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Oxford Brookes Architecture Graduate Show

Image: Uieong To - Proposal for the Venetian Replica Paintings Centre

Image: Uieong To - Proposal for the Venetian Replica Paintings Centre
Image: Andrew Longland - On Nostalgic Escapism

Image: Andrew Longland - On Nostalgic Escapism

12 June 2011
by Alex Maxwell

Arriving at the opening of Oxford Brooke’s degree show, Kathryn Findlay, former Ushida Findlay partner and external examiner, praised the lack of an overarching style within the the architecture department, and the tutors for not imposing one on their students, instead nurturing a multitude of ideas and themes.


A walk around the drab King’s Centre proves this lack of unity has spilled through into the exhibition design, with each of the units’ work displayed with varying success on a sometimes conflicting array of structures and plinths.  Its obvious some high concept ideas have been attempted, but the lack of time, funds and, sometimes, effort after a long year makes it difficult to take in the whole show in one bite. It’s a bit of a shame as much of the work from his years students deserves to be celebrated, with some brave and exiting schemes coming from both Post- and Undergraduate units.


The BA exhibition includes a large number of good quality projects, with some beautifully executed drawings and models. It is the models that stand out best, as with the lack of space afforded to each unit, viewing the drawings can be difficult.


One display that stands alone in clarity and design is Christian Spendier's pavilion which was built for TRADA at this year's Ecobuild . It displays the other students entries, most well-crafted schemes echewing the parametric trends for more crafted approaches.


Uieong To, working in the Celebratory Spaces studio, is a celebration of St Mark's Square and Venetian art. His lush and fanciful proposal for the Venetian Replica Paintings Centre was a standout piece of work. His proposal animates the public square regardless of its flooded condition. Cannibalising the Procuratie Vecchie building, it provides space for Chinese artists to produce Venetian replicas, before the paintings 'fly' out of the building to create an ephemeral city-wide exhibition. His drawings are beautifully crafted.


The Diploma units are generally more relaxed and refined in display, one group choosing to exhibit some well made chairs, providing a centrepiece to work which ranges from delicate ceremonial centres for cremation to the now obligatory post-apocolyptical speculations.


Yuting Cheng, student in the Placenomics studio, was a double prize winner for her moody and atmospheric drawings of her 'Pawnshop Cinema' project. Cheng responds to a number of trends including growing unemployment, accelerating super diversity, economic downturn and income differentials, offering a complex scheme in the Cowley area of Oxford. An intriguing camera obscura facade, providing privacy during the day, uses a nearby church at night to entice and delight occupants of the Pawnshop.


A colonnade of plinths at the rear of the space was given over to Postgraduate theses, the most arresting that of Andrew Longland and his investigation ‘On Nostalgic Escapism’. An exploration on defining Nostalgic Architecture precludes an analysis of St Pancras station and Oxford boot makers Ducker+Son. The trans-disciplinary methods of this design-research saw Longland create a remarkable pair of boots, combining Victorian flair and methods with modern details, which partner the admirably designed books very elegantly.


With a healthy dose of live projects and smart, contextual work, the overall impression from a trip round the busy King's Centre was of an understanding that architectural design at university level is as much a response to what goes on outside the studio as inside.


The Oxford Brookes End of Year Show is on at the King’s Centre, Oxford until 17 June. Various Units will be on show in London afterwards, for full details click here.