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

 

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.

Jurassica 2

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/

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