What sets our BA graduates apart is their conviction to resolve real world problems that they are personally concerned with. They do so by driving their own agendas and presenting highly imaginative yet buildable designs. It is our determination to be plural in our understanding of architecture as a discipline, practice and profession, which makes us a diverse and eclectic school and helps to shape the undergraduate programme.
Our students start out with a highly structured and immersive first year studios, with closely aligned Humanities and Technologies teaching, that provide the skills to work out what architecture can be and begin to practice. In second-year students start practicing independently, learning how to develop and articulate their own positions through design and shape their own trajectory. In third-year students choose one of seven ateliers (vertical studios) and work alongside MArch students for the year. The staff teams engage their students in cutting edge research at the forefront of practice investigating, through speculative design, what architecture is now and might be in the near future.
History, theory, technology and professional practice across the programme introduces students to a wide range of knowledge that is aligned with, or integrated with, studio. As students progress through the course the focus shifts from acquisition to application with innovative projects, from drawing details in the Bauhaus, later exhibited in Manchester to making films and visiting live sites to learn from the ‘realisation library’ all around us through direct experience.
The staff mobilise their research-practice to develop immersive briefs engaging in real world problems that engage students’ curiosity. The focus at key points this year has been on engagement with city and communities immediately around us. The city is remaking itself around us at an incredible pace with over 100 cranes swinging on the Manchester sky line beyond the studio windows.
Our students travelled far and wide this year with staff offering a spectacular range of field trips from our doorsteps to South America. Many were structured and led by staff such as Berlin and Dessau to join the Bauhaus 100 celebrations in first year and Amsterdam- Rotterdam in second year. Our third-year trips are supported by staff as independent travel, ranging from tours by activists and skaters in post-industrial Glasgow to grappling with post- socialist economies and hard environmental realities of Ukraine and Chernobyl.
This year the scope of the programme was expanded with the establishment of the MSA Expert Panel – part of our external engagement programme with architecture and the allied design professions. In second year, we offered Salons, an opportunity to come together with students from across the school and discuss ideas with leading practitioners often with radical agendas and alternative approaches to architecture. Also attached to external engagement is the Provocations debating series. Each Thursday guests come together in a chaired session to explore contemporary matters of care or concern connected to briefs across the programme. This has expanded the ways in which we develop and share our manifold views of architecture with students and staff.
It’s been an amazing year for our students - in spite of a world pandemic curtailing in-person teaching. The extraordinary professionalism of the BA staff to design, test and establish online teaching across the programme and the compassion and patience they have shown is only matched by the extraordinary resilience and strength of spirit amongst our students – the work of whom I am proud to present here.