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Degree show review: University of Kent

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The University of Kent’s end-of-year student show is arguably the best since the school of architecture was founded

When Kent School of Architecture head Don Gray opened the end of year show last month, he said he thought it was the best year of student work since the school was founded in 2005. This is quite a claim but, having been to every one of these shows myself, one with which I can agree. If I were to sum up the show in a few words then they would be ‘fresh and ambitious, with an underlying social concern’. 

I was really interested to see fourth-year students exhibited alongside final-year work; freed from the shackles of final award grades, they show genuine freedom of experimental architecture, and I encourage them to take this spirit into next year. If they can do this with ambition then next year’s show could be even better.  

Part 1 

The ethos of the BA Architecture course lies in its engagement with the region. Final-year students undertook three linked projects in Chatham Historic Dockyard, preparing a masterplan, then upgrading and extending an existing building to create a multi-generational care facility, and finally designing a major new building – for a multi-use centre titled One World Workshop – linking local residents, nascent businesses and university researchers. 

Shefield Ng’s work carries an easy confidence and assurance that belies her years. She takes motifs from the rugged industrial architecture of the dockyard and reinterprets them for today. Deconstructed and then abstracted, these elements are reassembled in a style reminiscent of the late great Günter Behnisch. Landscaping seamlessly grounds the structures into the site and surrounding context.

Shefield Ng

Shefield Ng

Shefield Ng

Although dominating the riverside on a grand scale, Andrei Ion’s design is a sensitive and well thought out proposal, based around appealing journeys through the building. The relationship between solids and voids has been carefully and thoughtfully resolved. The sectional perspectives are stunning and the use of colour vibrant. These root the building strongly in the site, successfully conveying a feeling of being within or at the edge of the building.

Andrei Ion

Andrei Ion

Andrei Ion

In a series of striking visualisations and excellent models, Jake Maddocks draws us into his vision for a series of three distinct areas linked together by a number of carefully considered pedestrian routes. The composition contributes to its playful visual impact – reminiscent of a funfair –  and places itself boldly into the landscape and the water, where pontoons and platforms rise and fall. The design narrative moves convincingly from the grand arts festival centre on the new urban pier to the smaller scale individual workshops. 

Jake Maddocks

Jake Maddocks

Jake Maddocks

Duncan Keeling explores the tectonics of construction and environmental control in an intelligent way without being overcomplicated. The environmental design is both well resolved and detailed, but more importantly is a key part of the strategy as a whole – a very rare characteristic. The model is extremely well-judged, showing the scale of the building and its relationship to the site – and the level of execution is high. 

Duncan Keeling

Duncan Keeling

Duncan Keeling

The very best schemes will be exhibited in the Historic Dockyard this summer, and it is clear the students will set the bar for what can be achieved on the site.

Part 2

The masters programme operates through five units, each offering a different theoretical and pedagogical position.

Unit 1 (Michael Richards and Yorgos Loizos with Matt Orme) fuses the science of changes in the state of water with notions of cultural boundaries under the title Entropy: Changing State to imagine near futures for settlements along Kent’s Royal Military Canal. 

Unit 1 Allan Ossa: Silk Weavers

Unit 1 Allan Ossa: Silk Weavers

Unit 1 Allan Ossa: Silk Weavers

Unit 2 (Diana Cochrane and Sam Causer) has spent its year under the banner of Margate: Unknown Pleasures. Primarily interested in the five mile-long, cliff-top Margate Coastal Park, its students examine the rich history and remnants of its many giant seaside structures.

Unit 2 Ciara Boyle: Wintergarden

Unit 2 Ciara Boyle: Wintergarden

Unit 2 Ciara Boyle: Wintergarden

Unit 3 (Michael Holms Coats and Lee Jesson with Matt Rust) has adopted the theme Hafen: Thinking with your Hands to allow the act of making to establish attitudes to life in Kent’s Cinque Ports.

Unit 3 Orhan Unlu: Exhibition Centre

Unit 3 Orhan Unlu: Exhibition Centre

Unit 3 Orhan Unlu: Exhibition Centre

Unit 4 (Matthew Woodthorpe and Alessia Mosci) considers Camden under the title Repurposing the City: Cultural Representation and the Death of Postmodernism; winding back time to 1947 to discover a post-war London landscape prior to Postmodernism. Here, Charlotte Middleton’s Ministry of Truth is stunning in its attention to history, literature, detail and social change.

Unit 4 Charlotte Middleton: Ministry of Truth

Unit 4 Charlotte Middleton: Ministry of Truth

Unit 4 Charlotte Middleton: Ministry of Truth

Unit 5 (Tim Ireland and Emmanouil Zaroukas) entitled Design for Galactic Life on Earth: Emphatic Space – looks at the relationship between an organism and its environment as the moulding forces of life in and around York and the Yorkshire coast. Unit 5 is a new unit focusing on computational architecture, and is led by Ireland, the school’s director of digital architecture.  The unit exhibited in Yorkshire at the York Festival of Ideas.

Unit 5 Steph Elward: Library

Unit 5 Steph Elward: Library

Unit 5 Steph Elward: Library

I should also mention some of the most provocative Stage 4 students: Allan Santiago Ossas’ Rye Silk Weavers (Unit 1); and Sam Hope’s Sandwich Flemish Community Centre (Unit 3), whose exquisite drawing catches the eye.

Guy Hollaway is principal partner at Kent and London-based Guy Hollaway Architects

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