Unit 24 employs film, video, animation, drawing and modelling techniques to generate architectural propositions, harnessing the potential of time-based media in the production of space.
This year, we studied a city to which we have all been… at least, in our imagination.
This city has created its own mythology through film, and an identity so distinctive, that it is simulated throughout the world. Deeply imbedded in our collective subconscious this place can be re-constructed remotely, travelled to in dreams, and experienced through purely fictional constructs.
New York City is an archipelago of 42 islands; some are prominent and densely populated, others are deserted and effectively invisible. The island nature of the city has impacted on how it has grown and the way it sees itself. Its hydro-geographic position enabled it to harbour storytelling immigrants from all over the world, the pressure on land created the skyscraper, and the city’s topography has allowed it to gaze at its own mythical reflected skyline.
The spirit of Manhattan, the most prominent island, is distilled in 42nd Street. Linking the iconic sites of Grand Central Station, Chrysler building, the UN Headquarters and Times Square, it was once known as ‘Dream Street’. It has a sordid history of harboring criminal activity – an old joke goes that ‘they call it 42nd Street because you’re not safe if you spend more than forty seconds on it’.
By contrasting the urban density and energy of 42nd Street to the unexploited potential of the rest of the 42 islands we searched for new paradigms of urban occupation.
We began by studying New York from afar, constructing filmic responses via research and editing techniques. We then proposed architectural interventions into these filmic sites. Our field trip to New York gave students the opportunity to compare their constructions to the throbbing reality of the city.
Each student was invited to propose their own Forty Second Island through an architecture of narrative and film: a structure that established its own fictions and rules and allowed them to play out in time. Year 4 students resolved early speculations into a cinematic building proposition sited in New York. Year 5 students proposed a speculative thesis project maintaining film as a key concern. Some projects were sited in New York, but some students chose to work with sites in China and the UK.
Unit 24 is supported by a broad network of associated professionals working in sectors ranging from architecture to film, animation, sound design, motion graphics, urban design and contemporary art. Contributions from these professionals serve as a counterpoint to the theoretical discourse within the unit.
This year students benefited from animation masterclasses with Johnny Kelly and Douglas Fenton, sound workshops with Paul Bavister, collaborations with film sound composer Kevin Pollard, and scanning workshops with ScanLab.