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Edinburgh's degree show reviewed by Graeme Feedan of 3DReid

Càdiz Field + Work, Master of Architecture Degree Exhibition at the University of Edinburgh, Matthew Architecture Gallery, 20 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JZ, 2 June – Friday 27 June 2008, Mon-Fri 10am-4pm

If it’s a casual ‘drop by and check out some nice designs’ that you are looking for then The University of Edinburgh’s Degree Exhibition is not for you. When you enter the McEwan Gallery on Chambers Street, there will be no attention grabbing visuals designed to woo. The Master of Architecture Degree work demands mental effort, but it also deserves and most definitely rewards it.

The second year programme, simply themed ‘Field+Work’ offers a single premise for architecture and that is ‘place’. The richness and variety of the work on display reflects the physical, political and social complexities of the chosen city, Càdiz, Spain. The recording and interpretation of this territory is thorough and engaging, culminating in a wonderfully abstract city model, which forms the centrepiece of the first floor exhibition. Further vindication of this approach is found in the poetic discourse that individual students have selected to pursue: ‘Hydroscape: the hydropolitical strand’ by Rebecca Fotheringham, ‘Landscapes of production’ by Emma Bush and ‘Host/guest’, an investigation into immigration patterns by Jia Wang. Despite the introspective feel of the exhibition, there are nevertheless some stunning individual pieces, including Jei Lins’ tiny model investigating the hidden spaces of Càdiz’s ludicrously dense old town.

The instances where fieldwork, research and design manifest themselves in a personalised architecture are the most meaningful, which occurs with somewhat surprising frequency in light of the free ranging brief. Among a number of utterly convincing (if not technically advanced) offerings are Adam Collier’s designs for ‘reprogramming the ruptured city’ and Ross Perkins’ cinematic installations into the archaeologically excavated gaps of the old town.

Overall the show reveals a reassuring commitment to twin traditions of context and craft, highlighted by one observation: 23 students, 2 years and not a single CGI.

Graeme Feechan is a Divisional Design Director in 3DReid’s Edinburgh office.

Resume: Auto-Càdiz drawings, but no CGIs at Edinburgh

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