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Thesis Project

Part 2 Project 1998
Zoe Quick
Alec Howson
De Montfort University Leicester UK
"If architecture is to reflect modern society it must be both chaotic and ordered, superficial and subliminal." This thesis was tested through the design of an avant-garde music venue situated on Waterloo Roundabout, consisting of a music shop, auditorium and 'Jazz club' style venue.

This project developed almost exclusively in model form. Each successive model was followed by a period of thought and reflection on what had been achieved along with a continuing investigation into twentieth century music and art. Along with the models, ideas were sketched and spaces imagined as far as possible before solidifying them into model form.

The play of light within the design is crucial but so too is the form. Space is defined by form, but the two concepts act on the individual in slightly different ways. The spaces in this building are united by the identifiable forms that can be seen from inside and out. The strangeness of the exterior transforms to reassurance internally, as orientation to the environment is established through recognition of ones place in the complex building. The forms express abstract experimentation and also stimulate a sense of movement, action and even violence. The orientation of the folded plates, the rolling cubes and the displaced base of the auditorium all respond to the context. The power of Waterloo Bridge comes to bear on the building as if its crashing presence on the area has ruptured the very fabric of the building. The forms try to resolve the disjunction between the powerful linearity of Waterloo Bridge and the orbital nature of the roundabout. The forms try to spin and move linearly at the same time, contributing to the general collaged and fractured nature of the forms. Direct, reflected and artificial light all add to the sense of movement and visual depth within the building.

When brought together the themes within this thesis create an inclusivist architecture. Architecture is never simply emotional, structural or symbolic but a combination of many things layered onto one space. Rather than throwing an endless variety of forms and inventions at one building I have chosen those forms that are multivalent, expressing the nature of our society. Our society is now, in essence, a collection of individual minds rather than a single ideology, with all the contradictions, ambiguity and differences that this entails.

Zoe Quick
Alec Howson


The Thesis project at the Leicester School of Architecture marks the completion of work leading to RIBA Part 2. It is a comprehensive and challenging project, in which the student is required to conceive of a design thesis [literally stated in a complete sentence] which is subsequently explored and demonstrated. The intention has always been to encourage students to invest design with discursive thought, that is, to invest the development of architecture with that density of reference and interest so often neglected in design processes aimed at explicit functional or formal objectives. Historically, this has lead in the Thesis project to a variety of striking confrontations between unlikely narrative components. We too, of the satanic mills of Leicester, have opted for the cathection of the architectural sign through its submission to ironic tropes. At Leicester, however, the Department places an even more significant emphasis on technology and practice in consequence of its claims to professional realism. [Ref.: hefce Q244/94] This can be seen in the way that the Thesis has carried the burden of establishing a student’s ‘Part 2 competence’ [?] in addition to that of architectural substance.

Howson’s ideas arise from an interest he has developed in abstract expressionist sculpture, particularly that of John Chamberlain, being primarily concerned with ideas of ‘fit’ and ‘implosion’ and, effectively, owe nothing to deconstruction. His concern in this project has been to utilise architecture in a manner as provocative as the avant-garde music he has designed this building to be the London venue for. The site has been chosen for its lack of formal continuity with the historical fabric of London. It is in the centre of a roundabout, a roundabout in fact formerly associated with the homeless. Homelessness, lack of formal continuity, iconic trauma, are all registered here as the return of the repressed avant-garde. The interior is appropriately structured as a series of bars servicing the performance halls. The interior is given over to balconies and vistas, intended to provide the possibility of an additional, literal, performance space.

1998
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