Summer Work Placement

I spent this summer working for a medium sized international architecture firm in Torquay, Devon. While only a short walk from my house, the project locations I was working on were spread across the globe. One day an entrance foyer in Delhi, the next a black box exhibition space in China. I could not however get away from the ‘new guy’ toilet layout tasks which I was assured of by tutors when starting my course. Although I complain, the nature of collaborating in a multidisciplinary design team on high profile live projects is not something I have experienced before, and was therefore both insightful and exciting. I admit however that early starts 5 days a week were not something which I was used to.

I was lucky enough to secure a paid position which made the whole experience that much better, although when I look at the amount that I learnt whilst working, the money seems almost insignificant. I developed software skills which although highly important to work in the architectural profession, simply cannot be taught in a university environment, away from the burdens of planning constraints or cost.

There is only so much that can be taught at university, I believe that it is far better to experience work in practice at an early stage of your degree, so that you can fine tune the skills you learn before being released into the working world. I would advise anyone to do the same.

By Edward Powe – Stage 3 BA (Hons) Architecture

KSA End of Year Exhibition

11cOn the Friday 19th of June 2015 at 5:30pm, the Kent School of Architecture hosted its 10th End of Year Exhibition. The show comprised work of all 5 years as well as additional work from foundation and postgraduate years. The Marlowe building on the University of Kent campus (marked using an enormous pink X to symbolise the number 10) was unsurprisingly bursting at the seams with high quality work and scores of people who had travelled to see it.

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The exhibition was officially opened by special guest and Architects Journal Editor Rory  Olcayto who spoke shortly about the need for high quality schools of architecture and about the nature of architectural education itself.

The evening then progressed to the presentation of prizes including the Eliot Cloister design competition winners prize for Prinka Anandawardhani and Tracy Hulley, presented by Eliot College Master Stephen Burke. There were many other prizes awarded by the school and also sponsors including an award from Guy Holloway for Stage 2’s module Form and Structure. Guests who were in attendance commented on the richness and quality of the work on show, and their delight at how quickly the young school is progressing.

Also on show were the schools latest technological advancements including 3D printers, scanners and a drone in the foyer.

The Kent School of Architecture is in a constant state of progression, in both reputation and therefore quality of work, which means that future end of year exhibitions will continue to rise in quality. We look forward to seeing you all there next year!

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Billhook Nook Theatre by SHED

There are few opportunities when studying architecture to translate your designs into built projects, except if you actively seek those projects which allow you to do so. This extracurricular project gave us an opportunity to put our design skills to the test and produce a multifunctional events space for use by both staff and future students. The theatre took about 2-3 weeks to complete and has inspired many of us to seek future projects with which we can develop our skills further. The difference between working as a team on an academic project compared to an active, built project is significant, and we have all learnt valuable lessons about both team work and designing as a result.

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The theatre concept originated from the study of popular natural artist Andy Goldsworthy and his technique of ‘ordering’ nature using materials found on site. Billhook Nook Theatre consists of a large sculptural roof structure designed to represent the ‘ordered’ interpretation of the surrounding woodland. This ‘birds nest’ form is built around a triangular structural frame which is then supported using chains by the surrounding trees. The benefit of securing the structure to the trees is that the roof, although static, moves gentle with the trees in the wind adding a dynamic character to the theatre (unlike many traditional theatres). The theatre is also intended to not only draw your attention to the focal point (in this case the stage area), but to draw your eye up to the canopy of leaves above.

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The SHED (Studio for Hands-on Experimental Design) team, led by myself currently includes second year students Benjamin Nourse, Aut Angpanitcharoen, Luisa Pires, Andrew Warwick and Prinka Anandawardhani Choesin. We all look forward to experiencing Billhook Nook Theatre throughout the seasons, and we encourage everyone else to do the same as it will soon be available as a bookable education space on campus. The theatre can be found below the new business school development near parkwood on campus, just look for the door.

This project would not have been possible without the help of Creative Campus and Ian Bride, and we look forward to future projects together.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

 

Architecture Student Aut Angpanitcharoen’s Travel Diary

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Just before the exam I took a trip to the beach with a couple of friends for an afternoon of revision, tea, oysters and eventually dinner. Whitstable turned out to be a great venue for reading, although if you are planning on doing this yourself, do remember to bring paperweights with you.

The beach can get pretty windy and wet notes aren’t quite as informative as dry ones.

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After the stress of the Nineteenth Century Architecture exam and the final structural report hand in passed, I found myself with plenty of free time to start enjoying life again. So I picked up my sketchbook and my favourite watercolour set and have been busy. Well, not that busy.

Yesterday whilst waiting for the clock to strike seven, I got bored and decided to go for a stroll around the city centre. I have to admit it wasn’t the best day for a walk, hence I only ended up with this fairly quick sketch. The line work is particularly rushed as by the time I decided to put pen to paper, I was already late for dinner.

This is one of my favourite spot in Canterbury, the cobbled narrow street and shop signs frame Bell Harry perfectly.

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I have been drawing the cathedral a lot recently. Just a few days ago, fellow aspiring architect, Prinka Anandawardhani and I took an impromptu visit to the cloisters and spent half an hour sketching. Hers is a little better than mine so I chose to omit a scan of it to avoid competition.

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The restoration process for the cathedral is forever on going, the result of the successful “Save Canterbury Cathedral” Appeal launched in 2006. Though it is a shame that in order to save it, parts of the building and its surrounding complex has to be covered up. It was slightly frustrating that when my friends came for a day visit, Christ Church Gate was concealed behind scaffoldings and tatty white fabric. Well guys, if you’re reading this, here it is. Through my eyes. For more accurate representations go to google images.

http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/supporting-us/

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Finally, to end this ramble. My favourite sketch at the moment, this one of St Paul’s Cathedral from the 1 New Change rooftop, right by St Paul’s station. I would seriously recommend going there for a great view of London and a day out sketching.

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By Aut Angpanitcharoen – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

KSA ranked 3rd best school of architecture in the UK in most recent league table

The most recent Gardian university league table has seen the Kent School of Architecture (KSA) rise to 3rd position in the UK, up 11 places from last year. It is particularly worth noting that KSA, which only celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is positioned above some of the longest standing architecture schools in the country such as Cambridge and Bath. A highly contributing factor to KSA’s success is the high employability standards it provides students with, ranked joint 1st for graduating student employment prospects in the 2016 Complete University Guide. As well as this, recent expansions to KSA mean that it now boast some of the most up to date facilities available to its Architectural students.

It is quite clear that for such a young school, KSA is punching above its weight when it comes to providing exceptional architectural education and is now perfectly positioned to maintain its position as a frontrunner in the Architectural field.

Eliot Cloister Garden Design Competition

With its 50th Anniversary approaching, the University of Kent decided to undergo a number of prestigious refurbishments; one was to improve the Cloister Garden in Eliot College. The Eliot College department and School of Architecture therefore agreed to set up a competition open to all students. The announcement caught our interest and so we decided to submit a design proposal to the competition.

Since its opening in 1965, the College has been strongly associated with the School of Arts.There are drama studios in the building yet students still make extensive use of the Great Hall for rehearsals. Therefore, the competition brief urged us to foster a feeling of history by linking its uses to the past and to create a multifunctional space for drama and dance practices and productions. The garden is also intended to create a tranquil and delightful spot for studying and relaxing for everyone.

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The context was a substantial factor when designing as to ensure the garden worked with the context rather than against it. Since the context reminded us of art-nouveau architecture style from its curvy organic-shaped bottom windows, we decided that the design should incorporate a similar language and not be geometrically designed. The context affected our material palette as well; it needed to brighten up the harsh Eliot concrete façade. Hence on one side we chose bright gravel for the ground, and kept the existing greenery on the rest to still encourage wildlife into the area. The benches and mini amphitheatre consolidated to produce level changes, which brings volume to the space.

Having been shortlisted to the final four, we began work on developing our design taking in to account the feedback given. With being shortlisted there was also a £75 prize money given to each team or individual to go towards the costs of creating a 1:100 scale model of our designs.

Accounting for the main point on our feedback we decided to remove the sculpture area.  This then became the pergola walkway where we incorporated flower boxes to add brightness and colour. Originally the pergola was larger but this therefore would be more costly, causing further revisions to our design and we settled on the smaller but more suited final pergola design.
Additionally we addressed disabled access. The original design involved steps to the sunken amphitheatre. Hence we changed to a ramp which curved down so aesthetically it merged in with the benches. Lastly we worked on the finishing touches of the materials and lighting for ambience at night time.

Design finalised we had a race against time. Besides participating in the Eliot Cloister competition we were approaching our intercrit in the same week. The challenge would now be communicating our idea to the judging panel and juggling two projects at once. Therefore our main focus for the week leading up to the final submission was the model and we spent the next week in the workshop. We debated on many aspects of how we wished for the model to look, and what would be the best materials to communicate the design choosing a graphic design approach. Whilst we spent our days in the workshop, we spent evenings drawing and rendering our design in to a presentable booklet. We split work evenly between us and ensured our work matched for a cohesive final outcome.

Since winning we have met with the Eliot Master and discussed a few small changes which we are working on now. The design is scheduled to begin work in the next few months and to be finished for September and the Universities 50th anniversary celebrations.

By Tracy Hulley and Prinka Anandawardhani – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Work Experience

Instead of spending my Easter holidays relaxing on a beach in South Devon with a cream tea at my side, I used this time as an opportunity to undertake some work experience with an architectural firm who specialise in the design of tourist attractions. Although at first reluctant to give up the only free time I had after a very busy term, I soon came to realise the benefits of my decision.

University learning is a vital part of the process to becoming a good architect, but it has its limitations, the first being the disconnection between students and active building projects. This means that while learning at university you may think that what you are doing is worthwhile, but it is not until you enter the industry that you realise what the most important processes are and therefore which skill areas are most worthwhile to develop. It’s like trying to paint someone’s portrait before ever seeing them. If it were up to me to decide, I believe that a degree in architecture should start with compulsory work in practice before theoretical learning begins, this however for obvious reasons is not the case in our current system. Now having spend time studying the profession I am in a better position to judge which skills are require and which are less so. This also means that I can now relate the projects I undertake at university to the real world subsequently giving my university work more depth and realism.

Another benefit to getting into the industry early is what is known as getting your ‘foot in the door.’ It is basic business that dictates it is more cost effective to keep an employee on than to train a new one, therefore as soon as you begin to learn company specific processes, you are making yourself very attractive when it comes to longer term planning. What I mean by this is that by getting into a firm early, knowingly or not, you are making the search for a year out position much easier when it comes to that time. While others are having the last minute panic as third year comes to an end, you can relax knowing that yours is already sorted.

Although I have not developed my design skills very much, I believe that I have learnt more about the processes involved in the architectural profession in those 3 weeks than I have done this year at university, and I would encourage everyone to do the same.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

 

The Render Paradigm

As architecture students, we are entering into an extremely competitive working profession, one which is benefiting, or some would say suffering, from an increasing variety of channels through which architectural designs can be represented. The days of pencil and drawing board are numbered, and are being replaced instead by photo-realistic, idealised renders which in some cases deceive the client to buy into a proposal based on the quality of the graphic, rather than the quality of the design. So are these renders good or bad for the profession, or should we go back to the days of the pencil?

At university, speaking from personal experience, I have found that in order to get attention from other students and visitors to the school, your designs must stand out, either through striking visuals and colour or through quirky presentation techniques, ie video etc. Even the most exquisitely designed proposals can easily be lost under a smokescreen of artistic flair when students work is displayed together, as it usually is. This paradigm is worrying as it forces young architects to focus on graphic design and architectural design is often neglected. Time and time again, there is always a student who spend days producing exquisite presentation sheets and is reassured by other students that they are guaranteed a good grade. The issue comes when the student receives a lower design mark than a student whose presentation sheets were not quite as exquisite but were backed up by a solid design process. This student is then left feeling confused due to a misunderstanding of where his presentation lacked, after all, how could such a beautifully presented design receive such a low grade?

This student, like so many clients in the profession, has fallen prey to the deceptive nature of architectural renders, the only difference in the industry is that many clients are unable to see through this artistic smokescreen.

Many students look towards resources like precedents medals and top architectural universities for design inspiration, however many students, including myself, unknowingly find themselves taking away only graphic design inspiration rather than what we were searching for in the first place. I’m sure you can see how this vicious circle, encouraged by the current architecture education system and the industry itself can have a detrimental effect on the quality of building produced in the modern day.

Don’t get me wrong, artistic, realistic renders can be extremely useful in explaining complex concepts using only a few images, so long as they accurately represent the design which is to be built. As well as this, the emergence of sophisticated augmented reality software can greatly benefit firms trying to conveying a design to a client who is not likely to be able to interpret traditions orthographic drawings. What clients want to know is what the design is like to be in, and with this new software, they can be physically immersed into a realistic version of such a design.

Clearly there are major advantages which come with the use of realistic renders to convey a design, however, I feel that in order for their successful application, raw architectural design must be given greater attention, and not come as a byproduct of a graphic designers piece of art.

Please leave your opinion using the comments button below.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

 

Pure Form

Pure Form 1The relationship between men and stone dates back to the inception of time itself. Whether through a genesis involving a supreme being or as culmination of an unprecedented explosion, one of the first forms was stone. This unpredictable entity that exists in multiple configurations with volumes and voids, patterns and tones so different that it’s hard to find two that are exactly alike has been our livelihood. From the solid shelter of the cave, the first tools of hunters and gatherers, to primitive agricultural equipment, stone has carved a path for human life to flourish. This hard substance became a canvas for prehistoric artists, teachers and authors to pass information from generation to generation, a practice that would become a continuum. These were the pages for the early Sumerian cuneiform tablets, the scroll for the decree of the Rosetta stone and the material that made construction of the pyramids possible.

Adopted and mastered by the Greeks and Romans the Architecture of antiquity then became the exemplary arrangement of this stone and the temple form was created. At this moment purity of stone was lost in architecture.

What stone wanted to be it could be no more, the natural grotto it wanted to create for the early men was to be no more; the dry stone walls built by the Shona of Southern Africa were to be no more; the balancing Boulders of Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge were to be no more; the unpredictable architecture created by the insufficient technology was to be no more. The era of uniqueness was over.

Like the artists of the Renaissance and the Baroque playing with the boundaries of the orders, or the leaders of the arts and crafts movement rebelling against low quality mass produced products of the industrial revolution; the Pure Form project at Kent School of Architecture ran by sculptor Patrick Crouch follows this patriotism. True to traditional materials and tools, conceiving form from stone and wood, Patrick is bridging the gap between traditional sculpture and modern architecture.

Patrick Crouch at work Source: https://patrickcrouch.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/room-0331.jpg
Patrick Crouch at work
Source: https://patrickcrouch.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/room-0331.jpg

Michelangelo proclaimed that “every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it” ; Mark Antoine Laugier in his polemical essay on architecture argued that architecture ought to divorce the harmonious proportions of antiquities and look towards the structural clarity embodied in mankind first structures.
Such intertwined ideals are the driving force behind the Pure Form project. Open to all ages or to “those who are alive” in the words of the Patrick crouch the programme aims to bring the craftsmanship lost in the materials of modernity. As contemporary skylines become glazed by the structural gymnastics made possible by steel and glass there is no more room for a chisel; so the project recreates an environment such as that experienced by our forefathers during the construction of our great monuments. The process evokes memories, breeds artisans and inspires a revolt towards today’s architecture that is nothing but a silhouette of form behind a curtain wall.

The sounds of traditional tools chipping away at blocks of stone sound like an ancient song in the night but when mixed with the robotic sounds of laser cutters and 3d printers, it creates a unique melody never heard before. Is this the future of architecture encoded in the notes of this new song?

If a digital camera was carved out of stone would it be a priceless work of art or an ephemeral tool for human enjoyment? In a post oil earth, mankind will have revert to nature- the nature such as that of wood and stone.

Pure form classes in action Photo by Themba Ben Mtwazi
Pure form classes in action
Photo by Themba Ben Mtwazi

By Themba Ben Mtwazi

Immersive architecture

Imagine that in front of you stood a door, and I told you that on passing through this door you would be transported 160 million year into the past to the age of dinosaurs, you would say that I have lost my mind wouldn’t you? However, Renzo Piano would disagree with you, and so would I.

I have always been fascinated by immersive experiences, the Eden project in Cornwall being a fine example, and it would seem that one of the aspects which make them so enchanting is their collaboration with superlative architecture and interior design. The Eden project consist of two vast biomes designed using the concept of bio-mimicry which gives them their distinct bubble shape. This focus on bio-mimicry has facilitated a huge saving in weight and cost due to resource efficiency, in fact the resulting superstructure of the biomes weigh less than the air they contain. Because of the lightweight nature of the ETFE membrane used to create the hexagonal panels, the steel frame was therefore smaller meaning that the resulting structure as a whole let more light in. When viewed from the ground, amidst the dense rainforest and humid air, the relative ease in which your mind gets lost in this enchanting world is astonishing. The only reminder of the outside world coming when your eye is drawn upwards by the towering trees to a gap in the canopy which shows a fanciful hexagonal pattern soaring above you, for some reason the Hunger Games springs to mind.

When people ask me what form truly brilliant architecture comes in I tell them that for a piece of architecture to be truly brilliant, the form which it assumes is extraneous, more importantly therefore is a buildings ability to invoke emotion and feeling; something which when done well can have a profoundly personal effect on those who visit it. Which is partly the reason why I believe architects such as Daniel Libeskind have received so much recognition for buildings such as the Jewish museum in Berlin, a building which cannot possibly be understood from its external appearance, but by the ineluctable emotional connection with the buildings interior spaces. In my opinion a utilitarian building designed solely for either financial or practical reasons cannot possibly be classed as architecture, this distinction should be reserved for buildings which are designed with the primary intention of provoking feelings in those who visit them. This is the reason for my appreciation of immersive architecture.

JurassicaSaying this, due for completion in 2021 is what will be the worlds largest immersive Jurassic experience, known as ‘Jurassica’, designed by Renzo Piano. Unlike the Eden project, the environment contained within this space is not a replica of an already existing global ecosystem, but a replica of an ecosystem unfamiliar to the human race, that of the Jurassic period. A huge roof structure will cover a 250,000 cubic metre quarry in Portland England, and beneath this roof will exist a Jurassic world complete with animatronic moving replicas of the fauna from this period, on both land and in water. The location of Jurassica will be ideally located in close proximity to the Jurassic coastline, a place where much of the research and collection of prehistoric fossils currently operates, and will provide a much needed visual aid to assist in the education and experience of this fascinating period of time.

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The aim of the project is to not only to create the largest Jurassic experience, but to ensure that it is also the most accurate representation of this long lost time. The project has already attracted many distinguished figures in support such as Sir David Attenborough.

Immersive architectural environments can be very easy to achieve on a small scale, it is however far more difficult to achieve on a larger scale. The Eden project is a fine example of how immersive environments can be extremely captivating places to experience because the architectural forms employed are intended to focus our attention on their contents, while producing an external appearance which draws us in. Jurassica certainly seems to tick all of the boxes in this sense, which promises that we may soon be experiencing a truly magnificent immersive space not only because of its educational nature, but also because of it’s fantastic architectural prowess.

I look forward to the day when we can all pass through the door standing in front of us, and immerse ourselves in history.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Image credit – Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Jurassica 2014 
http://www.jurassica.org/