Visitors to Kent University’s student exhibition are greeted by dozens of battered suitcases aligned alongside the entrance to the show. Upon closer inspection, each has a label with a student’s name. By opening a few straps, buckles and latches, one discovers that each case is filled with drawings and memorabilia from a field trip to Barcelona. Deeper inside the exhibition, more is revealed in the Stage 1 display area with a selection of striking open suitcases entitled Sensibilia, including a relining of a suitcase in vibrant crazy ceramic. The rest of the Stage 1 display continues to lift the senses with glittering collages filling the walls from top to bottom.
Established only in 2005, this years BA (Hons) graduates (Stage 3) are the first to come right through from Stage 1. The projects are noticeable for their instant clarity and range of study from evocative models and sketches to well-worked details. The school prides itself on its rounded approach and diversity of individual methods and this is demonstrated throughout the graduate show.
There are a number of excellent students. In particular, Wendy Smith’s Library in Margate ‘to further the idea of reading aloud’ displays delightful models and drawings in mixed media. After a second look, it is evident that the site context model is constructed from discarded books, sprinkled with a white dusting of mustiness. Adam Summerfield’s beautifully considered model entitled Social Docking, a proposal for modular housing in a disused dry dock in Chatham, is a wry interpretation of transient relationships. Although forms and buildings easily jump out of the displays, the exhibition would benefit from increased communication of the narratives.
The M.Arch (Part 2) school is modestly sized at present. Will Stewart’s Morphosis-influenced sectional model for a Centre of Aqua Culture stands out for its craftsmanship and precision. Stewart’s Independent Study Project, The Aral Array, continues this pre-occupation with water, ‘in a world where it no longer rains’. Influenced by JG Ballard’s ‘The Drought’, Stewart studies the retreat of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan.
Kent School of Architecture is an evolving project, rich with potential. The school will undoubtedly continue to increase in strength, as each year of students move through the course.
Alan Holloway is a Partner at Penoyre & Prasad
Resume: The little engine that Kent is getting bigger and better every year.