Footprint’s pick from five student shows
During the past few weeks I have visited the end of year shows at Birmingham City University, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield University, Nottingham University and De Montfort.
The overall integration of sustainability within the architectural teaching at the schools is hard to judge. End of year shows tend to focus on visual representation showcasing renders, artwork and models, making it difficult to pinpoint emphasis on sustainability. However, if a course has a strong environmental focus, then it often comes through regardless of how the show has been curated.
At Nottingham, one unit focused on projects which are entered into the Isover Multi Comfort House Design Contest, previously on Footprint here. This included proposals for the sustainable regeneration of the River Trent Basin in Nottingham. One of the standout projects at Nottingham was Nicholas Emblem’s work looking at the slow whisky movement. Part of the Making Architecture Research Studio, his project focused on the adaptive reuse of whisky barrels.
The course at Sheffield Hallam is specifically an environmental design course, and this is clear from the work they produce. It has a strong focus on the community in which it is based. However, sometimes the design focus appears to have been lost, and it is a shame that design and sustainability do not always go hand in hand.
Sheffield University continues its ongoing involvement in live projects. This year these included building with pallets on the LEAF allotments in Sheffield, a scout hut in the Wadsley area of Sheffield, food growing projects in Todmorden, and an eco tourist resort in Zanzibar.
The AJ Small Projects shortlisted design at Ecclesall Woods was also on display. Work from the school’s MSc in Sustainable Architecture Studies could also be seen. Projects here included designs for an eco hotel and an environmental education centre. These were well thought out and well-considered projects.
The focus of Birmingham City University’s students work was on high quality renders, making it difficult to see the full extent to which sustainability is integrated into the teaching there. Russell Morris’ MArch project which focused on reindustrialising Birmingham’s quarters is one that stood out. It was based on the reuse of existing buildings in a post-2035 world.
At De Montfort, there were a number of projects for which environmental issues were the focus. Luke Snow’s project for a renewable energy centre in the Medway estuary was well executed and is proof that good design and sustainability can be shown together.
Snow’s project presents an alternative vision for renewable energy generation, stemming from research into pyrolysis (heating waste in the absence of oxygen to form biochar). This activity occurs under an undulating organic canopy, a tensile skin of algae-injected ETFE panels and ‘hair oscillators’, taking inspiration from the neighbouring marshland.