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Degree show review 2019: University of Bath

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Uplifting design, energy, poeticism, romanticism, passion and pragmatism, coupled with copious personality, are in abundance

Over six years, my practice, dn-a architects, has had four Bath alumni cross its path, who have proved to be highly self-motivated and talented individuals, which invariably reflects their schooling.

Having just attended the BCO Annual Conference on Work-life Balance in Copenhagen, voted the ‘happiest’ city in the world, it was an opportune time to be presenting dn-a architecture’s ‘Well-being and Environmental Design’ prize for the fourth-year Individual projects. 

Emily Tunnacliffe: render

Emily Tunnacliffe: render

Source: Emily Tunnacliffe

Emily Tunnacliffe

Emily Tunnacliffe’s project, The Waterhouse, covers subjects such as productivity, climate change and quality of life in some depth but also how architects can assist in facilitating projects by involving partnerships and B-Corporations, thinking beyond the natural perceived remit of architects. The quintessential art of the architect is to be an orator, artist, scientist, diplomat and even psychologist, to ensure our concepts are realised.

Lucie castillo ros render courtyard

Lucie castillo ros render courtyard

Bath’s history with water and Roman baths for healing and wellness, plus social economic and cultural significance, is demonstrated in further individual projects. Dominic Wong’s Circular Economy Incubator Hub effectively acts as a carbon store in itself; Lucie Castillo-Ros’s solution addresses the increasing interconnectedness of individuals; and Ajay Mohan’s thought-provoking Resomation Facility promotes the biophilic design of death and positively impacts the wellbeing of those using the space.

One of Bath’s strengths is the collaboration between architecture and engineering

One of Bath’s strengths is the collaboration between architecture and engineering as a creative dynamic. The Basil Spence ‘Stitch’ cross-disciplinary scheme depicts a filigree yet simple roof structure that is elegantly understated. The overall concept links together the park’s three green areas, along with the creation of a more accessible and inclusive wellbeing hub. The ‘Forum of Bath’ scheme incorporates a Channel 4 creative nucleus with co-working spaces and a 3,000m² hub for public events that feels an intrinsic part of the city.

The sixth year’s masterplanning projects exhibit a forensic analysis of issues in various cities in the world to find solutions relating to economic diversity, connectivity, resilience, air quality, focus on community, and use of rivers as catalysts for change and renewable energy.

Cecilia ferrari bathuni ceciliaferrari08

Cecilia ferrari bathuni ceciliaferrari08

The regeneration of Fés scheme seeks to resolve the disconnect of its surroundings and lack of public realm. An intelligent approach to sustainable water collection addresses the lack of respect given to its perennial rivers.  The Venice scheme responds to the environmental threats and surge of mass tourism facing the city by introducing an ecological line of defence, thereby relieving the stress from the mainland.

In the sixth year individual projects, Alex Silk’s Sustainable Leather Factory proposes a cork-based alternative to conventional leather, while educating the viewing public with its atmospheric design. Katie Hutchinson’s Institute of Psychotherapy addresses Tbilisi’s neglect of the topic of mental health with a delicate design, centralizing around a set of thermal bathing spaces for its inhabitants.

Alex silk render lower market

Alex silk render lower market

From their first year, students work alongside their engineering peers, immediately widening their horizons. Time is not wasted in homing in on the imperative, with their brief requiring them to consider the client, culture, people and context. The second year nurtures the budding architect’s primitive curiosity, encouraging them to consider organic elements such as light through structure. The third year inspires them to create community-driven and ecologically conscious environments, founded on historical referencing. 

A prize awarded on the night was one for ‘Curiosity’, for the most interesting question – a refreshingly inspiring new prize that epitomises the very essence of what makes us who we are.

Mies van der Rohe’s dictum ‘god is in the details’ could be construed as an holistic analogy for the Bath students’ approach to their work from the micro and macro angle simultaneously.  Ars longa vita brevis should perhaps become their maxim, as it is mine.

To conclude, architectural education generally could be further enhanced by an even greater understanding of sustainability, M&E, structures and buildability, as essential strings to the architect’s bow, to inform, reinforce but never stifle design and creativity. 

Notwithstanding this, it was refreshing to learn that uplifting design, energy, poeticism, romanticism, passion and pragmatism, coupled with copious personality, are in abundance, not only in Bath but all of the four year-end shows I attended. This bodes well for the future of our profession.

Jai Sanghera is a director of dn-a architects

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