University of Bath, Opened 30 May, now closed
Continuity and change are both evident in this year’s End of Year Show at the University of Bath. I was reminded that this was the school that brought engineer Ted Happold (co-founder of Buro Happold) to Bath, who taught there for 18 years. It’s also where architect Peter Smithson insisted that students should embrace a pedagogy that was strongly influenced by the making of buildings – and here, within his idiosyncratically-detailed building, they do.
The final year of the undergraduate continues this tradition of bringing architects and engineers together for a group project that focuses on the environmental and structural forces that shape architecture. The range of models, from concept to structure to working façade details, displays a real enthusiasm for fabrication. This is transferred to the final individual project, where there is an intriguingly baroque Peter Salter-esque quality to some of the work (who ironically helped detail this Smithson’s school) overlaid with a real enjoyment of both light and materiality.
So with this year’s highly successful final undergraduate year – the best in the country according to some reliable external examiners – what do you do with the Diploma? This used to be the preserve of former programme director Patrick Hodgkinson’s refined urban explorations, and has been subjected to too many short term changes in pedagogy over recent years. There are now signs, at last, of a clearly thought through syllabus that builds on the urban tradition whilst also giving students freedom to develop their own social agenda, focus on conceptual thinking, and explore a whole range of digital tectonics software (as exemplified by student Randy Gunawardena’s study for a transport interchange).
The Diploma is still in transition, but one of the most significant changes is the thought that it should become in effect a one year course over two years interspersed, as is the undergraduate degree, with thin ‘sandwich fillings’ of practice experience. This year’s 5th year students (the first year of the Diploma) are expanding their horizons with analytical video explorations of next year’s site for urban intervention. Hopefully this enthusiastic embracing of environmental and technological thought will re-emerge in the final year projects: one senses that the Diploma School is about to take off.
Peter Clegg is a founding partner of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.
Resume: Clegg slips into a hot Bath of interesting projects