Tutors: Richard Diffrod, Nick Beech, Harry Charington, Kate Jordan, Diana Periton, Shahed Saleem, Ro Spankie, Rachel Stevenson & Ben Stringer
The aim of the MArch dissertation is to encourage students to develop their ability to reflect critically, and with a degree of self-consciousness and confidence on a topic relevant to architecture or urbanism. Each student chooses their own subject but the interests explored emerge out of research that begins almost a year earlier in the first History & Theory seminar groups. Within these groups the students are guided by tutors well versed in a broad range of interests and research methods; and committed to supporting the individual specialisms and scholarship of each student. A range of topics and a plurality of approaches are therefore encouraged. Ultimately, the ambition is that these dissertations will be distinguished, not by their adherence to any particular methodology, dogma or style, but by their high quality.
This year was no exception and there were many outstanding dissertations produced. Among these Kai Hin Law’s Urban Defiance, addresses the topical subject of protest and architecture. Focusing on Hong Kong’s democratic movement, this study looks at the relationship between urban space, power and political demonstrations.
Also of note is Laura Walton’s exploration of urban farming in Brussels, Rebecca Gardner’s study of Benson and Forsyth’s Maiden Lane Estate; Virosh Samuel’s investigation of informal settlements in Sri Lanka; and Wesley Stone’s account of post-war housing in Poplar.
The high standard of the MArch dissertations is also evidenced by the recognition they receive beyond the university. Earlier this year, MArch student Amy Bettinson received a Commendation in the RIBA President’s Medals for her dissertation ‘A Laboratory for Contextualism’: Post-War Infill Buildings’ (Tutored by Prof Harry Charrington). Her study reflects on how architects seized the opportunity to experiment with the design of Modernist buildings in historic settings. Former MArch student, Charlotte Penny, was also recently awarded a commendation in the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) Gus Astley Student Award. These are just the latest in a long line of successes including several dissertation medal winners and the publication of MArch students’ research in leading academic journals.
MArch dissertations are also having impact on the wider world, with Charlotte Anthony’s study of the Keskidee Centre in Islington cited in a recent planning application. Meanwhile, Victoria Cosmos (whose dissertation, The Past Present and Future of Holloway Prison was completed in 2019) will present with the Reclaim Holloway group at this year’s London Festival of Architecture.