2016-17 Brief

We find ourselves catapulted into a shapeless Brexit apocalypse of fear and uncertainty. The people have spoken: the wounded and disenfranchised outnumber the prosperous and the liberal. House prices fall against a rising undercurrent of indignation and barely concealed xenophobia. Money pours out of the capital – banks and corporations take flight, developments that never planned to be inhabited are halted, cancelled, shrewd investors cut their losses and look elsewhere. Our Mayor declares London “OPEN FOR BUSINESS” but is anyone listening?

In the new political structures and economic situations we seek opportunities to change the current state of play. If London’s position as an economic powerhouse falters, opportunities for new types of space and activity can arise – spaces where the ephemeral and permanent hold equal sway, places that permit encounter and elicit delight. If space becomes cheaper, can alternative counter-cultures infiltrate where once there was only finance? With less ‘work’ around, will there be more time for PLAY?

The unit will investigate PLAY: interplay between architecture and occupant, play in architecture and architecture in play. We look to play and games as culturally significant activities – spatial, relational human practices that can inform the design and production of architecture. We look at logic, interface, interaction, tactics and strategies to discover architectural potential in the ambiguity, modality, atmosphere and delight of games and play. Light and sound, colour, texture and temperature are brought into play. Variable volumes and dynamic structures reconfigure while digital surfaces observe and respond to our every move. The unit will play their designs and design ludic structures for their players.

Hyper-Architectures are those that have been intensified; those that respond to and create a reality above and beyond the present. They are hybrid, combining the real and projected. They are time-based, energising the transitory, ephemeral and the emergent, actuating the dynamic, volatile and the variable. Interactive virtual technologies represent an as-yet ill-defined new cultural layer, which architects must use to their advantage. Intensification can occur in both physical and virtual planes, separately and/or simultaneously. Synthetic spaces are the present! (and the future!).

The unit will seek out existing Hyper-Architectures in the deserts of Nevada, California and Arizona. Hybrid spaces; vast natural landscapes colonised by unimaginable manifestations of artificial, industrial and technological processes. Giant dams, arrays of turbines, rapidly expanding cities and failed utopian visions appear as mirage-like superimposed hyper-realities.  We drive through the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park, see the Davis-Monthan Airforce Base, the Hoover Dam, Biosphere 2, the Grand Canyon, Palm Springs, Bombay Beach, Slab City, Sun City and Arcosanti. Finally we will turn a critical eye on Las Vegas: insipid pool of consumerism, convention and banality, or glorious oasis of round-the-clock gaming? How might this 1950’s model of ludic architecture be reconsidered for the digital age?

In term 1 investigations explore core components of time-based architecture – experiential sequence and dynamic environments. We start with sixty-second sequences that simulate spatial experience, and disrupt them with speculative interventions. Then, proposals for twenty-four hour dynamic architectures transform and transition from one moment to the next, from day to night in a ludic response to site activity. 5th year students then have the opportunity to resolve earlier conceptual positions while defining a personal spatial methodology and practice, constructing a speculative thesis proposition. 4th years develop a complex provocative and playful building proposal, layering short-term momentary happenings and seasonal changes with long-term strategies. Sport, performance, production and exposition among others will be included in a broad definition of a playful programme.

Projects will be sited in Silvertown, East London. A vast, semi-derelict expanse of land between the Royal Docks and the River Thames occupied by giant industrial buildings, residential developments, river facilities and the City Airport. This animated cinematic site is accessed and isolated by waterways, runways, railways and elevated roads. We will investigate its potential for new, ludic architectures.

Unit 26 is the FILM unit, our aim is to explore the potential of moving image to develop new forms of architectural practice. We create filmic architectures and architectural films that explore animated and augmented relationships between people and place. Predicated on the belief that architecture is experiential and time-based we use cinematic techniques to investigate, simulate and speculate. We test film’s ability to:

  • simulate moving and mediated experiences, spatial sequences and hybrid spaces that merge virtual and real
  • explore animated relationships between architecture and occupants, multi-sensory interactive environments
  • represent architecture and atmosphere changing over time, events, dynamic structures, light and digital surfaces
  • speculate on future architectures and realities over and above the present
  • communicate clear narratives with individual and critical attitudes to wider audiences

Our techniques include storyboards, stop-motion, hand-drawing, four-dimensional drawing, hyper-lapse, motion-matching, models and interactive mock ups.

There is no requirement for previous experience in filmic techniques. Workshops introduce students to filmmaking principles and innovative techniques. Studio visits will connect students to inspiring practitioners in the worlds of interactive art, architecture, film and gaming. Unit 24 benefits from a broad network of associated professionals, whose contributions serve as a counterpoint to the conceptual and theoretical discourse within the unit, as well as providing inspiration and practical guidance:


2d, 2.5d and 3d modelling and animation – Gabby Shawcross, Simon Kennedy
Filmmaking principals and techniques – Gabby Shawcross
Photographing and filming architecture – Simon Kennedy
Film editing theory/technique – Simon Kennedy
Script writing, narrative and pitching – Andrew Gow
3D motion-matching and 4-dimensional compositing – Adam Heslop, Jason Bruges Studio
Unity and virtual reality – Ross Cairns, The Workers

Talks and Visits:

Sound, film and architecture – Kevin Pollard
Architectural storytelling – Alice Britton, Squint Opera
Artistic approaches to architectural practice – Aberrant Architects
Augmented reality and new digital reality – Keiichi Matsuda
Filmaking and 3D – Factory 15
Monument Valley – Neil Mcfarland, Ustwo

Brief Cover Image: Infinity Mirror Room-Love Forever by Yayoi Kusama. Photograph copyright Tony Kyriacou