Welcome Week: Introducing the Circular Economy in Week One:
Brighton has always been a city with a green agenda and this is something we take seriously within the course. Sustainability has many manifestations in architecture. In the past few years there has been a shift of concern from operational energy; how much energy a building uses, largely resolved by improving the thermal performance of a building, to consider embodied energy; the resources/energy that go into the materials and construction of the building. You may have realised that the two have a complicated relationship, the more insulation used for example to reduce heat loss, the more energy needed to make that insulation, and a balance needs to be achieved between the two.
As designers in the 21st Century we need to think about the city as a material resource. How can we reduce the quantity of materials needed (material efficiency and how this is processed), re-use ‘waste’ or discarded materials from existing buildings and recycle what might be left and keep it away from landfill. We must design and operate within a circular economy.
It is important to consider and respond as designers to the climate crisis, and we start thinking about buildings as a material resource in Welcome Week. New students are asked to make a model of their home that can be de-constructed and re-constructed. The models become a material resource for re-use, a first experience in designing for deconstruction. Models from this early task can be seen below.
Module: Experiencing Architecture – Living with your design decisions
When our first-year students arrive at Brighton, they bring a personal history; a wealth of experience; of being in buildings, of having lived amongst other peoples’ architectural decisions. Positive or negative these experiences have informed their understanding of the urban world, and their expectations of the built environment, and the way they will think about designing the world anew and although students’ lives have been spent amongst the constructed world it is rare for a new student to have recognised and critically considered the value of their own experience through the lens of architecture.
We start, in the first term, isolating spatial experience, this year in each students’ newly occupied home in Brighton. Students build a life size (1:1 scale) installation in a room in their house, and spend the subsequent weeks, amending, refining, and living amongst their design proposal. It is rare as designers that we live with the decision decisions we make but ultimately, we design for occupancy and need to keep this in mind.
This project offers an introduction to design as an explorative and iterative process, we adopt a ‘fail better’ strategy – making and making again, adjusting, altering, sometimes with a specific aim, often with serendipitous discovery along the way. We ask students to shape their immediate environment, sometimes to use their installation to take them to another place. This is a particular aim of the concluding piece as a film or drawings to capture the experience of living amongst the installation. Some concluding films can be seen below.
Design Tutors: Experiencing Architecture: Elizabeth Blundell, Max Martin, Anthony Roberts, Andre Viljoen, Livia Wang, Jack Wates. Module Lead: Elizabeth (Libby) Blundell. Digiskills Training: James McAdam. Guest Workshops: Charlie Yetton – Film Maker.
The first year lays a broad foundation for the years ahead. At Brighton students are introduced to the lenses through which we read, interpret, and design buildings. Broadly this module integrates the subject areas of design, technology, and the humanities. Students learn the language of architectural drawing as well as other methods of visual and verbal communication. On site, and within the design studio at Mithras House students learn through making and talking about their work with each other as well as tutors.
The module is currently set at the University of Sussex. Here students study the buildings and the pioneering campus university, designed by Sir Basil Spence, Bonington and Collins. These buildings are critiqued over several weeks, considering the use of materials, the buildings functionality; the spatial arrangement and hierarchy of space, the buildings response to the environment; the presence of natural light, and shadow as well as ventilation. We look at their context; the relationship to the landscape, and we study their structure. The aspects considered here form components of the student’s own design projects from January.
Observations and drawings are made from the site scale to the human scale; the detail of a stair for example may be surveyed. We compare these buildings to other precedents and discuss the relevance and appropriateness of this type of architecture in the present day, who they were designed for and who was excluded or not considered at the time. We consider how the preservation of the buildings because of their listed status impacts their ability to meet the needs of the 21st century. Selected drawings from this year can be seen below.
Design Tutors: Reading Architecture: Elizabeth Blundell, Max Martin, Anthony Roberts, Andre Viljoen, Livia Wang, Jack Wates. Module Leader: Elizabeth Blundell. Digiskills Training: James McAdam. Guest Lecture: Aleksandra Loske: “Light, Colour and Concrete at the University of Sussex”.
Module: AD471: Design, Technology & Professional Practice
Before the pandemic, the major global concern gathering momentum (and that society seems to be returning to) was the climate crisis. In 2020, students from existing schools of architecture established a manifesto; to demand that universities address climate concerns within the course curriculum. Although Brighton’s curriculum has always considered these global issues, we made some explicit changes to the first-year modules, to start the conversation early with our students.
Madeira Drive as the site of the major design project came from a conversation with Brighton & Hove City Council about regeneration plans for at the seafront. The site posed several challenges that we asked the students to engage with; the preservation of the Grade II* Listed arcade, the oldest green wall in Europe, a lack of mains infrastructure in place.
Programmatically the brief this year considered Food Systems, asking students to design a place to grow food and a place which could also foster community through the cultivation, preparation, storage, and consumption of food. Capitalising on a strong knowledge base of Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes (CPULs) with Katrin Bonn and Prof. Andre Viljoen students proposed growing spaces across the Madeira Terrace site. Designing permaculture systems provides a microcosm for the broader environmental concerns of the climate crisis, addressing waste streams, embodied energy and create miniature circular economies.
Students were asked to design self-sufficient projects – incorporating micro-power generation, carefully selecting materials based on proximity to site, capacity for re-use to minimising embodied energy and designing for deconstruction. We ask students to consider the impact of proposed structural systems, material choices, and the whole life cycle impact of what architects do.
The images you see below are selected extracts from student portfolios for the Design, Technology & Professional Practice module. We have included both Work in Progress and Final Images to give you a sense of modes of representation adopted to explore and communicate design development.
Many thanks to:
Abigail Hone of Brighton & Hove City Council for your invaluable lecture on the current development of Madeira Drive.
Support staff: Our Technicians, Digi Skills Tutor (James McAdam) and our administrator Gareth Lawrence.
Visiting Lecturers: Andy Jenkins, Tu Delft.
Guest Critics & Lecturers: Duncan Baker-Brown, Katy Beinart, Katrin Bonn, Claire Hoskins, Sam Lynch, Pete Marsh, Graham Perring, Sue Roberts, Ryan Southall, Sarah Stevens, Ben Sweeting, Jeff Turko.
External Guest Critics: Lisa Daniel, Dana Gorbatiuc, Andy Jenkins, Tayra Pinto, Toni Akinyemi, Ruta Perminaitė, Richard Townsend.