10 July 2011
by Alex Maxwell
A gaggle of languages, faces and foreign coaches clog up the pavement outside Madame Tussauds. Each of them waiting to catch a glimpse of glitzy Kylie and forthright Churchill. Across the road in Westminster's Department of Architecture, a similar contradiction is being played out amongst the work of the Diploma Studios.
This is a generally strong show, demanding your time and attention across two floors. It’s unsurprising to note that the sole Para-squiggle unit bases its interests (Flux! Nexus!) in a near-future Seoul. Although mostly rejected in Europe, the trend shows no sign of slowing in the Gulf states and South-East Asia. If it continues, the next few years hold some dreary, if complex, schemes.
In stark contrast was DS11, easily the most contextual and dogmatic unit, which provided some well researched schemes. Based in Ghent and Antwerp, there were various sumptuous projects that tapped into the famous textile history of the latter city.
Meanwhile, Henrietta Griffiths incredibly detailed imagining of William Burroughs' 'Interzone' demands your attention as you discover all the minutiae. Her project, [Eroding] Seaside Arcadia, grafts Interzone on to the Dorset coast in a 'extreme exploration of the seaside holiday park typology. Coastal erosion and flooding act as conditions to a bizarre architectural language, born of chess pieces, Brutalism and crazy golf.
Flanking the opening nights bar were two large camera booms, introducing Studio DS17 explorations of the connections between film and architecture. It is a shame that little emphasis was given to the films produced by students, with more importance given to model-making. Saying that, there were a number of interesting projects on show, such as Jessica Daly's 'Kids Cube'. Instantly noteworthy because of its primitive illustrations and bold colour palette, it is unashamedly naive presentation masks a well thought out community scheme that confronts child poverty in Newham. In the same studio, Anna Hanson presented the Juice Boat Lift. Using a series of seemingly Heath Robinson-esque drawings, the juice production facility revolves around a boat lift and integrated gravitational system allowing freshly extracted juice to flow through the production stages.
The undergraduates had some interesting and entertaining work on show. It is an underused tactic, but showing off experimental work, such as the first years array of conjoined and dismembered chairs works as an antidote to the monotony that can build up across shows. Georgia Follet's framed drawing of perma-scaffold interventions in ruined buildings also stood out.