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Ranked no #4 for employability 

Degree show review: University of the West of England

04 uwe3
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The department’s ambition and standards are growing year on year, while a broad range of  specialisms better reflects the reality of the profession, says Nigel Dyke

The opening night of the UWE Department of Architecture and the Built Environment has become an annual trip for a number of us at Alec French, with the show’s ambition and standard clearly growing year on year.

One of the unique features of UWE is that – alongside the ‘traditional’ RIBA Part 1, 2 and 3 architecture courses – it offers programmes with a built-in specialism, such as planning, environmental engineering as well as interiors and technology. Post graduate specialisms include conservation and social sustainability. Arguably this better reflects the reality that the profession consists of people who have a core knowledge of architecture but actually become specialists in a particular area. The school has also worked hard to forge close relationships with local practices, including Alec French, and we regularly provide placements to students as well as tutoring at the school. 

Dianadungyova a 02

Dianadungyova a 02

Diana Dungyova, BSc, Architecture

The end of year show arrays all these courses around the atrium space within the School of Architecture building. This creates a real buzz and energy to the show, which I suspect is also becoming a characteristic of the school; all the staff deserve credit in creating the environment for this to happen.

The scale of projects on show is impressive, ranging from large-scale masterplanning, urban placemaking (a particular interest of mine) single buildings and intimate interior spaces, as well as a range of sites from Birnbeck Pier, Salisbury, Porto and Copenhagen. Across these geographical locations the school manages to pull the work together through a common approach that encourages deep exploration of that student’s particular interest.

The Part 1 courses this year seemed particularly strong, with a number of students’ work standing out as representative of this approach and also of the range of projects and scales.

Chanxiuming ia 02

Chanxiuming ia 02

Xiu Ming Chan

The final year Architecture and Planning students based their projects in a disused quarry site on the edge of Salisbury, looking at a strategic level at ways in which this site could be connected back into the city and offer development opportunities. This posed some challenging urban questions and Muhammad Ogunniyi developed a very poetic sculpture centre (particularly in section). Other interesting proposals included Stuart Ashford’s ‘Chalk & Cheese’ Educational Farm (which made clever links between farming in the region and local educational needs – a crafted ‘Cow palace’!) and Haolin Wang’s water centre delivered a lovely sense of atmosphere.

All the Architecture and Environmental Engineering students in the graduate programme produced refined schemes from a range of briefs – including electronic music, theatre and children’s therapy – for a site in Bath. In particular, Gabriella Togni developed an interesting proposition for a new public house, and developed this into a really elegant sequence of private and semi-private spaces that were resolved both in terms of architecture and integrated environmental engineering.

The Interior Architecture graduating students worked on two very interesting sites, the vaults beneath Temple Meads and the Jacobs Wells Baths. These were explored through film, spatial intervention and then through design in the repurposing of these spaces. Xiu Ming Chan created a series of beautifully judged responses explored through well-crafted drawings and physical models.

Muhammad ogunniyi ap4 07

Muhammad ogunniyi ap4 07

Muhammad Ogunniyi, BA, Architecture and Planning

The BSc Architecture students based their project work in Copenhagen this year, developing masterplans connecting back from an urban intersection towards the main station. Diana Dungyova ’s integration of masterplan and building, developed into the refinement of the building, really stood out and showcased the value of extended study into a specific site and culture.

I was also interested in ‘live’ projects undertaken by the Part 2 course, particularly as a number addressed local issues. The project for the Ebenezer Gate pocket park has already received a lot of publicity, but I was not aware of the projects for Elm Tree Farm or Totterdown Steps. As well as being great fun and beneficial to the communities in which they are sited, they are yet another example of the school’s approach, producing graduates who are ready to create a real contribution to the profession.

Nigel Dyke is a director at Alec French Architects

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