Top ten architecture schools: Daniel Kerr reviews Northumbria’s end of year show
This show doesn’t disappoint. Contextuality and social agendas are the overriding themes that flow through both the BA and MArch units. The school has actively developed regionally relevant projects.
The postgraduate studios were: Bishop Auckland, County Durham - Townscape, a balance of high culture of Auckland Castle with industrial heritage and decline; Starr Carr, North Yorkshire, a mesolithic archaeological site coupled with the rural economy; Campus Live, an urban-scale development of spaces around the Northumbria University City Campus; and a Free Project - where anything goes, with justification. The school’s ethos is to give grounding to the units or studios by using live projects. This is enhanced by collaboration from real clients and potential involvement from the design team. This collaboration has had an added bonus in that several students have been employed to help deliver the live schemes in practice after graduation - a great transition from education to employment and one for which the school should be praised.
Standout unit & students
Bishop Auckland Studio has seven strong and diverse projects including: Newton Cap Energy Farm by James van Geffen; Emily Scullion’s Cathedral for Work; and Bridge Street/A Pottery and an Artisan Community by Alastair Speak. The studio has delved into the heritage and socio-economics of the place and developed briefs to produce believable projects that help solve current issues. The school has been strong in 3D visualisations with impressive CGIs over the past few years but it’s great to see a renaissance in large-scale physical models of interior spaces.
Chris Brown stands out for his MArch project ‘Anon-ument’, a truly impressive presentation. Based in the Starr Carr Studio, his Dairy Buffalo Farm and Wetland Monitoring Facility enables the use of a difficult site and his understanding of the processes involved in this niche typology is very well researched. The combination of highly detailed, well-considered CAD drawings punctuated by hand-rendered elements is superb. The undergraduates have several standout students: Alex Kitching for the atmospheric images of his scheme; Alfie Stephenson-Boyles for his gutsy design and hand-drawn scheme at Druridge Bay; and Matthew Glover for his well considered, site-responsive visitor centre.
The school’s continual push for studio culture has obviously paid dividends, as the quality across the board seems to improve year-on-year.
Daniel Kerr, co-founder, MawsonKerr Architects