Lots of the published architecture which we see online or in books and magazines present finished buildings through carefully staged photographs alongside rough ‘back of a napkin’ sketches of the concept design. This common juxtaposition suggests a misleadingly effortless design process from conception to realisation which is a fallacy the designers themselves are keen to maintain. All of the time and effort spent prototyping, testing, evaluating and redesigning is often forgotten or hidden away by the time a building is complete. However the amount of hard graft during the design process is often the critical factor in determining whether or not a building is ultimately successful.
A thorough design process is iterative, non-linear and can involve lots of false starts and dead ends along the way to a well considered and resolved end result. This year Unit 7 will be celebrating the false starts and dead ends to establish a critical and evolutionary design process based on the following perpetually repeating steps:
Step 1: Making
- An explosion of unbridled creativity
- Working quickly and intuitively to test lots of quick ideas
- Not being precious or neat as long as the work communicates the ideas successfully
- Not worrying about making mistakes
Step 2: Unmaking
- Taking a step back to evaluate what you’ve done
- Unpicking, amalgamating, fragmenting, editing,
- Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the design options against a predetermined criteria
Step 3: Remaking
- Embarking on a new generation of design options which have learned from the previous set
- Using more refined methods of model making and drawing
- Working with a greater level of technical detail and sense of materiality
As well as taking an evolutionary approach to the design process, students will also be asked to design buildings which themselves evolve over a specific time period in response to the particular qualities of their site’s context.
Project 1: Designing on the fly
To celebrate the return to in-person teaching, Unit 7 will begin the year with an intensive model making workshop in which students will be asked to make seven prototype models in seven days in the studio. These models will be informed by your analysis of an unusual physical object you have found in a London museum and will closely follow an prescribed list of model making tasks which will be issued at the beginning of the week. The interesting aspects which emerge from this exercise will go onto to inform the contents, character and materiality of one of the key internal spaces or objects which will be contained within your final building.
By the end of the first term, you will aim to build a sophisticated model of one of the key space or objects within your final building in addition to selecting a site and a programme and defining your key design drivers and research methods which will carry you through to the end of the year.
Project 2: Buildings that learn
Having developed an interesting prototype for an intimate internal space or object, you will transfer your attention to The Isle of Dogs, which will be the site for this year’s building projects. You will explore the site in consideration of your established design drivers and find a suitable home for your prototype. You will slowly expand your prototype in consideration of the site surroundings and use iterative and evolutionary design methods to slowly develop a complex building project which retains the delicate qualities of your initial object investigations.