Student Profile – Srimathi Aiyer

shrimpySrimathi Aiyer

5th Year Master in Architecture (MArch) Student

I was brought up in Stratford, East London, with a family originating from South India. I discovered I was into illustration from an early age and I still draw cartoons as a hobby to this day in my spare time. I get most of my inspiration for anything creative I do from film, animation and world travel.

Why did you choose KSA? 

I am impressed that KSA has increasingly gained recognition both in the league tables and general word of mouth as a school with a wide curriculum that covers design, technology and cultural aspects. I feel the modules being taught covers the essentials needed, without it completely focusing on the artistic or theoretical side alone; therefore that broad range of teaching is what convinced me to join KSA. Canterbury is also a beautiful place to live in and there are easy travel links toLondon and other neighbouring towns in Kent.

What are you currently working on? 

I am working on my final Masters thesis project, where the site I picked is in America. I always have had a fascination for America, so to focus on historical and contextual interests from that country that influence my project is incredibly motivating and I am excited to see how my scheme turns out. I am currently designing a spa centre that revolves around the spiritual journey and thermal sensations of the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water.

shrimpy 2Tell us about your study period abroad 

Doing my Autumn term in Virginia Tech, USA as part of my 5th Year was an experience I will never forget. I got to immerse myself in new ways of teaching and approaches to design. Furthermore, I got to interact with tutors and students, not just from America but all around the world too. It was intense, but everyone helped each other in an enthusiastic studio environment. Washington DC was within close proximity, so I ensured I was on top of work before travelling around the city and other states in the USA. I think I got more of a reverse culture shock when I got back to the UK, rather than when I first arrived there!

How would you describe your architectural approach?

What I have discovered is my designs are simplistic on the outside, but I then attempt to break lines of symmetry inside and focus more on key moments or views as you turn a corner or generally move around a building. My proposals prioritise user experience, so there will be some moments where movement is controlled or slowed down and other times when it’s more open and free. Then the architectural language will be structured around that user approach and use.

What advice would you give to someone embarking on an architectural degree?

This is coming from someone who, at the age of eighteen, had stage fright, struggled with time management, had so mind blanks when searching for ideas and followed the crowd who would tell you that they never sleep or eat. It took time, but I have found myself in architecture and you can too if you put your heart into it. I can now say I have grown to a point where I do manage my work much better, I handle presentations a lot better and I do a lot more research and reading (and sketching too!) to get ideas. And you concentrate better in good health. It’s primarily two things: confidence and self-belief. And those are two qualities that don’t get graded but are celebrated a lot more in the end.

Student profile – Luísa Pires

louisa

 

Luísa Pereira Pires

2nd year bachelors

 

I am from Lisbon, Portugal and lived there for 15 years. I then moved to Bonn, Germany and then came to study here in Canterbury. I developed my love for architecture since I was very young, Lisbon is full of beautiful architecture and I am fascinated by it. As I grew up I developed an interest for Arts, Science and History, it became evident to me, at the age of 13, that I would want to become an architect some day.

– Why did you choose KSA?

I chose KSA because it is well located geographically , it is international and has a good reputation.

– What are you currently working on?

Currently I have just finished a proposal for the competition of the Eliot cloister garden which I did in collaboration with Aut. Our aim was to create an interactive structure that also delimited the public and more private spaces. We did this by designing an ellipse composed by timber slabs at different progressive angles that allows for shelter sitting and leaning. I am now working on my proposal for the Collective Dwelling module , for the town of Faversham as well as on my Form and Structure proposal for a roof.

louisaa-Which building or architect has had the greatest influence on your work?

I feel like it is still too early to define what architect or building greatly influences my work. Although I very much admire contemporary works such as “A placa” by Siza and works by Calatrava I also find traditional and historic buildings, such as Cologne Cathedral, inspiring. For me it is a matter of defining a context and circumstances and then look for inspiration by taking those into consideration.

– What advice would you give to someone embarking on an architectural degree? 

I have an advice given by Frank Ghery : You are the expert in your own work.  My own advice is you need to be able to handle criticism well enough to not let it affect the confidence you have in your work. You need to believe in yourself and not give too much importance to the grades that you get but pay close attention to the feedbacks because those are the ones that help you improve. Also you will learn that you are unique in the way you do things and that good Architecture is a subject almost always based on opinion.

 

Student Profile – Benjamin Nourse

Benjamin Nourse

Second Year BA (Hons) Architecture Student

 

– Tell us about yourself (Background etc)

I grew up in a rural region of North Essex. I’m fascinated in environmental and cultural conservation and finding new means in which to express interesting ideas. Architecture is our opportunity to make a spatial difference to the world. Architects and engineers are the creators of the future.

– Why did you choose KSA?

Canterbury has the perfect balance of world famous architecture and beautiful natural landscape. It is a completely awe inspiring place to live and work. The studio is a vibrant non-stop hub of ideas bouncing from all directions. The KSA itself, compared to other schools, addresses the scale of architecture in a far different way. We are encouraged to think out the box but not so far that the idea of the box no longer exists. The KSA teaches to combine environment, structure and design which fundamentally are the employable skills that can be applied to the real world. The school has a very intimate style of architecture that I couldn’t personally find anywhere else.

– What are you currently working on?

standard quay montage medium

A project based 300 years into the future. My site is based in Faversham with an approximate average of 3m above sea level. Based on future climate predictions made by the IPCC, I have devised a story for the next three centuries of Faversham. Unfortunately, it is a tale of a watery end for most of the land but also a story of drastic cultural preservation, including vast underwater tunnels and floating living developments. The idea is perhaps a ‘Noah’s Ark’ for culture, including many historical and yet to be historical inspirations. This project is a solution to a disastrous story that unfortunately, will happen.

Check out what else I’m up to:    http://noursebenjamin.wix.com/benjamin-nourse

– Which building or architect has had the greatest influence on your work?

Archigram, Kenzo Tange, Cedric Price, CJ Lim, Bryan Cantley.

– What advice would you give to someone embarking on an architectural degree?

Always be humble but as soon as you learn the rules, break them. Personally I’ve found that creativity and playfulness is the best way to approach architecture. It’s such a demanding complex subject, we too often forget to enjoy it.

Our 3D concrete future

A Chinese company recently  set a very high benchmark in the concrete 3D printing construction industry. The firm was able to print 10 houses in 24 hours, well more like glorified garden sheds. This rapid shift towards 3D concrete construction is undoubtedly making many people nervous about the future of architecture, however, it is obvious that there are major benefits to this method over conventional ones. So is concrete 3D printing the future of architecture, or will it bring more harm than good to our urban environment?

There is one undeniable benefit to rapid 3D printed house construction, and that is efficiency, and therefore cost reduction. Clearly a firm which can construct as many houses in one week as another one can in one year is at a major advantage when it comes to efficiency and profitability. So we are likely to see more and more construction companies jumping on the 3D printing bandwagon in the near future. More homes at cheaper prices which will reduce homeless statistics and greatly benefit society, sounds great right? Well, yes and no, although financially many people are better off, our environment, both urban and natural sadly may not be. 3D concrete printing is likely to rapidly increase global cement production, right at a time when we need to be reducing its use and shifting towards more sustainable materials and construction processes. The adverse effect that I believe 3D house printing will have on our urban environment is the creation of monotonous housing typologies which lack a character other than their distinctive 3D printed genesis.

The technology used to manufacture the Chinese firms 10 houses (known as contour crafting, similar to most small 3D printers) is not extremely sophisticated, on the contrary, the robotics required is far less complex than those used to manufacture cars. So why has it taken this long for concrete 3D printing to be utilized? The main reason I believe is that the cost of the robotics and training needed to create these enormous 3D printers has reduced quite drastically over the recent years as demand for automated robots grows globally, as well as an increase in the number of firms pioneering innovative construction approaches.

One issue I have with this new bread of building typology is its unique layered appearance, reminding me more of some of Anish Kapoor’s artwork using piles of piped concrete on the floor, great for artwork, not so much for living in. The layered texture these printers produce could be interpreted as a unique, sort-after architectural aesthetic but I’m sure as more and more of these buildings rapidly pop up in clusters, the novelty will soon wear off. Though I shouldn’t be too pessimistic as these textures can easily be covered up much in the same way breeze-block walls are in current construction. The one thing which is lost through the use of these printers is the ability to transfer texture from the form-work used to cast in-situ concrete, which is the reason why many architects favour exposed concrete walls over other wall surfaces.

There are however a few people determined to use this technique for more than just cube shaped buildings, Norman Foster of course leading the way. His efforts with 3D concrete printing are much more promising in terms of experimenting with more complex architectural forms, although don’t yet show signs of viable large scale building applications.

Another issue to consider is the same one which struck the construction industry when automation kicked in. It’s all very well concentrating on maximizing efficiency and minimizing costs to build cheap housing for the population, but if you are laying off workers in the process, is there any point? Construction is the largest industry in the UK, and the USA’s construction industry employs almost 6 million people. So does this advance in automated production put these jobs at risk in the future? The houses these printers produce will have to be very cheap in order for the people who are jobless as a result of them to be able to afford one. But that Problem is a long way off yet!

The houses which these early 3D concrete printers produce are very basic, many of them essentially consisting of a single room garden shed form. In order for this technology to enter the mainstream, there will need to be advancements in the variety of buildings which can be produced, which is exactly where Norman Foster is rightly focusing his attention.

It’s quite obvious that the arrival of industrial scale 3D printing in the UK’s construction industry is fast approaching and the benefits it brings seem to outweigh the disadvantages, certainly from a financial perspective. Therefore the firms who pioneer this technology and start setting industry benchmarks will be in the best position in years to come, furthermore if anyone can find a green alternative to concrete 3D printing, they will stand to gain even more.

 By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Underground Architecture

Many people believe that the origin of architecture has its roots in Marc-Antoine Laugier’s concept of the primitive hut. Two columns supporting a beam which in turn supports a pediment. However, in recent years, because of advances in sophisticated BIM software, I would argue that this is no longer the case as architects no longer have to restrict themselves to these basic construction techniques. As we progress forwards into the future, I believe that the forms that we construct should resemble a much earlier prehistoric concept, before the ‘caveman’ even built his primitive hut. Some of the most beautiful spaces in the world are only experienced by a select few who put in the effort to crawl on their bellies in order to reach them (believe me, I have done it), so why are these breathtaking forms not replicated in modern architecture? Well, you may be pleased to discover that as construction processes get more efficient, digging down is becoming more viable, and there are many current  projects which utilize this hidden world beneath our feet, which you may not even be aware of.

Much in the same way as a cave system, part of the joy of underground architecture is the relatively humble external appearance. Many famous caves are entered through a single door in the side of a hill, which gives nothing away about what lies behind, an example of this being Kents Cavern, otherwise known as Britain’s oldest home. This concept has been transferred into the built environment in buildings like the Staedel Museum in Frankfurt. Hidden below the perfectly maintained lawn of the museum, the existence of this extension by German architects Schneider+Schumacher is given away only by a slight bulge in the centre of the lawn and the circular skylights which provide light for the pristinely white gallery below.

Although the Staedel Museum is discreet with its connection with the earth, other architects are not so subtle. For example the proposal for the Wadi Resort by Oppenheim Architecture & Design in Wadi Rum, Jordan is described by Dezeen.com as ‘setting forth a future primitive experience for the avid globetrotter’. The elemental nature of these 47 desert lodges is influenced by the history of the nearby ancient city of Nebataeans in Petra, carved from the rock itself.

There are many benefits to living underground, the predominant one being the climatic regulation and thermal mass it provides, which is greatly needed in hotter countries such as Jordan. A growing percentage of the population are jumping on the sustainable housing bandwagon, with many of these people choosing to submerge their houses below ground, for these environmental reasons. A housing typology known as earth-ships are becoming increasing popular, where the building is literally built using the earth which is excavated from the site, talk about low carbon footprint! Together with recycled materials and a creative flair, these homes can begin to resemble a village, or should I say ‘Shire’ from a certain popular fantasy saga.

Closer to home, and still on the topic of environmental awareness, the architecture firm Gensler has recently revealed its plans for the conversion of derelict underground tunnels into pedestrian and cycle routes around London. The diversion of pedestrians and cyclists away from the already crowded surface streets of London is not only safer, but makes choosing to cycle rather than taking a car a more attractive option, thereby reducing emissions and increasing air quality. Other proposal for cycle links around London have been proposed, the floating cycleways by the River Cycleway Consortium Ltd being a prominent example. However, London still has a way to go in order to reach the standards of cities like Amsterdam which retains its title as the worlds most cycle-friendly city in the Copenhagenize Index. In my opinion, London is right to utilize these unused tube tunnels, and should be looking into more ways to develop the city centre as a multi-level, multi-purpose transportation and cultural hub.

Budapest in Hungary is also making use of its underground ‘world’ clearly displayed in the new underground station by Spora Architects, currently still under construction. This cavernous space is reminiscent of some of the vast cave chambers which I have personally visited. The extensive use of concrete creates the similar grounded feeling which these caves also have, naturally. The only difference being the huge architectural beams which piece the vast void, necessary for pedestrian connective links and structural purposes, reminding me of some of Louis Kahn’s work.

Although this idea of burrowing back into the earth may seem like a recent one, I personally see it as a step back to the true elementary origin of the human shelter, although I am sure Laugier would disagree.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Women in Architecture

The architectural profession is lagging behind other professions when it comes to closing the gender deficit. The AJ’s Women in Architecture survey for 2015 found that although the ratio of men and women in architectural education is relatively equal, this balance is not being transferred into the workplace where there remains to be a much higher male representation. Some sources estimate that in the US, men make up 80 percent of the architectural profession. So why is this?

One of the most obvious reasons for this could be that women in architecture are indirectly forced to choose between child care and their careers. In fact the AJ’s survey found that 87 percent of women felt that having a child would put them at a disadvantage in their architectural careers, subsequently meaning that more and more women are pushed towards starting up their own practice in order to allow themselves more flexible working hours. Many of those who stay in larger practices are choosing part-time work over full time. This means that the perception many women have is that in order to be a successful architect, they must commit themselves to their career. It would seem however that it is not only women whose careers suffer from the birth of a child; 45 percent of men are of the opinion that childbirth would put them at a disadvantage in the workplace, although only 11 percent of women agree with this perception. It is clear then, that for female architects to feel motivated to achieve the higher level jobs, it is the industry which much change its perceptions, not women.

Women in architecture

The architectural profession is renowned for its competitive nature, leaving many people to believe that men, who are often arguably more inherently competitive, are better suited to prosper in such an aggressive environment. Could this then be the reason why 1/3 of male directors earn more than £75,000 annually compared with just 7 percent of female directors? Is this aggressively competitive nature the sole reason why 1/5 of all female architects surveyed by the AJ said that there were no women in the senior management of their workplace? Many women believe there is a much more baleful reason behind these statistics, one of a discriminatory nature.

76 percent of women surveyed by the AJ have experienced discrimination at some point in their career. 62 percent stated that they experienced this discrimination in the practice, a much higher figure than the 50 percent who experienced it on site. Again, the fault lies with the industry and its false perception of women, meaning that many men do not take them seriously in a business environment.

Amidst all of this doom and gloom, there is a glimmer of hope, as many pioneering female architects work to change the perceptions of the industry. The 2012 Olympic park in London was heavily influenced by women, the most iconic of which being Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre.

It is clear from these statistics that there is still a long way to go when it comes to closing this gender disparity, and a lot of male heads need to be knocked together to rectify this. If we do not act quickly we will be at risk, through our own social ignorance, of disregarding many extremely talented female architects, to the detriment of our own urban environment.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Should architecture schools favour a practical knowledge over a theoretical one?

The most recent AJ has revealed some interesting figures this week concerning the contradictory mindsets of students and employers when it comes to the need for certain practical skills. Recent surveys have found that only one third of architecture students deem hand drawing to be an important skill in the workplace, compared to 44 percent of employers. While a seven year architectural course does include a mandatory two years in industry, many employers argue that there are many topics not covered throughout this education which are fundamental to the success of a firm in industry. These include topics such as knowledge of the law, working in multi-disciplinary teams and a mature understanding of cost management.

With tuition fees this high, a broad knowledge of the construction industry is therefore expected of graduate students, but it would seem that many universities are favouring a theoretical knowledge over practical ability. But is this necessarily a bad thing?

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My response to these statistics is that architecture school is not and never will be like industry practice, and for good reason. It is a chance to explore ideas and hypothesise about solutions to future concerns without having the burden of politics, costs and laws to restrict you. If universities were to only teach practical ability and neglect theoretical knowledge, the architectural degree would be at risk of losing the one thing which draws many students towards it, that freedom to explore in an environment which encourages conceptual, broad, artistic ideas. Students may not be prepared for day to day working in an office, but they are well equipped and in the right mindset to question societal conventions and inspire innovation, which is arguably more significant to the long term success of a practice.

Each architectural school is different, some focusing more on construction and practical applications of design, and others taking a more theoretical approach. How is it then, that arguably the most highly sought after graduates come from the more theoretically minded schools such as the Bartlett and the Architects Association? This clearly shows that yes, employers do want a graduate who will settle into day to day office life quickly, but more so than this, they want a person who will be asset to their business in the long run and help the business’s success through innovation.

In the end of the day, at the heart of the architectural profession is creativity which comes from the exploration of theoretical problem solving. A knowledge of the law, which only 15 percent of part 3 students viewed to be important compared to 44 percent of employers, can be learnt on the job when working in industry; whereas creativity and a theoretical outlook can easily be clouded by numbers and politics. Therefore is it not far better to stimulate theoretical thinking early on in an effort to encourage its transfer into the construction industry?

If theoretical knowledge is lost, the architecture of today would revolve even more so around politics, costs and laws, meaning we might all end up living in tiny square rooms in enormous concrete tower blocks. I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to live in an architecture students vision of a world.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Student Profile – Themba Mtwazi

Themba Mtwazi

Themba Ben Mtwazi

I’m a product of the 80s, born and bred in post independence Zimbabwe. My father was a small time, self taught screen printer, pop artist and a partisan of Andy Warhol and his movement. Growing up surrounded by bottles of ink and stencils; music and graffiti; third world norms and politics; these life encounters of craft and societal barriers somehow merged to become the design of infrastructure – Architecture

Why did you chose KSA?

KSA for me was a no-brainer; a fairly new school just over 5 years old at the time, already sitting at number 6 on the architecture league tables…… I had to find out what the secret was.

What are you working on at the moment? 

There are a few things which I am working on at the moment:

– Faversham creek revitalisation project, Faversham, Uk

– 39 Llewelyn road cottage design, Gweru, Zimbabwe

– Third article for the RIBA blogs (for the first two follow the links below)

      http://www.ribablogs.com/?p=9385 
      http://www.ribablogs.com/?p=9362 

– recently completed poster designs on HIV Criminalisation for the Denialism and Human    rights conference recently held at Maastritch University, Netherlands

10966538_928407660523976_231837343_nWhich building or architect has the greatest influence on your work?

I think architecture is a journey of discovery, it’s like a tour in a foreign town, with what’s lying round the bend totally unknown. I guess until I can say I have encountered ‘every’ architect’s/designer’s work in the world, shall I able to say I have found that ‘ONE’; but so far I am intrigued by Peter Zumthor, Santiago Calatrava and Renzo Piano’s work.

What advice would you give someone embarking on an architectural degree?

A drawing or a sketch is the picture of one’s latent thoughts.The trick to being a good design student lies in how you are able to express and manipulate an idea on a physical piece of paper.

Architecture @ Kent Day

architecture @ kent

On Saturday 24th January KSA held its first Architecture @ Kent event. The action packed day offered students a chance to visit the School of Architecture and the opportunity to gain an insight into what being a student here is like.
As well as meeting fellow prospective students, those who attended were also acquainted with tutors and current students who were well equipped to answer any questions about university life at Kent.

The day was kicked off with a welcome from the Head of School Prof. Don Gray followed by a lecture from Tim Brittain-Catlin concerning the differences between Classical and Gothic Architectural principles. The theme of the lecture was to pose a question to the prospective students;

Are you Classical or are you Gothic?

After a refreshment break, the first workshop of the day was run by our very own Fine Artist Patrick Crouch and encouraged creative, artistic thinking in order to construct a tower out of a selection of relatively flimsy materials. One group amazingly managed to reach a hight of around 5m, although it did not last very long! The students then were asked to name and present their towers to a panel of tutors, who commented on their styles, structure and creative flair.

Then came a banquet of pizza which went down well with both students and staff, followed by a tour of the campus to visit the universities many facilities and work some of the lunch off!

architecture @ kent lunch

 The afternoon session gave the students a taste of the practical design seminars they will encounter when studying architecture. They were each asked to think of a client with a specific profession, and design the ideal house for them made entirely of shipping containers. The design tutors and student ambassadors then taught about the basics of orthographic drawing (Plans, Sections and Elevations) and were on hand to assist with design queries.

architecture @ kent siminar

The aim of the day was to give each prospective student a better understanding of what an architectural degree entails. We hope that those who attended the event enjoyed it as much as we did, and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Introducing Edward Powe – KSA’s new Student Social Media Assistant

student profile piccy 2


Edward Powe – Second Year BA (Hons) Architecture Student

I grew up in Torquay, Devon in South West England in a family working predominantly in the tourism industry. I have always had a fascination with building design and with a brother who also studies Architecture, our dinner table conversations became more and more involved with discussing ideas for solving problems and efficiency improving strategies for tourist attractions.

– Why did you choose The Kent School of Architecture?

The two most important factors which influenced my application to the Kent School of Architecture were its rising reputation in the league tables and its proximity to the historic city of Canterbury. If I am going to be studying for at least three years in any one place, it has to be somewhere I can enjoy living, Canterbury ticked all of the boxes for me.

– What are you currently working on?

The main module I am working on at the moment is a master-planning strategy for Faversham Creek in Kent. Working in groups we were asked to consider ways in which traditional maritime industry can be merged with new businesses in order to boost local tourism. We will then use these ideas to propose a viable strategy to rejuvenate Faversham Creek and Faversham town centre.

As well as this module we also have two others, one which looks at steel structures and forms which can be incorporated into our designs, and a history module teaching us about 19th century English architecture.

Click here to view my online portfolio.

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Which building or architect has had the greatest influence on your work?

Last year a module called Ancient and Medieval Architecture focused on the architectural periods which influenced the design of Canterbury cathedral. Many of the seminars for this module took place within the cathedral itself, which is probably why I have become so attached to it as a place of inspiration. I am fascinated by the different layers of history waiting to be discovered on every visit.

– What advice would you give to someone embarking on an architectural degree? 

 One thing which I have come to realise during my time at the Kent School of Architecture is that although an architectural degree will teach you how to ‘design’, there are many other lessons which are often overlooked. For example, as you progress through the years, you will quickly learn how to juggle workloads as they themselves increase. This is done to prepare you for the manner of work you will encounter after your degree.

When I first chose to study architecture, many of the people I talked to told me that I was in for a lot of hard work, however, what they failed to mention is that as workloads increase, so too does your ability to manage them.