BA Unit 6 :: Somers Town Stories :: Tom Noonan and Yianni Kattirtzis

Image: Somers Town, Shane Meadows

Unit 6

Somers Town Stories


Tutors: Tom Noonan and Yianni Kattirtzis

There is a long history of architects looking to the cultures, traditions and ideas of other places and times to influence and inspire their work back home. In Unit 6, we pursue this tradition to find surprising narratives that may question the future of our cities and spaces.

We will look to other places, real and unreal narratives and stories to provide a launching pad for creative ideas and journeys that can culminate in fantastical, reactionary, mischievous and joyful architectures and environments. We will encourage you to develop a language and means of representation that is specific to your architecture. We see drawings as more than an instruction to build – they are the space to project your imagination and experiences. We will experiment with scale and craft, hybridised analogue and digital media, and model making, to allow the audience to experience the imagination of your architecture.

Somers Town Futures

This year our site is around Somers Town – a place at a turning point. With huge infrastructure projects and luxury housing planned over the next few years, we would like to explore how this important part of the city can retain and celebrate its identity, or create a new one?

We will research the site, its surrounding areas, its past, present and future to propose an architecture that defines the identity of this new part of the city. We will explore Somers Town, an area famous for its innovative social housing that is currently fighting for its identity in the wake of the station redevelopments.

We will also look into some of the buildings and spaces around the area to see what clues we can take, including Colin St John Wilson’s British Library, which was influenced in part by Aalto’s Saynatsalo Town Hall, which in turn was inspired by the Italian Renaissance’s courtyards and plazas.

Somers Town is a place of change, transition, connections, flux and energy. A place of rich industrial, infrastructural, cultural and social heritage. We will examine, harness and re-frame these past and present conditions to speculate and imagine a new future for the area that celebrates the vibrancy and life of this place.

The Projects

Following in the traditions of those who have re-imagined and speculated on the future of our urban environments, we will ask you to imagine your proposed architecture as a microcosm of a fantastical, curious and vibrant new city. You will create a public building for your new Somers Town.

Project 1 – The Fragment

You will seek out something from the site and its surroundings that inspires you. This could be a building, an idea, a book, a writer, an incident, a story, a film, an history, an artefact, a community, an environment.

The outcome of the search for the inspiration will be the design of a ‘fragment’ or ‘detail’ of your proposed architecture. This could be a threshold, a door, a window, chair, a monument, an artefact… Project 1 will provide you with a working method that informs the language and principles of the main building in Project 2.

Project 2 – The Building

2nd years will propose a building on the development site between the British Library and the Francis Crick Institute. It is currently being developed by developers Stanhope and architects RSHP as an extension to the British Library. We will ask you to re-imagine its future as a new ‘town hall’ for your community, and a catalyst for the future of the wider Somers Town and Euston area.

3rd years will build on investigations and research from Project 1 to develop an appropriately complex public building. This can be the same as the 2nd year site, or a site can be chosen that can support and enhance the proposed building programme.

Inspiring projects to look at:

  • Cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton by Étienne-Louis Boullée
  • Tetrahedron City Project by R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao
  • Parc de la Villette competition by OMA
  • Parc de la Villette by Bernard Tschumi Architects
  • New Babylon by Constant Anton Nieuwenhuys
  • Ville Radieuse by Le Corbusier
  • Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas
  • Broadacre by Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Archosanti/ Arcology by Paolo Scolari
  • Non- Stop City (artificial city) by Archizoom
  • Futurist City by Antonio Sant’Elia
  • Industrial City by Tony Granier
  • Walking City by Ron Herron
  • Plug-in City by Archigram
  • Instant City by Archigram
  • Narkomfin Building / Social Condenser by Moisei Ginzburg
  • Letchworth & Welwyn Garden City by Ebenezer Howard
  • Centricity by Lebbeus Woods
  • Drop City Various Artists
  • Fun Palace Cedric Price