Rethinking the Pavilion
First and second supervisors
- Prof Murray Fraser
- Prof Jonathan Hill
My central research question relates to the contemporary relevance of the pavilion as an archetypal architectural form and how this can mediate between ideal notions of design and the exigencies of architectural practice.
In the body of work of my practice, Walters and Cohen, there is a recurrent interest in and then use of the pavilion as a building type; the former aspect is evidenced in our references to the influence of artists such as Donald Judd and Walter De Maria, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, classical Greek architecture, the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, etc, and the latter in projects for an Art Gallery in South Africa, a visitor centre in West Sussex, an art gallery at Kew Gardens and a new art school for the American School in London.
Other projects tend to take the form of complex additions to campuses such as Bedales School in Hampshire, or cities such as offices for the Mercers’ Company in London and South Camden Community School in Somers Town, London. Nonetheless these schemes too contain examples of my interest in exploring the possibilities of the pavilion as a fundamental architectural type.
My PhD by Design will be particularly interested in analyzing how the pavilion type fares within the socio-economic realities of British architectural practice. Indeed, there is a significant dichotomy in our practice between those projects commissioned by clients who select us as architects through design competitions and who encourage and facilitate conversations about design intentions, and those for whom the notion of design is less important than political, social and financial considerations. In the latter, ever more complex public procurement processes and adversarial working conditions shape a leaner but equally significant design outcome, but this need not always be seen as a negative factor.
The process of design review - internal, external, small-scale, large-scale, public, private, etc. - is what mediates between these two circumstances mentioned above, and ensures a successful outcome, irrespective of the ambitions of the client.
As a full-time practitioner with a comprehensive body of work, I am seeking now to develop my critical thinking and contextualise the work of our practice through original research. Rather than the more traditional historical, technological or sociological discourse pursued by many architectural PhD students, I am particularly interested in investigating the complex and evolutionary process of architectural practice, a relatively unexplored field of academic study.
The Lightning Field
Walter de Maria
New Mexico, USA
In terms of my own career, I worked for Norman Foster for four years after graduating and then established Walters and Cohen with Michal Cohen in London in 1994. The ethos of the practice encourages a broad conversation about architecture, our best buildings convey a raw sense of place and reduce the complexities of site and programme to simple architectural expression.