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Niall McLaughlin

Review: At the Bartlett, 22 Gordon Street, London WC1 until 9 June

With a view to initiating a permanent exhibition space, the Bartlett has invited one of its tutors, Niall McLaughlin, to exhibit the work of his practice, writes Demetrios Matheou. The show is an encouraging overture, highlighting McLaughlin's burgeoning talents.

He has focused on the new work currently occupying his four-strong team, which includes houses in London and Oxfordshire, a camera obscura, a technologically innovative houseboat, and a bandstand for the De La Warr Pavilion. These are emphasised by some impressively detailed models, supported by drawings, site photographs and, in the case ofthe bandstand, photographs created during the design process (AJ 18.5.00).

Images of key past projects line the walls, notably the celebrated photographer's hide in Northamptonshire, for whose client McLaughlin is designing the camera obscura - an underground chamber which will double up, cheekily, as a woodshed; and a flower farm which features an automated nursery, served by seed banks moving on a solar-powered electric track, on the path of an old runway.

After eight years in practice, McLaughlin believes he now has a body of work that represents 'a coherent system of ideas . . . a sense of what we are about'.

Indeed, as well as the architect's particular fondness for manipulating light, circulation and vista, which reaches something of a zenith in the Oxfordshire house - currently on site, the design occupies its woodland setting with a harmony reminiscent of Fallingwater - a more profound theme emerges. Projects such as the houseboat (right) and the flower farm highlight a doctrine based on the correlation, rather than opposition, of technology, nature and history - with thrilling results for the design.

Situated in the small lobby of the Bartlett, this exhibition suffers from bad lighting and shabby surroundings. But it also captures the attention of every student entering the building. Since McLaughlin's work bears the hallmarks of the experimental ethos of the school - and yet is being built as it is being viewed - it demonstrates the very real potential of that questioning, creative spirit.

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