Mr Oliver Houchell
Associate Professor (Teaching)
The Bartlett School of Architecture
Faculty of the Built Environment
- Joined UCL
- 1st Dec 2016
Oliver has a multi-disciplinary background in engineering, art, architecture, fabrication and construction. He brings a deep understanding of strategic and technical thinking to his work and combines this with critical theory and experimentation in his teaching and research. Founded on the agency of architectural drawing as a process-driven exploratory practice, Oliver began to develop layered hand-drawings in 2015 which set out to reveal new architectural possibilities from the familiar territory of the urban map. The drawings, entitled ‘City of Bits’, began by considering the imaginary lines used in the conventions of general cartography as objects with agency when imagined to coexist within the abstracted, flat space of a 2-dimensional map of the City of London, attempting to expose new relationships between structure and space through the partial destruction of both. The first series of these drawings - a set of triptych works - was the subject of a solo exhibition in Broadway Market in London in 2017.
More recently, Oliver collaborated with landscape artist James Hutchinson on a philosophical investigation into the relationship between machine learning and human learning in the context of creative production. The work, which took the form of an iterative exchange of writing and drawing, set out to interrogate the complex motivations we as humans bring to the process of en plein air landscape painting as a situated practice, and how these motivations and their agency within the creative process might inform our understanding of the creative potential - and limitations - of artificial intelligence.
Oliver has taught since starting to work for himself in 2009. He has been an undergraduate Design Unit Tutor and a postgraduate Diploma and Masters Design Unit Tutor at the University of East London (2011-2013), a Part-Time Teaching Fellow at the University of Bath (2012-2016) and a First Year technical tutor the BA Architecture Programme at the University of Greenwich (2020-2021) as well as widely contributing to taught programmes as a visiting critic. Since 2016 Oliver has been Design Technology II Module Coordinator, Lecturer and Technical Tutor on the BSc Architecture Programme during which time he has developed the module significantly through an enhanced, direct technical teaching offering, a new lecture series and the creation of a suite of new course materials which provide continuous student support throughout Year 2. The module's lecture series is intended to inspire by exposing the extraordinary breadth of technical possibilities in architectural production, and has been further extended through the provision of technically oriented lectures on key themes (casting; frames; simulation and modelling; nets and skins) entitled ‘How Ideas Are Made’ which are written and delivered by Professor Nat Chard.
Oliver is also BSA Module Coordinator for Design Practice 2 and 3 in Year 3 and Year 4 of the Masters in Engineering & Architectural Design Programme, an innovative new interdisciplinary 4-year integrated masters delivered in partnership with the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) and the UCL Institute of Environmental Design Engineering (IEDE). In addition he is Unit 4 Studio Lead Tutor on the Design Make Live (DML) module in Year 1 of the same programme. DML Unit 4 explores ideas about making through the related trans-disciplinary fields of art, theatre, film and performance. Oliver also contributes to the admissions process for the programme.
Outside The Bartlett, Oliver is currently a Technical Tutor and Critic in Third Year of the BA Architecture and Fifth Year Masters in Architecture Programmes at the University of Westminster.
Oliver is a British architect. His academic and professional interests lie at intersections between architecture, structural and environmental engineering, landscape, culture, technology and art. Fortunate to have had an early introduction to technical drawing, machining, welding and mechanical engineering at school and extensive experience of construction and fabrication, Oliver brings his multi-disciplinary background and an incurable curiosity to the production and practice of architecture.
Oliver studied at the Kent Institute of Art and Design, now the University of the Creative Arts (1990-1992), and read Architecture at Oxford Brookes University (1992-1995). He started his career working on hand-drawn, high specification private residential projects as the Architectural Assistant to the Design Director at Collett Zarzycki (1996-1998) in London, subsequently gaining his postgraduate AA Diploma at the Architectural Association (1998-2000). Returning to practice, Oliver was able to explore ideas initiated in his Technical Thesis at the AA while working for Brookes Stacey Randall (2000-2001) on Ballingdon Bridge, developing new digital modelling techniques intrinsically related to the bridge's bespoke fabrication. He worked on large scale academic, commercial and public buildings as a Project Architect for Allies & Morrison (2001-2004) while returning to the AA to study for his Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice, registering as an architect and gaining Chartered Membership of the RIBA in 2003. In 2004 Oliver joined Wilkinson Eyre as a Bridge Team Senior Architect and for the next 5 years designed and delivered moving and static vehicular, cycle and pedestrian bridges internationally, contributing an article for AD 179: Manmade Modular Megastructures in 2006 which explored the technical implications of high-speed rail travel in the context of the design for the Viaduc de la Savoureuse TGV rail bridge in France, which he led as its Project Architect.
Since 2009 Oliver has combined teaching with work as a specialist consultant for some of the world’s leading engineering firms including BuroHappold Engineering, ARUP, Entuitive (UK), Malishev Engineers and Hochtief (UK) Construction Ltd, and has served as a member of BuroHappold Engineering’s Design Review Board at their Head Office in Bath, UK.