Unit 2 addresses urban and architectural conditions in locations undergoing critical change and over the years, has worked in North Africa, Scandinavia, East London and other places in Europe.

Through a combination of research and creative practice, we propose interventions, which respond to urban challenges and introduce elements of cultural and imaginative vigour. The Unit explores extremes of interrelated scales, from urban geographies through to building and detail qualities. In this process, student's strategies and building designs formulate responsiveness to global contexts, site conditions, understanding of scales, architectural sensibilities, as well as structure and materiality, to create social, spatial and timebased habitats and environments.


Excavation Shelter, Nazanin Aghlani 2012-13

"Cityspace... our performance as spatial beings takes place at many different scales, from the body, or what the poet Adrienne Rich once called ‘the geography closest in‘, to a whole series of more distant geographies ranging from rooms and buildings, homes and neighbourhoods, to cities and regions, states and nations, and ultimately the whole earth - the human geography furthest out." Ed Soja (2000)
Throughout the academic year, students use diverse design methodologies and develop skills, knowledge, intuition and judgement. Working collaboratively and individually in various locations and scales, the Unit builds an ability to engage in complex design discourses. In this process we use drawings, models, photography, film and other architectural media.

At the beginning of each academic year, students engage in a research exercise, to understand architectural ways of thinking and designing. Furthermore, students familiarise themselves with the teaching and learning environment of the course. For example, we walk in urban environments, visit places or experiment with drawings and models beyond mere representation, also as a means to develop designs.

For the main architectural project, each student is responsible for finding a site and identifying inherent qualities and potentials. At the heart of this analytical and creative process are individual briefs, programmes and spatial propositions which address urban, building and detail scales. Students are encouraged to use additional architecture related disciplines such as urban and landscape design as well as art, sociology and engineering.

In a search for qualities, fast and slow means of exploration support an understanding of a more holistic project scope, contextual relevance, economy of means, as well as crafted project finesse. For example, fast means of exploration are like the wisdom of spoken words and slow means of exploration are like living in a familiar place. The methodologies guide the design work through its various stages of researching, representing, testing and refining.

Towards the end of the academic year, we focus on sited buildings, by invigorating existing and imagining new, creating schemes that are both, sustainable and enjoyable.


"The neatness of architecture is its seduction; it defines, excludes, limits separates from the ‘rest‘ - but it also consumes. It exploits and exhausts the potentials that can be generated finally only by urbanism, and that only the specific imagination of urbanism can invent and renew." Rem Koolhaas (1995)

Notions

Cityness - Cities are our critical starting ground and ongoing territory. Cityness is hereby a form of being together and it is expressed in a matrix of cultural, social, spatial, environmental and time-based layers. By sharing space and spatial habit, it is more than the sum of its parts.

Technique - to be able to understand, link and connect parts and factors together. It is methodology and craft of both, the physical, technical and environmental propositions, as well as judgment and articulation of integrative programmes and cultures in social environments.

Process - considering imagination and realisation, process refers to both the practice of designing as an architect and the subject of study itself. On one side, the way of doing things is hereby directly connected to what we do. On the other side, cities and human environments are susceptible to different temporal modes and change.

2014-15

Between Time

This year, our design projects will focus on the environments of two parallel roads leading into Rome, the old Via Appia Antica and the newer Via Appia Nuova. The two different roads have unique and contrasting contexts, from ancient landscapes to intense urban life. Within these existing qualities, there are also conditions of spatial separation and social inequality, opening opportunities for a more unique and synergetic urban life.

The guiding theme of this year is Between Time. This refers to the diverse research area that spans over 2300 years of history, with a potential to mediate between old and new. Furthermore, we will explore architectural interventions that respond to more timeless qualities of space and civic engagement. We aim at designing architecture that is in every moment carefully present and alive.

For further information, please go to www.unit2-2014-15.blogspot.com

2013-14

Context City

This year, our design investigations and projects will focus on deprived neighbourhoods around the City of London. We will explore strategic and architectural potentials within an ongoing process of urban transformations.

The guiding theme of this year is Context City. This refers to both, the location next to the City of London and architectural interventions that critically engage in social and spatial urban contexts. We will explore ways in which sharing and living together can be part of a unique and synergetic urban life.

For further studies and inspirations, we will visit the city of Berlin in Germany, in the beginning of November.

For more information please go to www.unit2-2013-14.blogspot.com


Bishopsgate Goods Yard Framework Plan, Tom Green 2013-14

2012-13

Synoikismos

Our design investigations and projects focused on key central neighbourhoods of Athens in Greece. We explored strategic and architectural potentials within a critical process of change.

The guiding theme of the year was Synoikismos. 'Oikos' literally means house. As such, Synoikismos is used to describe synergetic household conditions of sharing and living together, applicable to buildings, neighbourhoods, cities and larger urban systems.

For further information please go to www.unit2-2012-13.blogspot.com

2011-12

Open Land

This year Unit 2 will focus on the theme of Open Land, exploring ways in which architectural interventions can mediate between urban contexts and diverse landscape conditions. The main sites of interest and student projects will be located along Open Land in East London, stretching from the Lea Valley to Barking Creek.

As a preparation for the main project, we will make the East London Planning Atlas, in collaboration with other academia and practice.

For further studies and inspiration, we will visit the city of Barcelona in Spain and a recent architectual scheme in Cambridge.

For further information please go to www.unit2-2011-12.blogspot.com





Chain of Sites in East London by Michalis Christodolou, 2012-13

2010-11

Shared Topography

This year, Unit 2 will focus on the city of Bergen. It is located on the west coast of Norway, where archipelagos and Fjords form a unique landscape of islands and waterways.

We will carefully explore diverse existing spatial practices and topographical conditions, to develop responsive and imaginative proposals. Within this process, students will explore ways in which sharing and living together can be part of a unique and synergetic urban life.

A range of sites around the inner part of Bergen capture a diversity of urban dynamics and topographical conditions, by opening new and invigorating opportunities for the city. Each student will work on one of the sites, by addressing three important topographical scales. The unique setting of Bergen allows a particular understanding of the city, as a collective and formal entity. Furthermore, communities, neighbourhoods and streetscapes demand a careful exploration of their relationship to one another and to themselves. On the scale of immediate sites, the work will address both the way buildings meet the ground and the potential to form their own topography.

For further studies and inspiration, we will visit the Portuguese island of Madeira.

For further information please visit www.unit2-2010-11.blogspot.com

2009-10

Un-Common City

This year, our design investigation will focus on the city of Marrakech in Morocco. The unit will engage in this North-African city, as an uncommon territory and culture that is undergoing critical change. We will carefully explore diverse existing spatial practices, to develop responsive and imaginative proposals. Within this process, the unit will explore ways in which conditions of urban inhabitation and communal spaces can be part of synergetic urban life.

Uncommon

To prepare for uncommon spatial conditions and to introduce unit specific methodologies, we will explore diverse cases of vernacular architecture, described in Bernard Rudofsky’s book Architecture without Architects. By extracting key architectural qualities, this will serve as a source of inspiration for a small design exercise of an Urban Room, where sharing and living together demands unusual spatial solutions.

Common

In Marrakech, the unit will focus on three major sites, which capture the diversity of recent urban dynamics. The first site focuses on the Tannery community in the east of the Medina. This part of the city is a close knit meshwork of alleyways and partly neglected courtyard houses.
The second site is in the north of the city. Here diverse hybrids between European planning and North African urban cultures are rapidly expanding, opening questions of sustainability and demanding unusual responses.
The third site is in the south east of the city. Here the city has been extended with fairly loose planning frameworks in a self build manner. These areas resemble the density of the medina, but not their quality.

For further information, please visit www.unit2-2009-10.blogspot.com


Palmeraie Working Edge by Daniel Rees, 2010

2008-09

Urban Works

This year, we will explore ways in which conditions of work and inhabitation can be re-established as an integral and synergetic part of urban life. We will look at diverse modes of spatial and social behaviour to be able to develop skills, intuition and judgement, for a vigorous, yet crafted culture of place. The way of designing is hereby directly related to what we do.

Our context, East London and the Thames Gateway, is part of some of the largest urban restructuring processes in Europe. The urban region bears ongoing traces of ship yards, containerisation, industry, global financial markets, housing, dereliction and speculation.Located within East London’s Lea Valley, the particular site of interest is an industrial island within a topographical and urban archipelago. Streams of water and transportation, as well as highly deprived communities form a demanding context. Subject to a particular grain of industrial buildings and intricate yards, the site is in parts a conservation area, a conglomeration of used and disused spaces. Tracing the site and acknowledging an ongoing re-industrialisation process opens the scope for diverse scenarios.

To gain inspiration and a measure of urbanism, we will research particular conditions of cityness in Shoreditch/ London, Venice and the Netherlands.

The site and its context, as well as guiding research will set the tone for distinct strategic interventions in a range of scales, from urban through to building qualities and their immanent details. Using urban design methodology, the projects will focus on sited buildings, by invigorating existing and imagining new, to create schemes that are both, sustainable and enjoyable.

For further information, please visit www.unit2-2008-09.blogspot.com

2007-08

Room for Change

We will explore ways in which places of inhabitation are seen as the grain of a city, and look at how they can be reestablished as an integral part of city life. The Unit will work on projects in Soho and Canning Town/ Beckton.

‘While it is natural and necessary for architects to concentrate on the building itself, the bright light of this often eclipses the surrounding world, darkening the very horizon that grants the building its standing. Anyone who stops to think about it knows perfectly well that individual settings are always interconnected with and dependent on a horizon that transcends them, sewn into a fabric of rooms, buildings, streets, towns, and nature, ….’
From Uncommon Ground by David Leatherbarrow

Recalling first exercises and interrogating a 1 ha pilot project framework, we will explore and define our individual briefs for this main project, a brief for inhabiting cities. As cities are places of different speeds and perpetual change, we will investigate in these conditions with Room for Change. Located in Canning Town/ Beckton, it will be a physical articulation of dayly, seasonal or long-term transformations, informed by...

agriculture, children, climate, communities, components, culture, decisions, details, densities, diversities, economies, frameworks, households, imaginations, improvisations, income, infrastructures, location, materials, needs, place, pleasures, principles, strategies, structures, tools, typologies, weather ...

The propositional process implies, analysis, personal interests, experimentations, interpretations and intuition, to make coherent places at the scale of a room, dwelling, street, neighbourhood and city.