reviewed research output in the form of an eBook etc. The involvement of practitioners was found to be particular fruitful  is allowed the research team to develop the type multi-disciplinary perspective that was required to fully understand process by which project teams had adapted in order to successfully implement the PassivHaus standard.

Professor Gordana Fontana-Guisti  from the Kent School of Architecture giving the welcome speech (left) and Adam Nightingale presenting a case study on the Rural Regeneration Centre at Hadlow College, Kent.

Over the course of the day, the team of students who have been involved in the project for twelve months, presented ten case studies in three thematic panels, (1) new housing, (2) retrofit and (3) educational buildings. Each panel was followed by chaired discussions, exploring the significance of some of key findings of these case studies. The case study presentations were followed with great interest and led to a series of interesting discussions concerning the application of Passivhaus principles to new and existing housing as well as educational buildings.

The case-study presentations given by the research students. Starting at the top left: Rosie Seaman (Grove Cottage), Thomas Hayward (100 Princedale Road), Tim Waterson (Camden), Sam Ashdown (Denby Dale), Katarzyna Kwiatek (Disability Essex) and Sam Fleming (Montgomery School)

Philip Proffit from Princedale Housing was the first guest speaker. He gave a talk about the wider economic and cultural barriers from an industry perspective, drawing on his experience with Passivhaus in the UK and Belgium. His focus was on some of the overarching issues, many of which had been encountered in the case studies. Some of the key problems Philip highlighted were (1) a lack of understanding of the Passivhaus standard among architects and the wider public
(2) negative prejudices towards Passivhaus, e.g. airtight boxes in which windows cannot be opened (3) an overly risk conscious and conservative construction industry (housing), reluctant to adopt or develop new methods of construction and the absence of (4) a mature supply chain of compliant components within the UK. He also stressed that architects are required to communicate  the advantages of Passivhaus more effectively, including energy efficiency, ‘comfortably warm and draft-free’ interiors, and  ‘fresh’ indoor atmosphere. The later provided particular benefits to people with asthma. In the second part of his talk he talked about some of the techno-economic barriers in the UK. Criticizing the reluctance of the UK building industry, in particular in the housing sector, to adopt new methods of construction, Philip argued that timber-based construction systems, prefabricated in factories, provide a means to deliver the required standards in a more cost-effective way. Through a series of Belgium and Dutch examples, he showed how these systems provide a means to adapting the PassivHaus standard for a mass market, including the volume house sector or large scale commercial office buildings. He showed that timber-based system are versatile, as they cannot only used in large- and small-scale project, but also for retrofit existing structures.

First guest lecture by Philip Proffit, Princedale Housing, exploring some of the broader techno-economic challenges of low-energy design.

He stressed that the UK are gradually moving towards a fabric first approach, but too slowly.  He stressed that there was a misconception that it would be cheaper to deliver lower fabric efficiency standards, but in reality, he argued, poorer standards can make buildings more complicated and expensive, largely due to the cost for additional backup heating systems required. If a space heating demand of 15 KWh per square meter or less is achieved, research at the PassivHaus Institut has shown, a conventional heating system is no longer required to maintain comfortable conditions. In his talk he included many references to the city of Brussels, where the PassivHaus was made the mandatory energy standard, giving a boost to investment into technical innovation and employment within the Belgium construction industry. This, he highlighted, illustrated the potential role of regulation can play in driving the UK towards significant increases in energy efficiency or investment into deep retrofit measures in the UK. In the discussions following in the afternoon various attendees argued that setting clear mandatory performance standards will be a positive step forward, even if the standard is high, as it would provide the industry with a clear set of benchmark to which it can comply.

The second Keynote lecture was given by Derrie O’Sullivan from Huddersfield, who had experience with PassivHaus in practice as well as education. In his own project he explored how the Passivhaus standard buildings can be achieved using traditional craft skills and methods of masonry construction. Derrie advocated the idea of Passivhaus embracing craft traditions, which contrasted with Proffit’s more industrial approach to building production. Referring to his experience with studio teaching at the University of Huddersfield, he also discussed some of the difficulties with introducing Passivhaus and low-energy design principles into the traditional design studio of architectural schools. One of the problems, he noted, was the lack of appreciation in architecture schools for the type of technical rigor underlying the design of low-energy buildings among design critics or studio tutors, who would evaluate student work on different criteria that are used in architecture school in the assessment of design projects. Taking the attendees through various architectural projects in Germany, he illustrated the variety of ‘architectural forms’ PassivHaus standard buildings can or could take. In the case of the latter, he referred to the Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba Diocesan Museum in Cologne, which was not designed to Passivhaus standard, but due its compact form and glazing to wall, could potentially achieve the standard without significant alteration to its architectural form.

Derrie O’Sullivan giving a talk about the Passivhaus in the context of architectural education

The event ended with a final plenary discussion, exploring some of the broader questions raised by the research. One of the big questions that were discussed was whether Passivhaus required a revolutionary or evolutionary approach. Some developments followed the premise that the delivery of low carbon buildings require a fundamental change in technology and the UK construction industry, whilst others explored ways of adapting existing methods. Concluding from this discussion, Paul Mallion from Conker Conservation, stressed that this shows that Passivhaus does not prescribe any particular method of construction. The variety of construction methods used in the case studies covered in the research project illustrated that any mode of construction can be used if the passivhaus principles are rigorously followed. Paul, Philip and Derrie also stressed that it was possible to deliver Passivhaus standard buildings using largely UK skills and suppliers. The current standard of vocational college education in the UK was also seen as a major obstacle, which tend to provide only basic skills and to focus on traditional methods of construction, rather than cover more advanced and modern methods.

It is all about the relationship between the various disciplines involved in the design, implementation and use of the buildings, not only those involved in the design development but also in the construction and use of buildings. Referring to the findings of the research project and his experience with practice in Austria and Germany, Dr. Schoenefeldt argued that establishing stronger links between the education of the ‘designers’ and ‘makers’ of buildings would be an important step towards exploiting the full potential of cross-disciplinary project teams. Various attendees of the conference noted that establishing good project teams is hard work and that maintaining these teams after the completion of a project would allow them not only to delivery projects more effectively but also to further develop their knowledge base and body of practical experience. The latter is particular important in the context of low energy design, where new modes of practices have to developed involving all parties involved. The problem in the UK is that teams tend to be  broke up after each project, despite previous efforts to build a team with the necessary knowledge, experience and skills. All of the projects made apparent the importance of learning from mistakes and openly sharing experience within the wider industry, including the exchange of technical knowledge, solutions adopted in different projects, and the practical insights gained through real-life projects. This, however, was found to requires a major culture shift as practice, being concerned about their reputation and with maintaining a competitive advantage over other practices, tend to be resistant to openly share their knowledge. This illuminated that the UK built environment, if it is to overcome the various challenges with delivering zero-carbon buildings, needs to reengage with the role of collaboration and competition in innovation.

The final discussion panel.

Dr. Henrik Schoenefeldt, 2 July 2014

Riverine Conference 2014

The Riverine conference, organised by Prof. Gerald Adler and Dr Manolo Guerci from the 26th to the 29th of June at the Kent School of Architecture, University of Kent, explored the relationship between architecture and rivers at a number of scales, from the geographical, topographical, through the urban, infrastructural, down to that of the individual building or space. It sought to examine the interface between terrain and water through the techniques and cultures of landscape, urban, architectural and material history and design, and through cross cultural studies in art, literature, and social and cultural history. This diverse and multi-disciplinary approach resulted in a lively and most interesting cohort of delegates from all over the world, who commented very positively on the overall outcome of debates.

The conference ended with a guided tour along the course of the River Thames, from its Essex marshland habitat up to its south bank development in London. A book exploring the various strands of the discussion with contributions by the delegates will now be put together by the organisers, and will be published in due course by Routledge.