Reading School of Architecture, End of Year Show

Reading School of Architecture, End of Year Show

Last week ‘Collaborations’ opened; the Reading School of Architectural at Reading University end of year show for students both in BSc Architecture and the Masters of Architecture course.

The exhibition is really worth a visit and I am enormously proud of the high level of work the students deliver, particularly considering the challenges they have faced over the past few years. The exhibition this year has especially felt like a moment to celebrate, as this was the first physical show we have been able to put on for two years.

For me personally the end of year show is such a rewarding moment, to see how far the students I have taught and mentored have come, and what outstanding work they can create. As I have been teaching at Reading for five years, I have worked with the vast majority of those exhibiting at some stage in their studies. As I have discussed before, in a previously Why Teaching Matters blog post teaching is something that is so important to me and moments like this really do make it all worthwhile.

The exhibition runs until the 18th June, between 10am – 4pm at The Old Library L46, London Road Campus, University of Reading, RG1 5AQ

MESH Energy Panel Discussion

Challenges to retrofitting the UK housing stock

I was invited to join the panel of experts for the recent MESH Energy discussion, looking at the challenges we are all facing when retrofitting the UK housing stock. The aim of the session was to understand how we could adapt the current housing stock in the UK, to tackle the fuel crisis and to reach the critical net-zero targets.

There were some interesting questions, including: What role do you think architects have when it comes to retrofitting the UK housing stock in light of the fuel crisis? Can you explain the difficulties when considering embodied carbon in retrofitting of buildings? We know retrofitting can provide an influx of new jobs, but how can we bridge the skill gap? If you were in change of the political retrofit, what would you priorities?

I was joined by three brilliant experts, each at the forefront of their specific area of the sustainable sector, so it was a great discussion to have with some interesting input from each person.

  • Graham Hendra, an independent heat pump consultant with over a decade in the renewables sector specialising in air to water heat pumps.
  • Jenny Wallace, Operations Director at MESH Energy, with over a decade of practical experience in the energy industry consultancy.
  • Graham Lock, founder of Low Carbon Homes a nationwide independent retrofit network.

The discussion was hosted on MESHWorks, the free community hub that brings together sustainably conscious members across the design, architecture, built environment. If this is an area of interest to you it is well worth looking into, details can be found here. 

MESH Energy are independent building performance consultants who I have had the pleasure of working with them on multiple projects, most recently when looking at sustainable energy solutions for St Margaret’s Church refurbishment. It was a privilege to be asked to be part of this event, as it is such an important topic and so central to Studio BAD’s company ethos of reuse.

The watch can be viewed here. 

Reading University lecture

We were delighted to be invited by Reading University Architecture Society to deliver a lecture in their 2022 lecture series titled ” REFORMATION REQUIRES” which we gave last night; after so long presenting lectures across zoom it was a delight to be back talking to a real audience.

For the lecture I focused on our most recent community and public realm work, to highlight how architecture can be a vehicle for positive social change. This is an area which all of us at Studio BAD are really passionate about, in many ways it is a key pillar of the company and the reason I set up the business as I wanted to focus on this area of work.

We strongly believe in re-using what is existing, creatively engaging architecture to re-imagine the potential of a building, or a site, to make it fit the current needs. For example, St Margaret’s Church building had been condemned and likely set for demolition, through our work we have delivered a vibrant space for the whole community which is activated throughout the day and week with much needed services, such as a food bank, café, child’s play area and bicycle workshop. We touched the building lightly, only making physically alterations where vitally needed, such as the flooring where we replaced the wooden floor (which we sold, to help fund the works) and replaced with poured concrete, to work with the newly installed, zoned underfloor heating.

Architecture in the 21st century does not have to be just about a physical building, I believe many projects need architecture in a different which is not necessarily just about the bricks and mortar buildings. We have recently been working on projects that focus on reactivating the traditional high street; with these projects we interrogate how we can change the dynamic of the streets to create vibrant and engaging spaces. In Bedford Place, in Southampton, our project was a result of the community needs in the wake of covid, answering how to activate and reanimate the area to create opportunities off the back of temporary road closures. It has been a real pleasure to see the success of the scheme, now nearly two years later much of the scheme is still in place and the local council are looking to make it permanent. We are currently looking at similar reactivation projects in Gosport, Eastleigh and other areas of Southampton.

We truly believe Architecture can creatively problem solve many of the issues we are currently facing; without ego architecture can be immensely powerful, helping to reactive our cities, reduce waste, reduce carbon and deliver richer, long lasting and interesting projects.

 

 

Interior Architecture Brighton Awards 2021

Studio B.A.D were proud to sponsor an award,  for the third consecutive year, and be an active part of the judging panel at the famed INTERIOR  ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL led by the hugely inspirational Gemma Barton. Gemma has been collaborating with Studio B.A.D on our Bedford Place Tactical Urbanism project.  We, as a collective, are always keen to support, and promote the next generation of designers, it is an important aspect of the practice’s ethos. The ‘Studio B.A.D + Chora Award’ recognises Interior Architecture graduating students for narrative and storytelling, through excellence in drawing and representation.

The entries for this year were of a very high level, with some very inspiring and through provoking designs ideas. We commend all the shortlisted nominations; it was a difficult decision to select just two winners in this category.

First prize was awarded to Matilda Swift-Bernard for her ‘Extinction Rebellion HQ’ project.

Darren Bray commented ‘A wonderful revolutionary project, very much rooted in the now, with a quite beautiful narrative of how two environmental activists come together for form an amazing partnership and alliance to do good in the world, responding to the pressures of climate change. A gorgeous heady mixture of powerful storey telling through rigorous tectonic architecture, some beautifully sensitive representation showing the quite wonderful bird bath structure. The reuse of plastic in a reimagined innovative new construction material in the atmospheric subterranean world is both ingenious and a real spectacle. There are so many layers to this thoroughly well considered project. Matilda is to be congratulated for such energy and inventiveness!’

Second prize was awarded to Iona Hepworth for her ‘The Mussel Club’ project.

Darren Bray commented ‘The Mussel club is quite majestic in its concept and incredibly strong entrepreneurial narrative. The idea of working with water and the way in which this is harnessed for the process of mussel farming is delivered with real passion and rigor. The beautiful iterative platform drawings are reminiscent of Matisse’s abstract cut outs and give a real glimpse and flavor of how one would use and interact with such a space, with some powerful sensory moments, especially those demonstrated through the atmospheric film. There are some quite wonderful representation technique’s employed where the sections show both the tectonic qualities of the existing structure but also the sensitivity nature of the water collection fabric. Iona has created a wonderful world of sensory overload, which beautifully represented.’

The Business of Listening, discussion record with Business of Architecture.

Click here to listen to my full discussion with Rion Willard, from the Business of Architecture, about the ‘Business of Listening’, a topic I deeply believe in.

It is an area of architecture that I find more relevant and important than ever before, our conversation covers my approach to clients, being a teacher, setting up Studio B.A.D and how I see the role of architects in the 21st century.

Traditionally I feel architects have had a tendance to ‘know’ the solution right from the start but I believe we need to stand back, listen to what a project or client really needs and gaining the trust from the client. This in turn can give us permission as designers to be bold in our approach and our process, it also helps to get clients truly engaged with the process.

Our project at St Margaret’s church is a clear case when listening has been vital in unlocking the potential of the building and what it can offer the community. I think our clients on this project initially found it unnerving when we wanted to take time to listen, as they had expected their architects to come with a solution. We stood back and reflected on what we saw, not just with the physical building but also the community needs. By going through this process, the project has become richer. We were able to persuade the church to reopen the beautiful old church (previously condemned) and discover what the community really needed, since this exercise they have opened a café, a drop in area and second hand shop within the church. By not rushing the solution, this has given up the ability to go deep, aligning our design ideas with the business case of the client and giving solutions that work long term, our solutions for the church have future proofed an unidentified business stream for the church.

The piece around listening and communication is so important. As architects I feel we can’t be passive in all of this, we need to be thinking about the future and the impact our work will have, most importantly how we can have a positive influence. I believe we don’t have to always wait for the brief, we can communicate ideas out. For example, Studio BAD try to only work with existing buildings, pushing the idea of refurbishment and repurpose rather than new build, this stance has given potential clients alternative solutions that they might not have even thought of before.

By adopting this process of being a listener we are able to be influenced by cultural changes, it doesn’t always have to be about a physical change and designing a building, but as architects we can still have positive impact on our communities by working more in a curator role. Working on feasibilities can unlock potentials of buildings and businesses, I feel as a practice we can bring together people from different backgrounds to creating a richer discussion.

The importance of listening is not just relevant in the private sector, it is also critical to my teaching work. I have to really listen to students, learn who they are as people, their background, what interests them. By really listening I start to know what can unlock their potential, but one approach does not work for them all.

I can’t define what a career in architecture looks like now, I feel we should be more flexible on how we see ourselves, being more part of the conversation for positive change rather than just concentrating on the traditional architectural role. Students studying architecture now could go on to be an architect, or work for a developer, or be a developer, or set designer, architecture can be the bedrock for many other disciplines. By being more flexible on where an architectural degree can take you, I believe it takes the pressure off the need to complete all parts of the degree (which doesn’t suit all), helping to redefine what architecture is in the 21st century.

Why teaching matters to me, by Darren Bray

‘I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.’ –Albert Einstein

 

Since becoming a fully qualified architect I have always kept myself involved with academia, through part time teaching, reviewing exam work and acting as a visiting lecturer at various universities. The more academic work I have been involved with the more I have realized that teaching is important to me, it is part of who I am and what I do and has a positive influence on the evolution of Studio BAD.

Part of the reason I love teaching is that it invigorates me. Students often have a seemingly naïve or fresh way of approaching problems that keeps me from getting stuck into an architectural rut. They also challenge me to be better, to teach better, to design better, as they are not easily impressed by my work experience they do not just accept my word but want proof. I find that by having to justify my ideas and views it makes me think harder.

I feel lucky that my teaching work makes my outlook more current, in this academic world of theory I am exposed to people who would normally be outside my natural sphere of the practice and we all bring different ideas together. In this space theories are explored, this is a luxury many small practices do not normally have the ability to do, often the time spent on the practicalities of running a small practice take over from the time we should really dedicate to critical thinking.

As cliché as it sounds I do also really like giving back, teaching allows me to do that. I am hugely aware of the positive impact my teachers had on me, they helped shape me to become what I am today and I do believe that without their belief in me pushing me forward I would not be a successful architect now. If I can pass this positive impact onto just one of my students then I will feel I have succeeded.