London’s educational axes of architectural ingenuity and production are something the capital and, indeed, the UK should be very proud.
The University of Westminster has, with its progenitors, a long tradition of architectural tutors who have debated and reinterpreted modernist tenets. This tradition runs through luminaries of the Polytechnic of Central London, such as Demetri Porphyrios, Eric Parry, David Greene and Kevin Rhowbotham, right back to James Stirling at the Regent Street Polytechnic.
Emily Pavlatou’s Hackney Hedge
This year’s Westminster School of Architecture show, spreading through the school’s double-height studios on the Marylebone Road, features carefully-drawn and modelled degree work, such as the new vehicular architecture by Wenlan Yuan, of Ben Stringer’s unit. The quality of the diploma work is impressive; it might not have the superficial flashiness or honest construction of some schools, but it enters into a plural debate. The FAT tendency is a little less visible this year but the show is not without some great decorative follies and exercises, such as ‘the simplest drawing ever with 100 lines’. On the upper level there are some remarkable algorithmic manipulations, contrasted with clear material fabrication, for the Wroclaw Opera House project. Running through the centre of the exhibition are the animations of William Firebrace’s impressive video unit.
Westminster attracts some of the best architectural students from across the country; only 10 per cent of its own degree students remain at the school, part of the healthy maturing of the UK’s two-stage architectural education, which attracts students from Europe and further afield.
Among the many outstanding students this year were: Nicholas Szczepaniak, from Suzanne Isa’s unit, with remarkable drawings of his Blackwater Estuary book repository, and Emily Pavlatou, with her Hackney hedge project, produced in Murray Fraser’s Stealth Ecology unit, where models combined planar laser cutting with 3D plotting technology.
Ed Frith is BA architecture programme leader at the University of Greenwich
Resume: A technically diverse, wide-ranging show, with some outstanding exhibits