Design Studio 21


Tutors: Gill Lambert and Geoff Shearcroft

Gill Lambert & Geoff Shearcroft are architects and academics. They practice at AOC, an award-winning London based practice, where they engage with communities and their cultures to make designs that are useful, valuable and joyful. They are currently developing new learning spaces for English Heritage, The National Archives and the V&A, and delivering national museums in County Durham and Yorkshire. Gill was born and grew up inYorkshire while Geoff is a keen and regular visitor.

Cultivating the Wild

DS21 is concerned with people, places and politics. Faced with today’s global environmental crisis the response of architects ranges between eco-abstinence, technological salvation and outright denial. We believe a more optimistic, progressive approach is to be found through a meaningful interrogation of the Wild – as a place, an ecology and a material quality – to understand how buildings may better co-exist with the natural world.

We began by collecting texts, images and objects that defined Wild-ness, allowing individual definitions to evolve. These were developed through large expressive drawings of wild landscapes and wild objects that explored the quality, evolution and manipulation of found materials.

The context for our investigations was the Yorkshire Dales National Park, a man-made, state-sanctioned wilderness suffering from flooding, unemployment and a declining economy. In response to a recent government report calling for a ‘transformational catalyst project’, students collectively developed visions, briefs and spatial constitutions for new universities in the Dales.

Chanelling the utopian radicalism of the “plateglass” universities founded in the 1960s, we investigated the physical and social forms of relevant universities around the globe, supported by trips to Cambridge and Yorkshire. We studied the relationship between landscape and learning, considering how form, material and myths define the particular qualities of an inhabited landscape.

With collectively developed briefs, each student proposed a learning community with new pedagogical, social and political ambitions to meet the challenges of the 21st century. An experience-led approach to design combined day-in-the life studies with precise, scaled technical drawings. Considerations of embodied carbon were embedded in the selection of materials that define the spatial experience.

Collectively cultivating the wild, there were no predetermined outcomes. Embracing the grown and the made, the final proposals create a diversity of wild architectures that seek to meet our material, social and emotional needs in balance with the global ecosystem in which we all live.

Archive of DS21’s work from previous years:

MArch DS21 2016-2017

MArch DS21 2017-2018

MArch DS21 2018-2019

MArch DS21 2019-2020

MArch DS21 2020-2021