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Ranked no #6 for employability 

Degree show review: Welsh School of Architecture

06 cardiff2
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A vibrancy and a concern with the human context of architecture shine through this year’s student work, from scale details to 1:1 installations, say Victoria Coombs and Chris Loyn

In a practice where more than half of the employees are former graduates of the Welsh School of Architecture, we cannot help but take a keen interest in the school’s summer show. This year you were welcomed into the school’s basement where the space was packed full of work from the MArch EMUVE Palermo: Refugees and Verticality, Sustainability & Parametrics units. 

In typical WSA style the walls were plastered with drawings, models and materiality studies but also, interestingly, there were some elements that felt very un-WSA.The parametrics unit in particular had set students the challenge of integrating a skyscraper into the centre of the existing city context. This theme of height, towers and chimneys crops up across the years: in almost every room of the exhibition a beautifully represented chimney, furnace or tower sits at the centre of one of the proposals. 

Shijia xue year 5 verticality, sustainability   parametrics

Shijia xue year 5 verticality, sustainability parametrics

Shijia Xue, MArch,Verticality, Sustainability & Parametrics

As a practice we expect MArch students to use their final year as an opportunity to experiment and truly immerse themselves in a particular subject of architecture. You do not expect every student to realise fully all the ambitions they set out with at the start of their manifesto, but you hope they will show that they are richer for the experience. 

This depth of thought is clearly visible in the MArch manifestos. On entering the Shadow-Making & Cultures unit you are greeted by a charming series of maquettes and plaster casts set within a shrouded box. There is a subtlety to the work in this unit that seems to suggest a ‘quiet architecture’. One of the projects begins its presentation with an evocative oil painting on canvas. Alongside this sits a series of black and white prints that look like a series of lithographs. The scheme proposal then comes to life in full colour, light and shade in section and perspective.

Jamie mcghee year 5 emuve palermo

Jamie mcghee year 5 emuve palermo

Jamie McGhee, MArch, EMUVE Palermo

In the BSc exhibition you are presented with the lively display of Unit 1: This is Grangetown. This unit was particularly notable for the clarity of progression of the proposals from analysis stage through to realisation. Unit 3: Compact Urbanism offers an interesting array of proposals for the future growth of Falmouth as a sustainable city. One project charted the student’s manifesto from three beautifully produced hand drawings depicting scenes of the existing city through extremely lifelike characterisations and culminating in a 1:20 section of the proposed glass furnace with a series of accompanying scale models, inhabited by miniature brass figurines. Along with examples from Year 2 housing projects and the other Year 3 units, these projects showed a real appreciation of scale and proportion and a clear understanding of place and how to add to an existing context. In the ‘[dis]integrated’ unit, the vibrancy of the unit’s site, St Paul’s in Bristol, was played out across the walls in gorgeously rendered sections, collages and more miniature scale models full of delight, texture and enough ambiguity to make sure that you really studied and enjoyed them.

Where MArch projects felt distinctly mature, controlled and rigorous, there was more of an unadulterated joy to the Year 3 work. That said, the Craft and Making units still enjoyed this purer form of expression. In the Making unit in particular you are bombarded by a host of 1:1 installations that gradually go down through the scales in the work on the wall to describe the schemes at almost every level of detail. The Craft unit too produced some beautiful scale detail studies of material and construction that once again demonstrate a real understanding of architecture at a very human scale. A strong theme running through much of the student work is that of people – never more so than in the Infrastructure & Urbanism unit.

Ryan gormley year 5 verticality, sustainability   parametrics

Ryan gormley year 5 verticality, sustainability parametrics

Ryan Gormley, MArch, Verticality, Sustainabililty & Parametrics

Employing a new student is often a leap of faith based on an engaging interview, a possible prior knowledge through crits or tutorials and a particularly beautiful representation in their portfolio that catches your eye. Yet, as a practice, we continue to be impressed by WSA graduates. This is a school whose students we actively seek out to engage in our application process for Part 1 and Part 2 positions. 

The school produces students who are interested in client relationships and the mechanics of architectural practice. They are often team players, excited by research and engaging with a real site and its client brief – and who ultimately seem to have a strong desire to keep learning and a humility that is not always forthcoming in university graduates.

Victoria Coombs and Chris Loyn are architects at Loyn + Co Architects

Nathan jenkins year 5 materials   place

Nathan jenkins year 5 materials place

Nathan Jenkins, MArch, Materials & Place

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