LSA summer show 2017: First set of graduates hint at new institution’s future direction 28.07.17

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Working in borrowed spaces across the capital, London School of Architecture students focus on the continual transformation of the city centre and its infrastructure

In 2012, Will Hunter made headlines for writing an article in which he argued for a new school of architecture. Essentially, Hunter believes that the current architecture education is out dated, its ‘often ossified structure [doesn’t] allow enough flexibility to respond to the speed and scale of the changes in the outside world’. The solution, he believes, lies in redesigning the architecture of the learning environment – Hunter proposed a school that merged studio and practice, ultimately providing students with a quality, cost-neutral education.

Fast-forward to 2017: with the support of numerous successful British architects, such as Nigel Coates, Deborah Saunt and Farshid Moussavi, Hunter established the London School of Architecture, which presented its first class of graduates. At present, the LSA has about 30 students – Hunter aims for a maximum of 40, so as to give them each an individualised experience. In addition, the school’s postgraduate programme is linked to a network of practices throughout London, which employ students for three days a week for a minimum of £12,000 a year to cover their school fees.

But besides immersing students in the professional world before they obtain their diplomas, the LSA’s lack of campus results in a profound relationship between the students and the city. Classes are held in borrowed spaces, exposing students to the multiplicity of London’s neighbourhoods. This proximity to the urban environment becomes visible in the students’ work – some of their projects occur at a scale halfway between architecture and urban design, physically relating their ideas to the broader area in which the projects are located. Raphael Arthur’s Civic Tithe, for example, imagines a colourful framework extending from Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Circus stations and connecting together the underused upper floors of Oxford Street.

Despite the attention surrounding the expansion of outer London, the LSA stresses the importance of focusing on the city centre’s on-going transformation. The curriculum asked this group of students to respond to Soho’s evolution, envisioning projects that challenge the role of infrastructure and rethink urban development. Architecture, as people often forget, goes beyond creating – sometimes architecture is about re-adapting what is already built. Phelan Heinsohn’s Continuous Circulation perfectly illustrates this concept – his project only modifies the interior of the buildings, adding internal pathways to increase connectivity within a block.

Students also aspire to social goals, broadening the purpose of their projects to invent new ways of living. Between Alex Frehse’s Halfway Homes and Fiona Stewart’s Grey Matters, they look to address the needs of populations that often find themselves neglected. This can be seen as a metaphor for architecture in general – as evidenced by London’s growth, architects are perpetually drawn towards novelty, disregarding the possibilities of what already exists. But perhaps, as the LSA students suggest, progress means questioning the future as much as the past.

The founding principles of the LSA are quite revolutionary – but as with all pioneering ideas, only time will prove whether or not it is successful. It is difficult to assess the school based on a single class of graduates, but the simple fact that the school grew from one article to a recognised institution in the span of five years is incredible in itself. And although most schools will not entirely abandon their current educational methods, the LSA might inspire them to replicate some of its ideas in an attempt to achieve similar symbiosis between academia and practice, or students and urban environment.



Emma Le Leslé


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