ECA Degree Show 2016: Architecture

As the Architecture Degree Show looms closer, step into the studio and take a behind-the-scenes look at the work that will be on display

Feature by Rosie Milne | 17 May 2016

To step into a studio at Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture is to step into a world of imaginings, each one daring to envisage what the built environment could be. The studio is a place between reality and fiction; things that are and things that are not. Or at least this is how we feel as we walk in on a fifth year crit (or critique) – a vital part in the conversation between tutor and student which drives architectural education, and something the fifth year M-Arch students are well used to by this point.

The products of a hard year's work are scattered across the desks, including everything from giant site models to intricate and occasionally peculiar conceptual devices, to delicate laser-cut and 3D-printed models. The walls are filled with beautiful, meticulous architectural drawings, patiently waiting to be presented to the critics for feedback. This moment is crucial as the students approach the Degree Show in May, which represents the overcoming of the first hurdle on the undergraduates' way to professional qualification. For M-Arch students, meanwhile, it's the crossing of the final hurdle in architectural education – the culmination of everything they have learned to date.

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More on ECA's 2016 degree shows:

 Design, Film and TV & Animation

 Performance Costume Design

Architectural education is somewhat unique in the way it allows for both breadth and depth of study – students must engage in a wide range of subjects that on first sight may have little to do with designing buildings. Each new project is an opportunity to be immersed in a new subject. The result is that the word ‘diverse’ doesn’t even begin to cover the breadth of projects that will be on show; even within a single brief, responses can be so varied such that moving between projects feels like moving between realms – sometimes quite literally. For instance, the fifth year students have been tasked with creating hauntological responses (yes, you read that right and no, we didn't realise hauntological was a word either) to individual sites in Tokyo, with the aim of designing for an isolated risk or potential disaster. One response takes inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel on location, with the design surprisingly manifesting as an elegant veiled skyscraper – almost as a bride to Wright’s spectre which is imprinted on the location.

In contrast to the ethereal nature of projects like this, others address more social issues through their projects, responding directly to the risk of the elements such as the fire and the flood. One student chose to design for a town in Tokyo, essentially rendered a ghost town after being completely destroyed during the 1923 earthquake. In its re-colonised state it consists of shack-like structures which pose a high fire risk. Through a thoughtful design response which examines the temporal nature of the site and blurs boundaries between temporary and permanent, the design seeks to return a sense of self-determination to the inhabitants through a flexible architectural framework.

Tokyo Project

While art teaches you how to see through making, architecture teaches you how to think through making. Studying architecture is about engaging in a process where thinking informs making, and making informs thinking. This is obvious when looking at the work this years graduates have produced, which is thoughtful, insightful, adventurous, and occasionally even whimsical or other-worldly, made of the bricks of dreams. Still, having seen the work in the studio – hauntological speculations and ghosts of what could be – it will be exciting to see how the students bring their work to life in the Degree Show this May.

Go with the Glow – Wanshu Li

Want to know more about this year’s ECA degree shows? Read our guide:

ECA Architecture Degree Show 2016, Minto House, 28 May-5 Jun, 11am-5pm