There is talent on display at UEL’s student show, but you have to look for it
It must be every architecture school’s dream to have a purpose-built, spacious, modern facility to nurture eager, creative minds. ‘Imagine what we could do if only we had the space,’ I hear heads of department cry. Well, the University of East London’s (UEL) Architecture and Visual Arts Centre, which opened in 2004 as part of its new Docklands campus, should be the envy of its peers.
The centre, designed by former UEL architecture tutor Steve Rich, has all the amenities in place to produce a great degree show. Sadly, it doesn’t quite deliver.
The majority of the diploma work has a timid quality, but a couple of the more innovative units impressed. Unit 3: ‘The Spirit Level’ prioritises a collaborative site model and ‘floor’ installation, encouraging the visitor to interact. Each student has developed a unique programme and projects range from residential blocks to a film school. Adil Khan’s beautiful drawings for a boxing academy demonstrate sensitivity to the site through its relationship with Southwark’s viaduct, as well as technical competence.
Unit 9: ‘Hotel Istanbul’, is the only site outside London and has produced the most experimental and, arguably, successful work of the show. Thomas Philips’ project, The Hotel Theatre, blurs the boundaries between hotel guest and performer, presenting an exciting concept with equally impressive drawings. There is also a collaborative model, Hotel Stack, with each floor designed by a different group. There’s a creative energy about this piece, despite its rather rough-at-the-edges appearance.
In other units, Aidan Gutteridge’s project, Estate of Mind, proposes a waste collection facility, incinerator, community centre and swimming pool to regenerate the run-down Mansford Estate in Bethnal Green, east London. Daniel Woolfson’s Public Urban Space project provides the best visualisations of the exhibition, and these are both playful and informative.
There is talent on display at the show, but you have to look hard to find it. It just goes to show that, as wonderful as the space to hand is, it’s what you do with it that matters.
Sophie George is a graduate of Edinburgh University
Resume: Much work done at UEL has yet to grow into the space that houses it