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Student shows 2014: Queen’s University Belfast

Top ten architecture schools: Paul Clarke reviews Queen’s University Belfast’s end of year show

The Queen’s show is located in the Old Science Library in Chlorine Gardens. This appropriation of abandoned space is a good starting point for any architecture show and, once inside, the first encounter reaffirms this sense of architecture as agency: a short film tells the story of ‘Street Society’, a one-week research office that brings first-year and fourth-year students together with actual clients and live projects. This provides a wonderful glimpse into the potential of collaborative live projects.

The undergraduate show upstairs sets out the journey towards the completion of Part I. Highlights are the array of hanging sketchbooks in the first-year studio and the second-year sites of Strangford and Portaferry on Strangford Lough - places as much ‘connected’ by water as they are by land.

Standout unit & students

Building on this sense of geography and journey, the highlight of the show is MArch 2, where four unit groups structure the year around the theme of infrastructure. Megan White’s Smokehouse populates the ragged geology of Antrim with both a vivid visceral programme and powerful ‘quarried’ sentinel masses, all conceived through beautiful plaster castings and drawings.

PC Wan’s piers are scattered like abstracted forests across the shifting waters and sands of Bull Island in Dublin, and are hauntingly portrayed in cinematic images that play with time and memory. Swan Park Zoo by Conor Kerr takes an interesting sideways step into a multi-layered zoological landscape populated by both biological and architectural species. A team of three tries to unlock the Gordian knot that is Franklyn Street in Belfast, and transform it into a Chicago-style design district. If only it were so…

It is the Antrim Coast Road unit that offers up the richest rewards. Like the making of the road itself (infrastructure at its best), architecture converses with and navigates the shifting geology, communities and contours of that extraordinary landscape.

With the Old Science Library due for demolition, perhaps this provides Queen’s with the opportunity to take the work on show here further out into the city. With the city council’s Belfast: Future City Vision just launched, this is an important time to take architecture out into the streets.

Paul Clarke, lecturer and MArch course director, Belfast School of Architecture, University of Ulster

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