Today’s students at the RCA have been bitten by an apocalyptic, Blakean muse
Massimiliano Fuksas writes, in the Royal College of Art’s Big Squeeze architecture annual, about ‘a crisis of ideas and of our ability to foresee a better, more egalitarian world. Perhaps this signifies the failure of the very idea of a principled society … I guess that a poem would save us, and the world would blossom’.
Or it might collapse as interestingly as Claire Jamieson’s Eternally Yours Human(ity) Shield, a beautifully composed narrative about the containment of nuclear waste under a Rodinesque architectural structure, whose physical degradation over 10,000 years creates a synthetically mythic form. Jamieson’s project lacks only an etching of Bunhill Fields graveyard to invoke William Blake’s visions of innocent, rather than radioactive, radiance.
Jordan Hodgson’s Laundry room with column zoning
Most of the projects of the RCA’s four architecture units are equally meticulous in expressing detail. The art and artifice of unit leader Nigel Coates’ cohorts is physically striking and often embedded in resonant proposals. Jordan Hodgson’s Workhouse of the Infrastructural (Counter) Reformation conveys dense layers of suggestion based on the premise of society’s have-nots being contained in extraordinary architecture to avoid upsetting the sensibilities of the haves. Ian Douglas-Jones’ equally striking re-imagining of the Isle of Dogs is, alas, undermined by a less-than-striking question: how can we ensure our future without subjugating our culture and quality of life? You can’t. Next question, please.
Jordan Hodgson’s Workhouse of the Infrastructural (Counter) Reformation columns
Tom Greenall’s Cultivating the Faith proposes a tissue-engineered halal meat production plant on Beckton Alp, a landscaped former waste heap in east London – a strangely gripping and well-developed notion. And Alex Smith’s Disaster Ready Public Service Housing is Rem-ready manifesto material: buildings whose relatively familiar architectural forms are derived from the collapsed structures or detritus of terrorist attack scenes. Like many of the cultural critiques within the RCA show, Smith’s project cannot quite escape the poetic shadows of Blake’s satanic mills.
Jay Merrick is the Independent’s architecture correspondent
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