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.

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

 

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/

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

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

Art Debate: Public Art

Professor Gordana Fontana-Giusti will take part in Art Debate: Public Art at Turner Contemporary on Thursday 6 March 2014 at 6 pm.

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The debate will involve the artist Alex Chinneck who realised From the Knees of My Nose to the Belly of My Toes, popularly known as the ‘Slidey House’, on Godwin Road in Cliftonville with the support of Margate Arts Culture Heritage (MACH) and Thanet District Council.

A panel of experts includes artists, curators, commissioners and architects.

For more information please click here.