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University of Newcastle: Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Newcastle’s students make splendid efforts to reach out to the community, writes Tim Carlyle

Stage 3 Final Degree Show, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2-19 June

Not being familiar with the school, I checked its website and the most recent RIBA accreditation report before visiting the separate shows for the BA and the BArch, which, intriguingly, have both been mounted in buildings outside the school – the BA (third years only) in Gateshead Old Town Hall, the BArch (fifth years only) among the butchers and grocers of Grainger Market in Newcastle upon Tyne city centre.

The website claims the school is committed to making and sustaining places which enhance quality of life, socially, environmentally and economically. This continues Newcastle’s traditions, having been among the founders of community architecture, and clearly underpins the choices of venue, as does the content of the BA show – four proposed regeneration projects in Newcastle.

These dealt with ‘mis- dis- and under-used spaces’, the scars and dead-spots of 1960s planning. Proposals were for urban farming, festivals, social condensers, housing and health centres; local authority planners, local practitioners and residents’ groups all pitched in to design charrettes. The show shares the conclusions. The briefs generally implied small-scale interventions, with projects concentrating on place-making contextual demands, thoughtful responses to programmes, well-grounded in detail and often confidently original. However, few projects successfully challenged the urban complexity or scale of the sites.

BArch projects were altogether bolder and more personal, being self-devised, and covered a more ambitious range of scale, type and poetics, while still retaining the attention to place-making and solid social value – re-use of slag heaps, market workshop quarters, third-world construction schools.

Shows outside the school are exceptions and were initiated by students. One of the RIBA’s concerns about the school was that the year size drops from 100 in lower school to 40 in upper school. Hopefully the younger cohort will be inspired by the diploma exhibition’s sense of initiative and confidence in this showcase for focused, well-presented purposeful talent. The shoppers in Grainger Market got a bargain.

Tim Carlyle is an architect and teacher at Kent School of Architecture

Resume: Big market success as social schemes heal the scars of the ’60s

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