Top ten architecture schools: Meredith Bowles reviews the University of Cambridge’s end of year show
Cambridge continues its annual appropriation of ‘found’ London spaces for its end-of-year show, this year in a Victorian warehouse behind Foster + Partners’ office. Fosters’ head of design Spencer de Grey is a very active visiting professor, and in 2013 was joined by Dutch urbanist Hans van der Heijden, visiting professor of sustainable urban design. The design fellows who deliver the studio teaching are practising architects. I mention this to give some context to the students’ work, which has an air of restraint and reality about it that suggests they are schooled in what it takes to make a building, and to make it well. The polished confidence of much of the second year students’ work would happily sit within the third year of most schools, with drawings, models and renders all handled with great skill.
The school has for a long time produced work with a contextual and phenomenological bias, and the many images that emphasise the experience of a building over a more abstract interest suggest that this continues. So too does an interest in tectonics, with drawings that push the requirement to understand basic construction into a formal study of facade or structure.
Standout unit & students
Studio 2, run by Nikolai Delvendahl and Eric Martin, had the greatest ambition. A collective masterplan of an urban block in east London allowed individual students to design buildings in the context of another student’s work. A working method that uses models at varying scales to explore different aspects of the programme, as well as the spatial and formal aspects of design, gives the work a vitality that sets it apart; Joaquín García Calderón Mendoza del Solar’s models are beautifully made and demonstrate a bold inventiveness.
It would have been good to see more work from the relatively new Masters in Architecture and Urban Design course, run by Ingrid Schröder. The convincing combination of research and design that the course requires has resulted in a rich collection of projects, shown all too briefly. Perhaps real research is ill-suited to the format of an end-of-year show, but given that the course perhaps points the way to the future of Part 2, it’s a shame not to see it take a more central role. As a whole the work of the school is beautifully controlled and consistently thorough, presented with an understated confidence.
Meredith Bowles, founder, Mole Architects