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Turner Prize winners and designs made of biscuit and sugar wow experts at UEL exhibition

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Architecture showcase described as ‘incredibly invigorated’ by VIP guests 

Expert architects, industry leaders, hawk-eyed members of the media and lovers of innovation experienced the wow factor at the University of East London’s (UEL) annual ‘Open Jury’ architecture student exhibition during the first week of February.

The event also included three expert guest lectures, including UEL architecture tutors Adam Willis and Lewis Jones, who won the prestigious Turner Prize 2015 as members of Assemble.
Experts got the chance to be ‘taken to new places’ with student architecture projects drawing inspiration from trips to Barcelona, Copenhagen, Paris, Bruges, Antwerp, Varna, and further afield to Marrakech and Seoul. 

The students attracted crowds with project titles like ‘Tottenham Archipelago,’ ‘The Museum of Soho,’ ‘Earth City,’ and ‘Novel Discreteness’ – treating their audiences to an array of complex and inventive models, design ideas and eye-catching presentations.

Daniella Asare, a master’s student and part of the Novel Discreteness group, explained the thinking behind their striking models made to look as if they were built from bourbon biscuits, clothes pegs, sugar cubes and lipstick.                  
“We took inspiration from our project trip to Bulgaria,” she said. “We were briefed to use what you could describe as discrete, everyday things. I found the Museum Aan de Stroom in Belgium interesting as it looked like a Tetris block, which led me to think about how I could use a sugar cube design.” 

Daniella said receiving feedback from experts had been very rewarding. “It was the highlight for me, to see how they think our work is progressing and how it fits in with today’s architect industry,” she said.

Special guests included Chris Williamson, founding partner of leading architecture firm WestonWilliamson+Partners, who was recently appointed a skills ambassador for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Mr Williamson’s firm is one of the key partners in the large-scale Crossrail project. 

“I’ve been coming to UEL for the last four or five years, and it is always incredibly invigorating to come and look at what the students are doing,” he said. “I go to lots of other universities, but what sets UEL students apart is the rigor with which they approach the site analysis. 

“I love the inventiveness. It’s always an inspiration coming here.”  

Mr Williamson said his firm currently had four permanently employed UEL graduate architects and a placement student who will return after graduation to complete their training. “We’re particularly pleased with the creativity that UEL graduate bring to the team,” he said.
As well as a feast for the eyes, staff, students, and experts debated the philosophies that shape how architecture is done. UEL tutor and author Anna Minton and fellow tutor and guest lecturer Dinah Bornat led discussions over public and private spaces and how architects, town planners and local authorities ensure affordable spaces for the public.

Daniel May, Head of Design with architects First Base, said he visited UEL every couple of weeks as part of the university’s partnership with the new Silvertown project which will transform the area into a residential and tech hub seeking to balance public and private spaces for businesses and the arts. 
“We offered the Silvertown master plan as a project for students to work on, even to reinterpret and improve it,” he said. “There’s real merit in what they’re doing, as can been seem here at Open Jury.”
He added that the partnership between UEL and First base was a “good synergy of creativity, invention, and sharing”. The partnership also allows students to meet with some of the leading architect firms in the world and get a taste for the real world of architectural work.

Professor Hassan Abdulla, Dean of UEL’s School of Architecture, Computing, and Engineering, attend both days of the showcase event to cast his expert eye over students’ work.

“I am really impressed with the clever thinking and willingness to try new things,” he said. “It is also clear that our staff and students are concerned about the effect inspiring architecture can have on communities, and the need for meaningful real-world experience.
“Well done to all who made this event a great success.”