Blueprint’s pick of 2016 Graduates

Our team of architects, designers and critics has scoured the UK to bring you the very best of the graduate work on offer this year and tip you off on the ones to watch for the future...

The Judges

Holly Lewis is a founding member of We Made That and visiting critic to the Bartlett School of Architecture
Justin Nicholls is founding partner of Fathom Architects, London, a practice tutor at The Bartlett and a Design Council CABE Built Environment Expert
David Hills is founding director of DSDHA and a unit leader at The Cass, London Metropolitan University
Rozz Barr is director of Roz Barr Architects and has taught at the Architectural Association and The Bartlett
Russell Curtis is director of RCKa Architects and a London region councillor at the RIBA
Dele Adeyemo is director of Pidgin Perfect, a multidisciplinary creative studio based in Glasgow and tutor in architecture at Edinburgh College of Art
Tom Greenall is associate director of DSDHA and a tutor in architecture and the Royal College of Art
And from Blueprint: Johnny Tucker, Cate St Hill

Eric Wong, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, Architecture
Touching on a very topical subject, Eric Wong’s masters’ project asks: ‘How can Britain be a truly united kingdom?’ Attempting to reunite a ‘broken Britain’, aid accessibility, support diversity and provide for increasing numbers of dislocated global communities, it speculatively sites a new capital city called Cohesion at the heart of the British Isles on the Isle of Man. Incredibly detailed, fantastical drawings depict a thriving city formed of patriotic, crown-shaped topiary and vertical walls of food, red-fronted buildings adorned with repetitive rows of balconies and Union Jacks lining the streets.

Tall ‘Chandelier hubs’ float along high streets and provide community centres, nurseries and public platforms where free speech is encouraged. The more you look the more you discover — people dancing in the street, guards with busby headgear delivering parcels of energy, food, fresh air and clean water, and the odd corgi here and there. It’s a bit of a pie-in-the-sky idea (there are literally pies in the sky in one drawing) but it’s a delightful, witty response to real-life problems we’re facing today. Cate St Hill

Beau Birkett, Birmingham University, Furniture and Lifestyle Design
Håll is a range of elegant and pared-back pieces of furniture that is not only elegant, but also responsible. The felt is thermoformed PET made from recycled plastic bottles and normally found inside cars.

The wood is responsibly sourced ash. The pieces are designed to be flat packed and assembled with an Allen key, whose fixing forms an honest part of the overall design. Johnny Tucker

Emma McCormick-Goodhart, Goldsmiths, Centre for Research Architecture
In a highly experimental and inventive project, McCormick-Goodhart challenges our conception of our sense of hearing. The statement is boldly made that nothing is audible at all — sound as a perceptible phenomenon is the result of transducing mechanical wave vibrations into audible frequencies perceptible by the brain. Her thesis reconceptualises aural culture for us, drawing on media archaeological artefacts and pre-modern prostheses to arrive at the revelating thought of architecture as a form of prosthesis.

The outcomes of her research encompass 3D-printed specimens in silicone rubber that place vibration, sound, audition and matter into relation, in terms of the transformation from ‘hard form into soft information’ as well as documentation from an activation project titled This Antithesis, where two deaf interpreters cyclically sign (one in British Sign Language, the other in American Sign Language) a choreographic ‘silent lecture’. Dele Adeyemo

Harry Lewis-lrlam, University of Portsmouth, Graphic Design
Lewis-lrlam entered the 2016lnternational Society of Typographical Designers Student Awards and hose a brief based on death, which he translated into this book looking at how the Maya civilisation treated death and how it ultimately died out itself.

The finished piece-an oversized, perfect-bound, French-fold book, printed on 100 per cent recycled paper- has a very powerful, cohesive graphic identity, with strong use of type. JT

Laura Rudokaite, Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art Architecture
Genetic engineering has the potential to revolutionise society, particularly in a world where man-made climate change would otherwise make many crops unviable. But in many countries these practices are still seen as a Frankenstein science, so what better way to convince society of the benefits that genetic modification has to offer than through the production of wine? This is the premise of Rudokaite, who on the edge of Lake Zurich creates a 21st-century-esque chateau, constructed from rammed earth walls that recall stratified sedimentary cliffs.

The research institute she imagines becomes a public showcase for genetic engineering in viticulture at the heart of a cleverly devised system for supporting the vineyards of the region. DA

Kevin O’Brien, University College Dublin (UCD),  Architecture
O’Donnell + Tuomey’s unit continues to focus on ‘theatre and the city’, and the vast sketchbooks and paintings of one of their most gifted students enriches the ideas of transforming this urban block in central Dublin. The process of thinking in this project was enlightening and fell beyond the exploration of site, but conveyed an incredible depth of study.

O’Brien’s Spaces between Standing Stones aims to re-establish the connection of large, stone civic buildings dotted along the length of the River Liffey, while simultaneously adjusting the scale of the volumes within the site to create this sense of drama and performance.

This play on scale and juxtaposition of volumes is described by a series of paintings influenced by the works of Kazimir Malevich, Lazar Lissitzky and Theo van Doesburg. They illustrate the spatial qualities of the public spaces that were created by placing these large solid volumes in close proximity to one another, and each painting is an adaptation of the performance and of the subtle changes of the new spaces. Roz Barr

Lee Burwood, Exeter School of Art, Graphic Communications
Burwood’s work along with that of two other students was part of a Kickstarter campaign that raised £1,500 to help them exhibit their work at the New Designers show in Islington.

Burwood’s alphabet is influenced by trademarks and symbols and the work of Neville Brody and Armin Hofmann. JT

Katie Spragg, Royal College of Art, Ceramics & Glass
Combining clay with a range of processes including animation, illustration and installation, Spragg creates work that arouses curiosity. Whether through sharing a story or conjuring a collective memory, her work highlights the forgotten sources of joy and amusement.

She combines ceramic objects, installation and moving image to create momentary experiences that allude to the amazement and wonder of being outside in nature. The work offers the viewer a space to daydream in; evoking distant, possibly half-imagined memories. The animations capture the firing of the ceramic pieces, describing the dynamic, receptive qualities that clay and grass share. Justin Nicholls

Liam Anslow, Birmingham City University, Visual Communications
Liam Anslow is our cover star this month with Dice Inspector — Alive, created for a risograph (a cheap form of printing) zine called Best Before, which focued on the theme dead or alive (the other two focus on dead). Anslow says: ‘The purpose of a dice inspector is to make sure that the dice are proportionally perfect as a cube.

If not they are defective and could be used for cheating as one side would be favoured more than the others. Which is why the composition follows a symmetrical layout for a sense of balance.’

Watching The Queen Drown — Dead, illustrates the story of Queen Sunandha Kumariratana of Siam who drowned in full view of her subjects — because they were forbidden to touch her they couldn’t rescue her.

Kissing The Moon’s Reflection — Dead, tells the story of starry-eyed Chinese poet Li Bai, who tried to kiss the reflection of the moon in the water next to his boat, fell overboard and drowned. JT

Christian Felsner, Royal College of Art Innovation, Design Engineering
AKTOR is a unique design mesh, made from sheet material that is soft when electric current is passed through it, allowing it to be pushed and pulled into an almost infinite variety of shapes and forms.

Take away the electricity and you have a rigid structure. Felsner calls it a deployable structure and its field applications as shelter are apparent, though he also sees it working on a more macro scale as packaging and the like. JT

Rory Martin, Oxford Brookes University, Architecture
Set in Valencia, Rory Martin’s Old Town Court House is a reaction to the vandalism and petty crime that has become prevalent in the touristy hot-spots of the old town.

Martin has maximised a small, tight site by using tall, chimney-like wells to bring light into the spaces. The playful pastel pink of the building references the traditional construction of the city, while adding ‘a sense of authority and dominance to the site’, says Martin. CSH

Sho Ito, Architectural Association, Architecture
An intelligent, thought-provoking response that challenges traditional housing models and the meaning of home, Sho Ito’s project, I live the way I want, proposes a housing framework that accommodates not only the typical nuclear family, but also a diverse range of conditions and needs.

He suggests a mixed-use scheme in the city where financial liability is shared to promote an affordable live/work balance. Profits to developers are capped at 15 per cent, marketing and finishing costs are all eliminated, while rents are reduced. A set number of luxury villas help subsidise the scheme. Ito’s individual vignettes show rooms as they would be actually occupied, from paint-splattered studios to shared bunk beds, all full of life while devoid of people. Says Ito: ‘I live the way I want is not just a critique about the housing crisis, but a live question on how to occupy domestic spaces when patterns of life are changing so rapidly while architecture struggles to adapt to these changes.’ CSH

Unit 17 – group work, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, Architecture
Among the surreal and spectacular schemes at The Bartlett’s show was an intriguing project firmly grounded in reality. Seven students from diploma Unit 17 conceived, fundraised for and built the Ghost Chapel, a delicate, web-like, latticed structure for a small island near Galway off the west coast of Ireland. Local people make an annual pilgrimage to a 6th-century stone chapel on the uninhabited island, but bad weather and local currents are making it increasingly difficult to get across.

Unit 17’s chapel is conceived as a permanent, protective space and marker on the mainland to celebrate this annual tradition. Installed for the show in The Bartlett’s courtyard, the structure takes the pattern of the original chapel’s mortar joints, replicated in glass-fibre-reinforced concrete and partially supported by a hidden steel frame. This hands-on approach will no doubt better prepare the students for the realities of practice and real-life projects. CSH

Paul Bisbrown, Oxford Brookes University, Architecture
Sited in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, Paul Bisbrown’s well-intentioned project The Model City aims to tackle the issues and pressures facing construction and development in the area, including the conflict and tension felt by local communities. He suggests reforming the planning system to make it clearer and more understandable for the public. One idea of his involves creating an editable model city, which would allow people to alter and adjust it.

Another is the construction of 1:1 paper facades of proposed buildings, which could be applied to existing sites so that planning applications can be seen in their full context. Bisbrown describes it as ‘an approach to planning that is clear and understandable, far from the antiquated and socially removed system of “notice on a lamppost” that currently stands.’ CSH

Pierce Brennan, University of Brighton, Product Design
Simple and effective — hallmarks of good design — Handle with Care is a door handle with a built-in sanitiser.

Ideal for hospitals or any environment with sanitary considerations such as public-use toilets, the operator just pushes a thumb button as they use the handle and a dose of sanitiser is delivered into the palm. The handle is refreshed with a replaceable tube. JT

Tom Leslie, Northumbria University, Design for Industry
This magic-mushroom-like light is a lovely object in its own right, but the real beauty of it becomes apparent when you lift up the wooden block next to it.

That haptically turn it on and off depending on the vertical orientations, and when you moved it away from the light it dims it as well. So much nicer than a switch! JT

Sara Pagani, Kingston University, Product & Furniture Design
It’s almost impossible to find a quiet, private moment in an airport, let alone a comfortable seat. Pagani has designed a chair that allows people to privately meditate in such bustling, stressful public spaces.

Called Meditasi, it is made out of four parts, with a black, stainless-steel frame and a cocooning, winged headrest for privacy and to help reduce surrounding noise. A heavy white base keeps the chair in place, while users can keep their luggage safe between their legs. CSH

Joseph Williams, University of the West of England, Product Design Technology
These shoes are one of four products created using generative design that mimics nature’s approach to problem solving. Williams says he had a ‘background aim to bring nature back into our daily lives’.

The four products — which also include a lamp, clock and a computer mouse — grew out of 20 experiments, both physical and digital, looking into nature’s mathematical basis and the link to generative design. JT

Ryan Biscoe, Bath School of Art & Design, Bath Spa University, 3D Design
Ryan Biscoe’s brightly pigmented stools aim to seamlessly combine natural, organic elements with a manufactured, machine-made process. A smooth, round wooden seat sits on a three-legged, faceted Jesmonite base.

They’re made using centrifugal casting — the Jesmonite is gradually poured into a single-axis rotational mould to create the three organically formed legs. Each stool is created with five separate pours, each with a different colour, to give a gradation and marbling-like effect to the legs. CSH

ND New Designers
Was there a hive mind at work at New Designers in Islington this year? As usual the show brought together graduate work from colleges across the country to two shows over two weeks. And insects, in particular bees, loomed large (figuratively you’ll be pleased to know...) in a number of projects including these three

Wataru Kobayashi, Middlesex University, Product Design
Kobayashi is way ahead of the curve. Most of us know that the eating of insects is the way forward — they are nutritious and plentiful and surely it’s better to eat them than have them munching on you.

While some of us are still trying to get over the hurdle of putting them in our mouths he has gone one step further and addressed the aesthetics and practicalities of an entomological feast en plein air, with BUGBUG — a picnic cutlery set for eating the little critters. JT

Josh Akhtar, University of Brighton, Product Design
Used to collect wild bees or even recapture colonies that have done a runner (winger?), the Bait Hive is a multifunction, foldable bee hive, dedicated to swarm capture. What’s more it can come flatpacked and then once the swarm has been captured can ‘legally be posted containing house colonies of bees’.

The hive can be hung, or strapped in a variety of orientations to fit any location, and uses a pheromone to attract the bees. Once the queen enters the hive, a rotating door is used to trap her while allowing the colony to continue to forage, ensuring the swarm stays in its new location. JT

Ellie MacLeod, Loughborough University, Industrial Design & Technology
Taking the New Designer of the Year runner-up prize (£500) for week two of the show, Ellie MacLeod created this beehive — Mella for the 21st Century — complete with a corresponding app.

In the top section is a built-in honey collection system. This employs essentially the same mechanism as a salad spinner, using centrifugal force to release the honey from the comb, which then collects in a funnel.

The honey goes through two meshes to remove debris such as wax and dead bees, and the beekeeper is then free to siphon off the honey at their leisure. The judges commented: ‘Elspeth beautifully articulated her design story, redefining the practice of beekeeping for a new generation, combining intelligence and technology with an exceptional piece of design.’ JT

Aryan Karbalaie-Hadj-Agha-Tehrani, University of Greenwich, Architecture
Inspired by the poem Seven Princesses of Greenwich, gifted to the Queen by the Shah of Iran in the Fifties as a sign of peace between the two nations, this project imagines a new Persian city in the heart of Greenwich Park.

Reinterpreted as Seven Paradises, Tehrani imagines a colourful, cultural playground that celebrates Persian culture and the similarities and differences with British life. The theme-park-like scheme centres around an embassy, with a bathhouse, tea house, bakery and pharmacy as well as mosques and pergola- covered gardens. Used on the poster advertising Greenwich’s end-of-year exhibition, it set the tone for a stand-out year of work from the university. CSH

Danny Flint, Norwich University of the Arts, Illustration
An individual eye and aesthetic that to me seemed to evoke some of the blander architecture of the Eighties, brought this to the attention.

In fact the work is based on the Anglia Square shopping centre in Norwich from the Seventies.

Flint says he’s been creating ‘cultural illustrations and photography to celebrate the area’s diversity in architecture, community and values, in response to my individual experiences seen through my own lens as an illustrator’. JT

Václav Mlynár, Royal College of Art, Design Products
Koski is an augmented reality ‘board game’ that uses physical building blocks that then create a virtual playworld.

The player creates a structure, then an app uses a tablet camera (or similar) in conjunction with object-recognition software to analyse what is built and create a world where virtual characters are led by the player through mazes, completing quests and solving problems. A nice idea and beautifully executed in terms of the physical product as well as the app. JT

Noor Kassam, University of Greenwich, Architecture
Sited on the roof of Selfridges in London, Kassam’s intriguingly dark and moody project imagines a museum of objects, curiosities and architectural salvage inspired by the work of 20th-century avant-garde artist and sculptor Joseph Cornell.

Exquisitely made models and luxurious, monochromatic, art-deco-like drawings depict a series of spaces portraying moments of Cornell’s life, emotions, dreams and aspirations. The building is made up of layers and shapes referencing Cornell’s ad-hoc assemblages of found objects, and is wrapped in a series of curtains, which can be used to hide the museum from the world. For Kassam it shifts Selfridges towards ‘becoming an architectural landmark and permanent museum rather than its current focus on consumerism and merchandise,’ and suggests a new architectural relationship between art and commerce in the form of ‘London’s second layer’. CSH

Lucy Steeden, Arts University Bournemouth, Architecture
The Printmakers’ Monastery explores craft and construction in the Dorset town of Poole. Using public display of the creative activity of screen printing as a means of bringing industry, commerce and civic life to the site, the building draws on Poole’s artisan history. The building’s facades are composed of shutters of printing screens — serving as both practical building components and ‘billboards’ for the activity inside.

The proposed use of the building is bold, but the most impressive aspect of the project is the breadth and enthusiasm of Steeden’s exploration. From 1:1 screen-print tests, to comprehensive construction details, detailed work programmes to enigmatic illustrations, the project has clearly been interrogated from every angle with the full proliferation of media available to students at Arts University Bournemouth. Holly Lewis

Georgia Thomas, Arts University Bournemouth, Architecture
Floral Phantasmagoria proposes a sheltered garden for reflection. Using the ‘traceless’ qualities of glass as a building material, the project seeks to encourage visitors to embrace the ‘sub-conscious and dreaming mind’ while strolling through its interconnected spaces. Material tests in coloured glass provide intriguing glimpses of what the experience of such spaces could be like.

Dripping with references and precedents (Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, Paul Scheerbart, Salomon de Caus), the proposals take the viewer down a rabbit hole using richly textured drawings that are part Moorish courtyard, part Monument Valley computer game.

The project provides a fascinating insight into the creative wanderings that are possible within Arts University Bournemouth, an institution that encourages personal creativity, experimentation and integration with other arts courses such as illustration, fine art and model making. HL

Janis Vilcins, Scott Sutherland School of Architecture, Robert Gordon University
Architecture The condition of the parochial and the periphery of the city is a theme being explored as a thesis subject between the city and rural edges around Aberdeen. Distillery Co-operative explores the possibilities of industrial production to generate activity and a need for multifunctional development while also being a beacon within the landscape and the bypass that forms the edge to the site.

The distillery tower responds to the traditional vernacular of tower houses in the landscape that is the central element, and the activities it creates as a new industrial type building. This central element develops what is described as a ‘Universal Structure’ that multiplies and transforms, forming a new community with housing, offices, agricultural processes and communal spaces creating this new campus. There is a romantic, ‘painterly’ quality to the images that site the tower within the landscape. RB

Oliver Beetschen, Shimal Morjaria, Jonathan Piper, Edinburgh College of Art, Architecture
Awaiting visitors to the degree show in the Matthew Gallery was a striking floor-to-ceiling array of skyscrapers finely drawn in elevation. Their translucent and ethereal presence instantly conjured up the theme of the 5th-year design unit based on Tokyo — hauntological speculations and ghosts of what could be.

Towering in the middle of the room was an impressively detailed model, the centrepiece of a thesis that explores the ‘Moral Hazards’ of the increasingly vast ‘streamlined’ spaces of corporate city architecture where the awareness of risk has been all but erased. Japan is a country closely associated with disaster, especially urban disaster, and Tokyo is a city of specific risks and mitigation systems.

In tackling a mega infrastructural project encompassing Subway Interchange, Bank Headquarters and Health Clinic, the project decidedly revels in the technical aspects of the building that would otherwise be hidden away by engineers.

In the scenario presented by Beetschen, Morjaria and Piper there is a moral tale to the iconic Otemachi tower. A worker might rise from the bottom rung of the tower up through the corporate ladder only to find themselves at the pinnacle in an asylum for those who have failed in attempting suicide — a poignant critique on the dangers of alienation in a system of advanced capitalism. DA

Caroline Clarke, Northumbria University, 3D Design, Furniture and Product
Clarke wanted to produce a stylish outdoor chair for an urban environment that challenged ‘the traditional wooden garden furniture, which is often bulky, uncomfortable and monotonous.’

Her OnSight design has an iroko wood frame, finished with a UV protective coating, while the main body support comes from the bright, lightweight, high-strength polyester webbing. The detail of the webbing passing through the joint of seat and leg is a incisive touch. JT

Julia Cabanas, University of Cambridge, Architecture
Cambridge is at its best when striving to reveal the complexities of the city, and Julia Cabanas’ project for the GasWorks and Oval site next to the Regent’s Canal in Hackney has calmly incorporated old and new in a seemingly effortless composition to define a believable piece of urban fabric in this difficult site.

Her project hugs the edge of the studio’s study area to engage with the periphery, and ordinary terraces incorporate a retained and reinvented warehouse brewery at its core. If there is a sentimentality to retaining the old brewery facade it is quickly swept away with a bold concrete structure that sculpts the series of new volumes required for the new event space. Cabanas’ drawings and models leave the structures open to interpretation, seemingly undone, to be completed only with the life of the vibrant neighbourhood surrounding it.
This provokes conversation in the city rather than grabbing headlines, and the challenge of course is how this neighbourhood will survive the commercial pressures that will otherwise strip its character. But Cabanas’ forceful proposal makes a strong last stand for a people’s palace to embed the community at the heart of any change. David Hills

Thomas Lowe, University of Cambridge, Architecture
Tackling the predicament of housing in the city, Thomas has evolved a sophisticated model of co-locating ‘first and last timers’ in the shadow of The Shard and Guy’s Hospital. If looking at housing as a university thesis this is what it needs to do: mix up generations in a vibrant neighbourhood, add a hospital (for the reassurance of healthcare on tap) and then give the upper parts to public functions like an art gallery so the whole thing becomes an extension of the city.

I would live there. The model takes a serpentine form, erupting into three towers that are composed elegantly together and even more so within the urban context, which is also addressed at street level with two distinct courtyards. This is beautifully modelled, standing out in an impressive and super-charged exhibition for the Cambridge show. The rigour of the frame oscillates, with moveable shutters revealing a more temporary interior life.

This is inventive, and optimistic that we don’t have to follow a rule book to design housing. Inside, flexibility is encouraged with large, shared spaces that can be subdivided by uber-curtain structures, which have just the right measure of accident and control to be believable but fun. DH

Charles Proctor, Royal College of Art, Architecture
This project represents the RCA imagination at its best. The polemic of scarcity of the world’s resources is taken to propel an architectural proposition that exposes the horror of capitalist market structures informing the future of our cities. But the provocation of the architecture is suspended in a narrative that engages us to determine our own future interpretation.

Proctor’s beautifully executed maquettes of mineral deposits look like they are ready for personal consumption — a shot of copper-plated adrenaline — and analytical models of the disposable parts in a camera reveal our own culpability in the wastefulness of our society, so that the project is delicately positioned between excess and necessity. Gargantuan structures of power to reflect the transient market conditions of metals are proposed to occupy post-industrial urban sites. Articulated in vividly coloured prints on metal plate the drawings present a deliberately uncomfortable tension between funfair and power station.

We are asked to take either a leap of faith or despair at looking into the future. This is not architecture with a social disposition, but it is executed with such precision and conviction that we can easily be drawn through a cycle of disbelief about what this might mean for our cities, and are left fuelled with an aggravated awareness of the environmental wastefulness of the world’s economies. DH

Keren Hu, Royal College of Art, Design Products
A stand-out product from the RCA show, Keren Hu’s Tea with Kettle is a small kettle with a considered design and refined shape. Responding to changing lifestyles and evolving domestic landscapes, Hu’s aim is to ‘propel home appliances into a new realm of sophistication’.

With enough volume for two cups of tea or coffee at a time, his kettle is conceived as an ‘elegant experience’, one that you could proudly bring out into the living room or workspace, as you would your best teapot, instead of relegating it to a corner in the kitchen. The project was launched through a crowd funding platform in China earlier this year and is already in mass production in two colours, black and white. I for one will be snapping one up when it becomes available in the UK later this year. CSH

Eleanore Audi, Architectural Association, Architecture
Taking London’s Oxford Street as her starting point, Eleanore Audi’s project Do you ever dream of me? aims to revalue fast trends, cheap commodities, such as a mass-produced £5 cotton T-shirts, and our relationship to the high street. She has constructed a series of immersive worlds, each dedicated to a new ‘deity’, where the environments of production and consumption meet and co-exist.

These colourful, cartoon-like scenes, experienced as 360-degree animated environments, take the form of ‘wearable shrines’, which you can stick your head inside to see and experience. Somewhat like a Grayson Perry tapestry, they were extracted and hand-drawn by Audi while wearing a virtual-reality headset. She explains: ‘Oxford Street is a strange paradise of joy, where one finds comfort, guilt and pleasure in the prospect of an ever-affordable new look.

But one wonders how a T-shirt can cost £5 when it has been manipulated by an average of 250 people, and travelled more than 6,000km before reaching our stores. Our clothes live a glorious life in the frames of magazines and catwalks, and find a peaceful resting place in the depth of our wardrobes, but could their fiber genetics carry the spirits of the people and places that made them?’ CSH

Charlotte Kay, University of Brighton, 3D Design and Craft
Kay brilliantly challenges the static nature of lighting-product design with her skilfully executed kinetic lampshades.

Each lamp simulates certain plants’ growth processes and nastic movement behaviours, such as photonasty (below) — the opening of the petals of a flower in response to the availability of light — and thigmonasty (below right) — where plants react to touch or vibration.

They are aesthetically assured and very tactile. JT

Lewis McNeill and Andrew Thomson, University of Strathclyde, Architecture
Red Hook, New York, the scene of Arthur Miller’s play A View from the Bridge, becomes the setting of an architecture infrastructure project to regenerate a network of abandoned docks and warehouses. At the time of Miller’s play (1955), Red Hook’s decline from being one of the busiest ports in the USA to a place of soaring unemployment had set in.

Badly hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 this post-industrial landscape in Brooklyn is an archetypal example of how an already marginalised community has been cut adrift by neo-liberalism and left to the fate of a capricious environment. What is so powerful about McNeill’s and Thomson’s response is their imagination to draw out the underlying potential of these shattered buildings to create venues for festivals and events, woven together through an integrated infrastructure of flood defence, boardwalk and tramline. DA

Sophie Percival, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, Architecture
Under the theme Soft City, the students of Unit Zero were asked to look differently at London, ‘seeing it not as a harsh or alienating environment, or as existing only in the realm of economics and systems, but rather as an open and fluid entity that allows for many readings of “softness”’. Sophie Percival used this opportunity to playfully poke fun at the NIMBY neighbourhood of Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London.

‘So successful has Hampstead Garden Suburb been in defying change over time that it has perhaps become what it was always destined to be, a television and film set,’ says Percival. Through a strategy of stealthy interventions — all of which conform (albeit unconventionally) to the strict building codes of the suburb — she converts existing houses into film studios and permanent stage sets.

Cameras are inserted into the ubiquitous hedges that line the estate and new viewing corridors are established to distort one’s sense of scale. Percival cleverly exploits the area’s uncanny character to create a softly sinister environment in which both residents and visitors become unwitting actors in a never- ending Edwardian class-based drama. Tom Greenall

Rebecca Cooper, University of Westminster, Architecture
One of the more interesting units on show at this year’s Westminster show was taught by John Zhang and David Porter. Operating for the first time as a joint studio with the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, the unit sought to explore new typologies of housing that might address the emergent social and cultural needs of the two host cities.

With a series of compelling drawings and models, Cooper’s stand-out work focuses on an urban enclave in the shadow of the CCTV tower in Beijing, where the forces of economic growth are driving away the residents of the existing neighbourhood. In a critical yet humorous project, Cooper imagines a structure that can best be described as OMA meets Torre David: an office block cantilevering precariously on top of an affordable housing block, where the construction of the unprofitable but socially necessary programme below provides — both literally and metaphorically — the foundations for the financially lucrative activity above.

The formal and programmatic tensions explicate the social and economic pressures experienced by so many neighbourhoods in Beijing and begin to question the nature of the precariat in this unstable situation. In its resolution, the design moves beyond a mere diagram and offers interesting and intimate moments of interaction between the white-collar workers and residents. TG 

Sam Diston, University of Sheffield,  Architecture
Focusing on one particular cultural aspect of the post-industrial North, Sam Diston uses the brass band as the starting point for a striking proposal in the town of Mexborough. There is quite a skill in proceeding with a self-defined brief such as this without slipping into the ‘Brassed Off ’ cliché of flat caps and whippets, but Sam avoids this through a beautifully illustrated scheme, which proposes a new music school as a device for encouraging community cohesion.

Providing performance, training and education spaces, the external envelope is wrapped elegantly in folded brass sheets which recall both musical rhythm and the patina of instruments without falling back on lazy reinterpretation of their form. Instead, a bold intervention into the urban fabric presents an elegant but clearly civic frontage to the town square, with a series of public spaces threaded between, presenting further spaces for performance and other community functions. The deployment of cultural heritage as a device for reinvigorating deprived communities is nothing new, but here it is presented in a visually striking and coherent manner. Russell Curtis

Fabio Hendry and Martijn Rigters, Royal College of Art, Design Products
Horsehair has been used in upholstery for hundreds of years, but now RCA duo Hendry and Rigters have found a novel use for the abundant masses of human hair left over at hairdressers. They have developed a printing technique that uses hair to create surface treatments and decorative patterns on a diverse range of metals.

Hair is applied to a heated surface, and due to the keratin in the material, instantly carbonises, creating a permanent form of ink that has similarities to etching. The resulting metal tables and stools take on a detailed pattern of fine doodle-like marks, which are completely smooth to touch. Say Hendry and Rigters: ‘By considering hair as a useful material rather than a material to evoke distasteful emotion, The Colour of Hair proposes controlled and sustainable printing wonders.’ CSH

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