Copyright 2007-2012
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Learning and Living

The Rural Campus

Historically higher education institutions have evolved from religious and monastic origins, protective depositories of valuable knowledge. The later development of the nineteenth century campus set a new paradigm of self-sufficiency and was widely adopted for the massive expansion of universities in Western Europe and North America in the mid twentieth century. Some were utopian quasi-city states that attempted to define a different way of living and registered a changing relationship of students and educators towards society, the city and the landscape. Some of the boldest experiments, such as Black Mountain College in the United States or the Ulm School of Design in Germany, were both geographically and intellectually removed from mainstream educational practice.

This year studio 5 propose to develop a small higher education institution in the countryside on a defined but expansive site, a rural campus. The programme for the year will follow the ‘colonisation’ and development of this outpost through a timeframe of several years. The emphasis will be on building simply, intelligently and thoughtfully. Firstly with a limited palette of materials to create a simple small shelter, and then with progressively more sophisticated contemporary construction methods, to propose buildings of greater permanence, complexity and sophistication.

Outpost in the Landscape

In addition to their main campus, many universities, schools and colleges also have remote outposts that provide opportunities for leisure, sport and learning away from their main centres for exploring and experiencing nature in the context of the University fraternity or sorority. In each case unconventional or simplified domestic arrangements heighten awareness of resources and a way of life ordinarily taken for granted.

The idea of an 'other' place, as a refuge from the busy centre, will be a central theme for the studio's research. We will focus on one particular site throughout the year for a variety of different building projects evolving a strategy for a considered inhabitation. The new buildings and their relationship to the landscape will be carefully considered to keep the special qualities of the site.

Variation, Repetition and Freedom within a way of building

We are interested in the themes of assembly and constructive technique and how this can be communicated and embraced by students who may not understand yet the conventions of detail drawing. We will study simple cabins and summerhouse structures as well as larger more sophisticated accommodation buildings and facilities for communal use. Building economically and expediently will be encouraged and we will look at systems, modular construction and prefabrication as possible responses to making larger structures on the site.

Through a series of quick precedent studies we aim to develop an historical overview of some of these systems and critically evaluate them to analyse their successes and failures. More contemporary examples will show that a knowledge of how a building is put together does not preclude a more responsive or varied formal response.

Furniture Design

Studio 5 will continue to study architecture at all scales and will again ask students to look at furniture for ideas about materials and their assembly as well as form, functionality and social meaning.

Study Trip

We will travel to Sweden and Finland to study examples of both small, simple woodland structures and larger recent educational campus buildings. We will meet with local architects and have privileged access to both contemporary works and other great twentieth century architecture.


Black Mountain College building, 1940
Lawrence Kocher