Intermediate 14 Entry ramp to the Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury

Radical Foundations in Bloomsbury

Shaun Murray, Simon Withers

Great change is upon us and radical new foundations need to be sought. In a world confronted by unknown political, social and technological distortions, the time has come for a fundamental realignment. What is at stake is nothing less than the opportunity for world-making, in which the role of architect is paramount.

In 1692 Thomas Slaughter opened Slaughter's Coffee House in St Martin's Lane, which became the haunt of artists, architects, designers, players of games, makers and wasters, and home to the first radical schools of art in the Seven Dials and Bloomsbury neighbourhoods. Great Queen Street Academy, the Free Academy and St Martin's Lane Academy were all born out of Slaughter's and in turn they prompted the founding of Fanny McIan's Female School of Art, Central School of Arts and Crafts, the Art Workers Guild, Felix Slade's School of Fine Art and Saint Martin's. Taking cues from the uniquely fertile culture that both spawns and develops great schools of art, this year you will design new foundations - a new art school in Bloomsbury.

Looking at both Slaughter's pioneering establishment and the establishments it created, you will cultivate strategies to found your own practice - the intention is not so much to develop a school per se, as to devise a complex set of ingenious spatial interrelationships that will form a full-blown notational system for your building. Parts of the building might twitch, hum or sing you a lullaby, or spaces might be replayed over different times.

Foundations are essential elements of architecture and allow for complex shifting relationships between people and environments. Will you, as a designer, take on different roles in the design process - as an "editor of situations" or "reader of spaces"? Beginning with the design of an aedicule composed of nine carefully considered architectural elements - threshold, foundation, wall, floor, ceiling, aperture, stair, ramp and corridor - extraordinary and radical orchestrations of elements will ensue.

Unit Staff

Shaun Murray is an architect and director of ENIAtype and holds a PhD from the Planetary Collegium, CAiiA hub of Plymouth University. He is the author of Disturbing Territories and editor of Design Ecologies, which explores the connection between human communication and ecological accountability in architectural design.

Simon Withers is a thesis tutor at the Bartlett and the University of Greenwich. He has a background in architecture, fashion, film and electronics. His research, "Captivating the Attention of Strangers", radiates from the baroque architectures and landscapes of Greenwich.


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