Top ten architecture schools: Sarah Featherstone reviews the University of Bath’s end of year show
Bath was the university where I was asked at interview to make the strongest bridge I could from a piece of paper. That was a long time ago, but the perception of Bath as having a strong engineering bias has stayed with me, so I was surprised to walk into their three-day pop-up London show (organised and curated by the students) to see some very seductive work which was not just about technical competence.
The gallery at Candid Arts Trust, Islington, complemented the more poetic qualities of the students’ work, its rawness mimicking the materiality explored in the myriad of models on display. The exhibition showed the final-year projects of the BSc and MArch students, and my first impression was one of highly productive work visually rooted in context and form. I was also struck by a strong sense of comradeship among the students that I think has grown out of the courses’ emphasis on collaborative, interdisciplinary working and a group-teaching ethos, a distinctly non-unit system.
Standout unit & students
The strongest work I saw was in the BSc group, who showed both their joint work with civil engineering students and individual projects. The latter was based on a single theme and site - ‘Primitive’ in Stroud - and while working individually, common threads can be found in their form-making, with a prevalence of conical chimneys and funnels seemingly derived from a strong tectonic interest. Two standout students are Amani Radeef and Charlotte Eley. The sheer amount of work produced by Amani was extraordinary; her seminary building, marked by its faceted tower, embodies the school’s interest in placemaking. Charlotte brings a poetic poignancy to her euthanasia retreat with her proposal to pass on life-saving organs.
The MArch work was more difficult to collectively define. Their common theme, sustainable cities, seemed to generate ambitious, socially driven programmes, but it was the materiality and detailed crafting in some of the work that I really enjoyed. Elizabeth O’Neill in particular seems to capture this in her fine drawings and model of the Budapest Culinary Institute.
One small thing that did make me smile was the students’ inventive use of paper crosses as structural supports for the exhibition plinths, reminding me of my paper bridge experience all those years ago.
Sarah Featherstone, director, Featherstone Young