2017

MAKE-BELIEVE

 

This year we turned our attention to the growing frictions between urban bubbles of over-abundance and post-urban pockets of debilitating scarcity. We asked: Can a cinematic architecture of ‘make-believe’ address this dichotomy with proposals that marry fact and fiction?

 

In November, in the immediate aftermath of the US Presidential Election, we explored the contrasting territories of LA and Arizona: tracing a path across the underlying geographic, social and fictional fault-lines that separate these neighbouring, yet deeply diverse regions. Since it first swelled out of the Californian desert in the late 1800’s, the growth of LA, has been inextricably linked to the business of making moving images and storytelling. Conversely the cinematic landscapes of Arizona have provided the outward gaze towards which America reflects on its history. This sense of emptiness breeds the mythical and surreal, triggering sightings of unexpected objects and the birth of conspiracy theories.

 

Within these febrile territories, we searched for new kinds of make-believe that blur the boundaries between truth and reality. We explored the fictionalised urban landscapes of LA, the sun-baked world in and around the Salk Institute and discovered the desert-inspired utopias of Taliesin West, Arcosanti, and Biosphere 2, where architecture playfully imagines an alternative make-believe future.

 

Upon our return, Year 4 interpreted their findings into the local climate of the post-Brexit maelstrom. After a period of intense skilling-up and inspiration in the first term, we then carefully constructed and conjured new visions for these towns with proud, yet long-lost pasts: from Great Yarmouth to Rugeley, from Stratford to Port Stanley. Our students propose speculative new narratives for half-forgotten towns like these, creating stories that might beggar belief, but which are so hair-brained that they might just work.

 

Year 5 projects build on their last year’s investigations, creating architectural ‘essay films’ that explore wild new frontiers and states of speculative magic. A series of workshops with games designers, visualisers, VR developers and sound technologists supported this year’s work along with access to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Developer Kits. Throughout the year u24 has evolved into a band of virtual storytellers, snaggletoothed mythmakers, digital hoaxers and political yarn-spinners, who aim to make believers out of any one who might care to listen.

 

 

2016

AGAINST THE FLOW

 

This year’s theme focused on shifting notions of the ‘local’ and the ‘global’, reading both not as spaces, but as flows. The world has imploded. Instantaneous information flow rules all – the new ‘digital local’ makes the Global Village into the Google Earth. Location is irrelevant... or is it? Local news. Local weather. The local pub. Local architects. What do we mean when we talk about the local? Is it a place? Is it part of the psyche? Can its value be measured? Who can be a local? Can technology ever be local? And what about architecture?

 

Challenging the forces of universalising technological progress, we invited students to find a ‘critical regionalism’ for the information age, interrogating globally available open-source technologies in search of the particular and the local. We questioned the tendency to retreat into the home- grown, the tribal and the regional and asked whether the local simply inflects the global condition or whether it can be a driver for change.

 

The Thames then. Our local river. A shimmering causeway flowing to the centre of the universe, or the disgusting urinal of a washed-up, morally bankrupt city? Defining the Thames in the singular is facile. At once staggeringly ugly and magnificently sublime, its length spans across innumerable conditions: cupping the sweetbreads of international corporate investment but also cultivating new ecosystems. It has witnessed the emergence and growth of London and will outlive it.

 

In November, we travelled to and dispersed ourselves throughout Japan; walking the river route against the flow from Osaka to Kyoto; exploring backstreets in Tokyo; visiting Hiroshima; sailing to Naoshima, hoping to learn from what Arata Isozaki termed ‘Japan-ness’: a local architecture that can harness the forces of globalisation.

Year 4 students proposed filmic architectures that utilised the estuarine zones in and around the Thames, searching for an alternative future of the local, while year 5 students developed their own personal agendas locally and globally.

 

 

We would like to thank our critics:

Ollie Alsop

Anna Ulrikke Andersen

Nat Chard

Patrick Chen

Daniel Cotton

Nico Czyz

Max Dewdney

Stephen Gage

Tamsin Hanke

Colin Herperger

Ifigeneia Liangi

Chris Pierce

Merijn Royaards

Sayan Skandarajah

Henrietta Williams

 

Workshops:

Angeliki Vasileiou

Kevin Pollard

Neutral Digital

Shed-Works

Studio Archetype

 

Special thanks to:

Jack Holmes

Sergio Irigoyen

Rashed Khandker

Greg Kythreotis

Brook Lin

Sam McGill

Dan Scoulding

 

Design Realisation:

Michael Tite

 

Structural consultant:

Ben Sheterline,

Price & Myers

 

 

 

We would like to thank our critics:

Ollie Alsop

Anna Ulrikke Andersen

Alessandro Ayuso

Paul Bavister

Alastair Browning

Matthew Butcher

Luke Chandresinghe

Peter Cook

James Craig

Hal Currey

Kate Davies

Elizabeth Dow

Max Dewdney

Marcela Araguez Escobar

Murray Fraser

Ruairi Glynn

Colin Herperger

Jonathan Hill

Alex Holloway

Kelvin Ip

Platon Issaias

Jan Kattein

Chee-Kit Lai

Ifi Liangi

Keiichi Matsuda

Sam Storr McGill

Tim Norman

James O’Leary

Manuel Toledo Otaegui

Luke Pearson

Dan Scoulding

Renée Searle

Catrina Stewart

Henri Williams

 

Workshops:

Kevin Pollard

Factory Fifteen

ScanLAB

Tomas Miller

 

Special thanks to:

Emir Tigrel

Angeliki Vasileiou

Kairo Baden-Powell

 

Design Realisation:

Michael Tite

 

Structural consultant:

Ben Sheterline,

Price & Myers

 

 

 

2015

FORTY SECOND ISLAND

 

This year, we studied a city to which we have all been… at least, in our imagination.

This city has created its own mythology through film, and an identity so distinctive, that it is simulated throughout the world. Deeply embedded in our collective subconscious this place can be re-constructed remotely, travelled to in dreams, and experienced through purely fictional constructs.

 

New York City is an archipelago of 42 islands; some are prominent and densely populated, others are deserted and effectively invisible. The island nature of the city has impacted on how it has grown and the way it sees itself. Its hydro-geographic position enabled it to harbour storytelling immigrants from all over the world, the pressure on land created the skyscraper, and the city’s topography has allowed it to gaze at its own mythical reflected skyline.

 

The spirit of Manhattan, the most prominent island, is distilled in 42nd Street. Linking the iconic sites of Grand Central Station, Chrysler building, the UN Headquarters and Times Square, it was once known as ‘Dream Street’. It has a sordid history of harbouring criminal activity – an old joke goes that ‘they call it 42nd Street because you’re not safe if you spend more than forty seconds on it’.

 

By contrasting the urban density and energy of 42nd Street to the unexploited potential of the rest of the 42 islands we searched for new paradigms of urban occupation.

 

We began by studying New York from afar, constructing filmic responses via research and editing techniques. We then proposed architectural interventions into these filmic sites. Our field trip to New York gave students the opportunity to compare their constructions to the throbbing reality of the city.

 

Each student was invited to propose their own Forty Second Island through an architecture of narrative and film: a structure that established its own fictions and rules and allowed them to play out in time. Year 4 students resolved early speculations into a cinematic building proposition sited in New York. Year 5 students proposed a speculative thesis project maintaining film as a key concern. Some projects were sited in New York, but some students chose to work with sites in China and the UK.

2014

REMEMBER THE FUTURE

 

Inspired by historical cinematic visions of the future (Fritz Lang's Metropolis), contemporary urban fantasies (Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire), and past versions of the present (Walter Ruttman's Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt), this year the Unit's studies were focused on Berlin.

 

Beginning by studying Berlin from afar, the first phase of the year, 'Berlin Dream', saw students use a number of short, time-based projects to develop an informed visual and cultural attitude to Berlin. A site was identified, an intervention proposed, and new techniques of spatio-temporal design and representation were explored.

 

The field trip to Berlin, 'Berlin Travelogue'. took the form of an intense study of both the site chosen in the first phase of the year, and of Berlin as a whole. The students collaborated with ScanLAB to create highly detailed 3D scans of extraordinary spaces, and produced experimental film work to further refine their design ambitions and their approach to an individual spatial practice.

 

For the main project of the year, which we called 'Berlin Symphony', Year 4 students designed a detailed, 'filmic' building which sought to draw on cultural, physical, economic and historical peculiarities, resolving an architecture that sought to challenge and subvert the fabric of Berlin. This design then became the protagonist in a final, time-based exploration. Year 5 students refined their explorations into speculative cinematic architectural projects, generating architectural films and filmic architectures, spatio-temporal graphics and cinematic architectural drawings, all supported by the written thesis document. The completion of Year 5 enables students to develop particular personal design methodologies with the moving image as a key parameter.

 

 

 

Special thanks to:

Paul Bavister

Douglas Fenton

Johnny Kelly

Kevin Pollard

 

We would like to thank our critics:

Nat Chard

Dan Cotton

Hal Currey

Liam Davis

Murray Fraser

Alexis Germanos

Christine Hawley

David Hemingway

Colin Herperger

Jack Holmes

Steven Howson

Platon Issaias

Kei Iwamoto

Chee-Kit Lai

Tim Norman

Caireen O'Hagan-Houx

Leonard O'Hagan-Houx

Ollie Palmer

Luke Pearson

Alan Penn

Kevin Pollard

Sophia Psarra

Merijn Royaards

Camila Sotomayor

Reza Schuster

Matthew Shaw

Matthias Suchert

 

 

 

 

We would like to thank our critics:

Dimitris Argyros

Julia Backhaus

Greg Blee

Kyle Buchanan

Luke Chandresinghe

Nat Chard

Hal Currey

Jo Dejardin

Richard Difford

Daniel Dale

Tom Ebdon

Douglas Fenton

Andrew Gancikov

Christophe Gerard

Tilo Gunther

Christine Hawley

Timo Haedrich

Colin Heperger

Jonathan Hill

Chee-Kit Lai

Sean Macintosh

Tim Norman

James O'Leary

Pravin Muthiah

Luke Pearson

Sophia Psarra

Kim Quazi

Merjin Royards

Matt Shaw

Gabby Shawcross

Bob Sheil

Mark Smout

 

Our partners:

Factory Fifteen,

Hal Currey of Arup Associates

Kevin Pollard

Andrew Gow of Raindog Films

Ali Carter of Max Fordham

Ben Sheterline of Price & Myers

 

 

 

Unit 24 employs film, video, animation, drawing and virtual/physical modelling techniques to generate architectural propositions, harnessing the potential of time-based media in the production of space. Inspired by cinema, television, photography, literature and computer games, we challenge the empty formalist pursuit of contemporary built form in search for a critical and politically engaged role for the architect.