Master Project

The Master Project, which is open for Diploma and MA students, is a design project run over the course of a semester. The project, framed within a thematic investigation, is carried out in small groups, each contributing to a wider group study of a given situation and project. A specific neighbourhood or context is chosen in a European city within which students act on a variety of sites.

The main design engages with three overall themes: programme - examining arrangements of use and the spatial potential in the plan, type - exploring how type informs use and affects our experience and construction – seeking a rigorous and conceptual understanding of construction.

Underlying these themes is an interest in atmosphere in relation to experience and adjustment in relation to place. In the last two years emphasis has been given in the teaching to the programmatic theme of spatial planning and then to building type or typology. This year we are focusing on construction.

When we refer to construction we do so as both an artistic and practical endeavour. We encourage construction ideas which, through their strategy and detail, reinforce the idea of the building, the space within and the space between. We expect a practical understanding and an appropriate respect for structure and material. What we seek overall is an expression of an appropriate character, atmosphere and presence through the physicality of construction. Our interest is in the relationships between building, place and use. We therefore prioritise a phenomenological approach to the study of this theme which is analytical but based upon ideas and concepts rather than rules and dogma.

WS 21/22 – Master Project Inside the block
Living 'rooms' in Munich

In the Studio’s continuing research to explore the sustainability of the European City and to seek definitions for a sustainable architecture for an unknown future, we now divert our gaze ‘inside the block’ to the inner spaces of the urban blocks that define so many cities including Munich. They offer good potential for an intensification of use and inhabitation while minimising the need for an expansion of the city or its infrastructure. While inner city blocks provide opportunities, they also require a sensitive approach addressing privacy and daylight and to the cultural aspects of residents’ expectations. Projects located within the block are often distanced or invisible from the street, as only a limited facade expression is possible in relation to their scale. Accessed through passageways or courtyards these projects unfold to reveal their scale and it is only from the inside that they can be fully perceived. The interior elevations are often the primary public face of the project. They are primarily experienced as ‘inner worlds’ and it is interesting to consider what this means for their architectural identity.

What would the expression be of these structures? Would they be considered as long-term structures or short-term installations that land lightly on the ground and can be removed or relocated easily? How do we achieve density and proximity while also bringing dignity and the comfort of distance to day to day living? Can we find qualities from the restrictions imposed upon these spaces, governed by building codes protecting rights for light and air?

Within this exploration the consideration of the ‘room’ becomes paramount. How to bring about a sense of generosity despite close proximity and density. The proportion, scale and interconnectivity of rooms can be a defining aspect of these inner structures. Palladio’s villa plans show an artful combination of rooms of different sizes within a rigidly rectangular plan. In his Quatro Libri he wrote that “there should be large, medium-sized and small rooms, one side by side with the next, so that they can be mutually useful.” We can learn from this discipline of working with rooms of related proportion and spatial coherence to offer both a transforming scale to the inner block and a flexible long term use.

This semester therefore we shall explore how a residential development could be organized within a deep urban block. We wish to propose scenarios that offer characterful daylight and special moments of communal engagement. Our motivation is to create a collection of fine rooms and interior spaces that invite rather than prescribe use. We shall consider the interfaces between the very public character of urban space and the more private domestic space. The role of a courtyard or multiple courtyards, stairways and landings act as catalysts around which a community may thrive. Our task is to offer insights into how to make architecture that is dignified and humane in scale, rooted in place and metropolitan in character, based on an economy of means and an economy of energy, prepared for an unknown future, while at the same time confident with a powerful presence.

Stephen Bates and Bruno Krucker, September 2021
Inside the block Sites in Munich


WS 21/22
Inside the block – Semester brief

Semester Introduction

Introduction Exercise one

Introduction Exercise two

Introduction Exercise three

Introduction Exercise four

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