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Student Shows 2014: The University of West England

Isabelle Priest reviews UWE’s end-of-year show

This year, for the first time, the University of West England (UWE) School of Architecture took an edited selection of student work to London for a two-day exhibition at the Candid Arts Trust in Angel. Launched with a speech by Bristol’s famous architect mayor George Ferguson, the event was part of a push to get its graduates noticed by the country’s top practices.

UWE architecture school is not a traditional school of architecture. While it has a BSc Architecture course, it also has two additional undergraduate programmes; the BSc Architecture and Planning and the BSc Architecture and Environmental Engineering.

The latter are dual accredited courses and take four years, as opposed to three. And it is these courses that shone well beyond the work of even the postgraduate work at this year’s show. In general, the undergraduate work was thoroughly considered, rooted in a sense of place and resolved to sufficient detail.

The site for this year’s work was a riverside spot in Bath, and responses ranged from William Harvey’s ‘know-what-you-eat’, medieval-inspired restaurant and cookery school fed by its own market garden to a Palliative Sanatorium by Matthew Ryall, which bravely dealt with the healing potential of space and the processional stages of death and dying. These projects, along with Anouska O’Keeffe’s Deconstructed Pub and Brewery, have a refreshing realism to their briefs and designs, no doubt in part a result of the rigorous mock planning application the Architecture and Planning students complete.

This thoroughness was, however, lost on the school’s MArch graduates. And it is here that UWE School of Architecture seems to have lost the interdisciplinary conviction it upholds so well at undergraduate level, as well as its ambition to be connected to the changing industry.

At MArch architecture is conceived as an ‘out of world’ experience and one-line ideas fuelled a year’s work without simple, rational critique.

Sara Neuberg’s Memory Archive and Exhibition for Everyday Life contained a heartening narrative, but failed to get a grip on the real-life response to what it would mean to be a user of the building. Meanwhile, Simon Clements’ self-build machine District Rising latches onto a common theme in student work without taking it further, or providing the conclusions such a device usually lacks. Overall MArch work displayed a hotchpotch approach to how and what should underpin students’ work, a kind of philosophical free-for-all – something perhaps created by the ‘new utopias’ brief.

  • Isabelle Priest, content producer, The AJ

Readers' comments (1)

  • It is absolutely excellent to see the school final reaching a London audience, something which has been in the planning for years. It's also great to see how that the school has flourished in the last few years. The more 'grounded; architecture was certainly a refreshing change to some of the more conceptual exhibitions in London.

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