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University of Kent - Kent School of Architecture

Greater academicism at Kent needs to be enlivened with imagination

Kent School of Architecture moved from its original home at the former Kent Institute of Art and Design four years ago, changing to the University of Kent in the procedure. And in this show, the switch from creative to academic institution is evident.

Everything has been digitised; hand-drawings are a thing of the past, presumably left behind with the ‘artists’ at the old institute. Scalpels are dead – long live the laser cutter. In more buoyant times, employers yearned for this type of student, and this is a testament to the school. But something is missing. Bound by the constraint of producing full working drawings, imagination has been sacrificed. A sketch on a napkin – or even some badly made concept models – would help to animate the narratives.

Michael Dillon's modular tower block

Michael Dillon’s modular tower block

The students who excel demonstrate that architecture is about more than coherent drawings. Michael Dillon, a graduating degree student, is the star of the show, winning the school’s portfolio prize and constructing his ‘pavilion’ – a vertiginous scaffolding tower – at the exhibition’s entrance. His proposal for a spa in Ramsgate is resolved with the rigour of several of his influences, yet it is his earlier work that is most striking. Drawn on manuscript paper, with pop-up architecture and composers’ silhouettes (an ode to Beethoven and the Bauhaus) he demonstrates a level of playfulness that the school’s majority has lost in transit. Similarly, Joel Jenkins’  Thames River Centre balances between poetics and buildability, with the tidal river dictating uses.

Elsewhere, free from final-year pressures, non-graduating students exhibit the vision that their peers largely lack. Shawn Kam’s proposal for a university music facility, constructed around an analogue speaker, is particularly noteworthy. But, until the school finds its balance between creativity and feasibility, it is hard not to question what
has been left behind at the old school.

Tim Wolfe-Murray is a diploma tutor at Greenwich University and works for Clague Architects in Canterbury

ResumeCoherent buildings abound, but a little more creativity would lift most work

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