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Leeds Metropolitan School of Architecture

A new approach for Leeds Met - with the help of fashion houses, bicycles and green things in bottles

Readers of The Guardian may have noticed Leeds’ School of Architecture, Landscape and Design wallowing around at the bottom of the paper’s University league table (34th out of 38).

Unlike its supposedly glamorous Yorkshire neighbour Sheffield (which was ranked 10th as well as 2nd in our own AJ100 table), Leeds has become known for turning out practical, industry-ready, well-drilled draughtsman rather than free thinkers and parametric wizards. For years the school has effectively provided for a ‘market’ – namely the ever-hungry commercial practices on its doorstep. 

But the world’s economy has changed and, in fairness to Leeds Metropolitan University, so has its approach to teaching architecture. This shift, instigated in 2008 by joint degree course leaders Gary Hornsby and Bridget Hansford of Salt Architects, is now bearing fruit and is tangible in the school’s end of year show.

Archeology Institute and visitor centre in Lemnos by Ioannis Pinakos


The projects closest to the door, drawn up by the postgraduate diploma students, are surprisingly impressive. These include intricate designs for a labyrinthine archaeology institute and visitor centre in Lemnos Greece by Ioannis Pinakos. The presentation includes a beautiful model, typographical wood cut and claustrophobic, moody artwork.

Tom Potter has created a sweet colonnaded Chipperfield-esque model for a micro-brewery in Leeds while Peter Lay’s proposed fashion house in Fountains Abbey is mature, clearly thought-through and is supplemented with a lovely, tactile book – itself a graphic design gem.

Fashion house in Fountains Abbey by Peter Lay

But it is in the separate degree section where you can see how the new vertical studio system, which is blurring the boundaries between the 2nd and 3rd years as they split into four rotating work groups, is now shaping the school’s output.

Admittedly some of the 3rd year work remains flat, safe and practical. Yet the 2nd year projects have a fresh, experimental feel which promises a new entrepreneurial and genuinely environmentally aware direction.

Gymnasium for Meanwood by Daniel Mason


Daniel Mason’s proposal for a gymnasium for Meanwood in Leeds, includes a working model of a cycle-cum-generator used by punters to power the building. At the show, students pedalled to keep the lights on at the school-designed bar.

Elsewhere Steven McCloy created a self-sustaining eco-system by proving life in a sealed demi-john was possible (jug sealed on 18 October and still going strong on 11 June). Others have dreamed up walling systems made from discarded plastic bottles.

For the first time in years, there is even a passable undergraduate yearbook. Everything here points to a considerably less dull future for Leeds. 

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