MArch Unit 14 :: Paragons of Virtue :: Mike Aling & Eva Sommeregger – 2016/2017


Image: Queen’s Bedchamber ceiling in the Queen’s House, artist unknown.



“[It pleases one] to find the hospital for invalid seamen resemble a palace, and your majesty’s palace a hospital”.

– Peter the Great, on Greenwich



2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the Queens House at Greenwich. This small palace by Inigo Jones for Queen Anne had a huge impact: it was the first expression of the classical style of architecture in the UK. In light of the Queen’s House celebrations, Unit 14 will be investigating this very oldest of architectural typologies: the palace. We will explore notions of the palatial and palatiality in the 21st century, question its relevance, and speculate on its futures.

Time and again, architecture and art in Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries utilised the term ‘palace’ to define a construct and its spaces with very particular architectural qualities; from the public spectacle of Paxton’s Crystal Palace, to the personal microcosmic universes of Giacometti and the Postman Cheval, from the civic functionality of Prouve’s People’s Palace to the ludic machinery of Price’s Fun Palace. More recently however, the ‘palace’-as-speculative-architectural-project has gone out of favour, neither its intentional pomp or its knowing irony are seemingly in vogue. Unit 14 see this as a missed opportunity however, and will enthusiastically immerse themselves in palatiality. The palatial is not a programme as such, but is suggestive of a specific atmosphere with a healthy amount of architectural fantasy involved; although it is not lavish or exuberant by necessity, it is always an architecture that celebrates its incumbents, be it a single occupant or an entire constituency. The internal workings of palaces can also often be read as idealised societal models: as paragons of virtue.


Unit 14 are interested in the processes of modeling and the outputting of models. With the increasing pervasion of BIM in architectural practice, we have witnessed a very definite shift from drawing to modelling as the principle design process in the profession; Translations from Modelling to Building (following Robin Evans). Unit 14 are interesting in worldbuilding – imaginary projects and their sites developed as thought experiments – that are generated, tested and resolved through modeling.

We do not preference the physical over the digital, or vice versa. We are interested in both: new and emerging digital modeling processes, alongside the opportunities afforded to physical models from new technologies. We encourage hybridisations that shift across these two territories, and into others. Equally, the unit aims to open up the discussion on modeling beyond known architectural procedures, and looks to explore both scientific/mathematical models and conceptual/philosophical models of thought, both as ways of understanding the world, and as devices to aid speculative work. We are very interested in how New media and New Technologies can inform and progress modelling as a practice, and have a particular interest in 4-dimensional modelling that operates in environments of constant change, fluctuation and uncertainty.


With the Queen’s House anniversary as a springboard, Year 1 students will be asked to develop small contemporary ‘palaces’ that aim to have far wider ‘reach’ than their physicality assumes (for example, reaching across socio-political, economic, stylistic, and virtual spectrums etc). The site will be on the fringes of the Greenwich World Heritage Site, and the proposal will forge close relationships with the different (past, present and future) architectures, landscapes and axes across the site.

Year 2 students will develop their own agendas in discussion with the unit tutors.