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Student shows 2015: The Bartlett

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Dinah Bornat reviews the Bartlett’s end of year show

The Bartlett is famous for its poky studios and rather insular units. This year though, in its new temporary location, we are presented with a more spacious display of work. Still as breathtakingly dramatic as you would expect, but a change might be underway; Bob Sheil the head of school, describes mixing it up at the mid-year open crits. This year the school also claims to be addressing complex social issues. From the powerful utopian manifestos of Unit 10 to UG3’s 1:1 builds in King’s Cross, there is a resonance with current political and cultural discourses at every scale.

Upstairs from the exhibition, the open-plan studios also enjoy more space, with cosy tutorial booths allowing more close conversations. Has this year opened up the Bartlett to a new way of teaching and learning? The students themselves speak of a new transparency in the unit system; Fergus Knox, a fourth year student in Unit 11, and the author of an outstanding project seeking to inhabit the fog over San Francisco, thinks he may well be experiencing the best two years the Bartlett has had to offer. Julia Backhaus, UG 5 and programme leader for the Part 2 course believes some of the less able students who often felt isolated by the teaching spaces at Wates House have been able to flourish in their new environment.

It will be interesting to follow these changes, with one more year before the school moves to its new building on Gordon Street. Are we witnessing a radical shift for the best school of architecture, and is architecture about to make it even better?

Dinah Bornat, co-founder, ZCD Architects

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