This year was the most extraordinary time to step into the School of Architecture and Cities. But in spite of the extra challenges we have faced – and still face – I believe we have made good progress. As an introductory design exercise our First Year students were invited to reinterpret ‘A Room with a View’ - a task that subtly encouraged to continue to look beyond the here and now. Whilst from our windows we witnessed a physical world on hold, our virtual screens allowed us to connect and to design remotely.
This curious shift has framed questions that we perhaps only started to explore: In this remote setting, ‘how do we design together?’, ‘who are we designing for?’ and ‘what environments are we creating?’. Our Year One Team collaborated on a collective talks-and events programme to create a sense of studio life. The Fabrication Lab redesigned the annual making workshop into a digital fabrication event.
In Years Two and Three some Design Studios investigated the complexity of the urban, including the ’15-minute City’ (DS2.2), the regeneration of localities (DS2.3), weaving community fabrics (DS3.5) and the ‘pleasure of urban cultural space’ (3.1). Building typologies were also radically reinterpreted in the ‘Rapid Response Museum’ (DS2.5), the ‘New Domestic’ (DS2.7) and the ‘poetics of habitation in a pandemic – Beijing’ (DS3.7). In the ‘International Institute of Cosmism’ (DS2.6) and the ‘Interdisciplinary School of Design’ (DS3.3) set a scene for fictional pioneers.
A key concern this year was our changing climate. Studios explored ideas for ‘Headquarters for the Canal + Rivers Trust’ (DS2.1) and landscapes constructed from ‘Fermented Architectures’ (DS2.4). Others asked ‘how can we create holistic communities and ecologies?’ (DS3.2) and how can educational spaces ‘nurture understanding of the physical world of weather, climate and the future of our planet’ (DS3.6)? These concerns are shared by our student community, with 2020/21 marking the exciting formation of WestCAN - our student-led Network toward Climate Action. These are exciting times, and with the city re-opening, this summer looks optimistic!