BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and Design programme leader Joseph Van der Steen explained the philosophy behind the workshop in the following way:
"Architecture starts with materials, therefore we need to investigate what our materials can do. This work of this module introduces physical making, prototyping and testing as a central component of developing knowledge about materials and their characteristics. Here we prioritize experimentation over refined and finished work, a productive approach over superficial knowledge and primary experiences over theoretical speculation. It is important that as designers, we understand how things are made, not only so we can communicate to people who will construct our ideas, but also draw inspiration from the practical, technological and aesthetic aspects of materials".
The projects within this module aim to address construction techniques and qualities that students should aspire to as well as introducing them to the finer details of the materials that they will work with during this course and their future careers. This year we conducted a workshop based around the use concrete; exploring its historic and contemporary relevance, and understanding its composition, qualities and applications within our discipline.
Students have been very privileged to be able to work with Ilia Valovik and his team (A-Beton) a company at the forefront of concrete design and manufacture in Russia. Throughout the two weeks of the workshop students have studied, discussed and encountered each of the processes involved within the of manufacture of concrete with their own hands.
During the workshop students studied historic trends and precedents that have formed the contemporary discourse around concrete fabrication and design; they have studied exemplars and looked more specifically at the Russian market and how to work beyond its existing offerings to create new and exciting options.
The designs that have emerged through this process may be taken further and inform the production and sales in the local market place. Above all the aim is to encounter, learn from and apply a set of skills and knowledge, and to apply our skills as designers to the development and manufacture of concrete tiles that are specific in their intentions, practical and functional in their use and relevant to the contemporary market in their design.
Each student designed and manufactured a series of concrete tiles looking at ideas of tessellation, symmetry and repetition to develop solutions that not only work as individual tiles but solutions that may be applied over a large area, understanding the differences/nuances of scale at distance.