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Student Shows 2015: Royal College of Art

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Yeoryia Manolopoulou reviews the Royal College of Art’s end-of-year show

Architecture students at the RCA position themselves politically, and strategise rather than just designing in the narrow sense of the word. The show demonstrates an exemplary pedagogic practice by letting them shine on their own without the often-overpowering presence of their tutors’ agendas.

Criticality, an understanding of ethics, and the need for the architect to create a deliberate voice in a broader social context characterise much of the work this year. A strong appetite for making and creating links between place, academia and industry is also evident.

Students are battling with genuinely difficult issues, from fracking and the housing crisis in the UK to activism against militarised borders abroad. The work on the whole is not as spatial as one might have expected but it provokes conceptually. Two working modes dominate: the visionary approach and the hands-on approach.

Speculative drawings with strong cultural references represent the visionary approach. Standing out is Jong Min Park’s thought-provoking project about the conflict zone between North and South Korea. In a form of silent protest, new artificial islands made with local ceramics provide a neutral place for the fishermen of both sides as well as artificial reefs for endangered marine life. The islands accept their vulnerability as the islands are gradually ruined by military exercises.

A trend for live projects is influencing several UK schools. But what is remarkable in Clementine Blakemore’s case is that her live project is not run by a whole studio, but by her individually. The timber structure, prefabricated in Grymsdyke Farm, is for a music pavilion for a state primary school in the Buckinghamshire village of Lacey Green. The project stands out for its creative pragmatism and a rare balance between craft, collaboration and community engagement.

Yeoryia Manolopoulou director of architectural research at the Bartlett UCL and founding partner of AY Architects


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