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Student Shows 2014: London Metropolitan University

David Knight reviews the London Met’s end-of-year show

Exhibiting for the first time at its new home in Aldgate, the Cass has spread its show across several floors of the newly refurbished building.

This has had a levelling impact on the work on show, if a slightly disorientating one. Encouraged to show off the new studio spaces rather than transform them, the units that come across the best are the ones that offer a strong sense of collective identity or research, while giving room for individual projects to communicate.

Unit 9 (Part 2), for instance, devotes a wall to research into the current state of Hoxton council housing, and this is enormously useful in judging the resulting proposals – the best of which is Rory Richardson’s retrofitting of a post-war tower block to create a series of streets.

Similarly, Unit 11 has worked within a tight format to make a series of polemical legislative statements about adding architectural value to HS2.

Harlow New Town makes a guest appearance in several good projects. Studio 5 was set the gently polemical task of building a new civic centre for the town on the site of Frederick Gibberd’s original which was demolished in the early 2000s, while students in Unit 13 have designed new settlements and housing projects on Harlow’s periphery, many of which suggest political shifts.

These and other engagements with Modernist planning are very timely, and give the school’s growing interest in planning and urban design a useful bit of tension and context.

Similarly, it was good to see the Cass Cities unit urbanising industrial estates, Studio 8 getting stuck into supermarkets, and Unit 14 taking on the M4 corridor.

The best of this work combines realism in terms of economy and culture, with a touch of spatial and political speculation and critique. Given that much of the work on show could be built tomorrow in both technical and political terms, building on these critical and speculative strategies seems like the way ahead.

Standout unit & students

Students of Unit 13, led by Tom Coward and Geoff Shearcroft, have said something new and interesting about the Lea Valley, proposing wistful, playful and very engaging new settlements from the Lower Lea to Harlow. Projects are communicated using different kinds of popular media and very beautiful comparative studies, in one case (Daniel Miodrag) pairing 21st-century housing in Harlow with a sun-kissed Marbella villa. In the degree school, the standout student is Anna Pizova (Studio 2) for her stark and stylish airport in Corinth, beautifully drawn. In the postgraduate school, Jack Richards (Unit 13) for a very distinctive new chunk of Harlow devoted to housing the elderly.

  • David Knight, director, DK-CM

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