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Student Shows 2015: Liverpool John Moores University

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Maggie Mullan takes a look at Liverpool John Moores University’s end-of-year show

A refreshing change to observe a well presented show in an appropriate environment. The BA Hons show demonstrated a broad range of thoughtful projects, avoiding a ‘house style’. There is clearly a confidence in this school of architecture which supports a freedom of exploration and celebrates the advantages of its art & design departmental grounding.

The overwhelming impression is of resolved exploration – even the weaker students appear to demonstrate the necessity of an appropriate resolution of their ideas for presentation. Graphic approaches are coherent and appropriate for the architectural style of the projects, with a heartening lack of reliance on the ubiquitous CGI. Students are encouraged to use model making in development and these range from the conceptual to the pragmatic – many are objects of beauty in themselves.

Of note are the proposals of Joseph Crossland, whose ‘Approaching the Island’ project is a beautifully resolved exercise in materiality and sculpture in the Clyde Valley. Jack Hutton’s ‘Surrounded by wheat’ is a haunting, poetic exploration of issues surrounding the global food crisis. Each demonstrates a rigour in research underpinning a resolution on paper that would put many Part 2 thesis projects to shame.

The M.Arch show is by far the best degree show I have visited for some years. Comprising only 45 students, the overall impression is of a year that have striven to do their very best as a collective and as individuals. Other schools should take note of the importance of teaching urban design by urban designers instead of its poor cousin ‘big architecture’. There is an avoidance of wilful and arbitrary ‘shapemaking’, with a high level of finish to presentations, reports and models.

The thesis projects focus on one of two sites – Marseille and Liverpool. A self selected group develops the masterplan and then the students develop individual briefs and their thesis projects from that basis of fact finding and site analysis. It is evident that even the weaker students have ‘upped their game’ in this collective work ethic.

This is a seriously impressive show. Emily Walkden, whose thesis is going forward for the Presidents Medal, is in a league of its own. A muscular scheme with echoes of Franco Purini, this thesis has depth, presence and is mercifully CGI free. Rigorous and sophisticated it was described by an external examiner as ‘Classicism washed over with Brutalism’.

Maggie Mullan, founder of Maggie Mullan Architects


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