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Student shows 2014: Coventry University

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John Prevec reviews Coventry School of Architecture’s end-of-year show

Five years ago Coventry University School of Architecture opened its doors to its first cohort. Having achieved ARB accreditation last year, it has this year also gained RIBA accreditation for what is becoming a popular undergraduate course. This is an impressive achievement in such a short period of time and their End of Year Show was an amazing illustration of the progress the school has made. As part of the Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Building, the show was mature and confident with a diverse architectural portfolio both in terms of language and philosophical position.

Held at The Herbert Art Gallery, the End of Year Show featured work by all three undergraduate years. Projects were firmly embedded in the Coventry context giving the course a real uniqueness. This link to the city’s rich history inspired the design project briefs offering an opportunity to explore themes which are part of the psyche of the place.  It was the theme of “Conflict and Resolution”, which third year students were responding to, that stood out for me.

The project involved the design of a new Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies on a site adjacent to Coventry Cathedral and the Cathedral Ruins. A historically sensitive site within the context of a square, students were asked to explore both the physical and metaphysical experience that their designs would offer. No one project was the same, which said something for the teaching methods which seemed to have allowed students to explore their own themes and philosophies.  

There were a number of students who impressed me including Yoana Krasteva who designed two contrasting cuboid buildings  which represented the extremes between peace and conflict. A link bridge between the two suggested that there is always the opportunity for reconciliation.

Matthew Gatehouse designed a debating chamber where conflict could be resolved. Expressing the nature of the historic context, the building is half buried leaving only a winged roof perching bird-like over the surface of the square. The relationship of flight and freedom and the notion of democracy as a representation of peace is expressed intelligently in Matthew’s design.

There is of course still a fair way to go before this young school of architecture is able to compete at the very highest level, but the End of Year Show demonstrated the positive intent from both students and staff that they are aiming in the right direction.

  • John Prevec, partner, Make
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