Quality Conference

The AJ continues its review of this year’s student shows. First up, Flora Samuel visits Cardiff University

Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University, Bute Building, Cathays Park, 19 June – 7 July

While it is mindful of its context, the Welsh School of Architecture has, with an influx of new blood, flourished into a very international school with a remarkable track record in student employment, reflecting the fact that the making of architecture is absolutely central to the school’s ethos. One of the key things to understand about Cardiff is that it just about does in one year what most schools do in two. It is a model that many schools should bear in mind, considering the unsustainable levels of student debt emerging among architecture students.

The March, too, is filled almost entirely with Cardiff graduates. Its structure has been expertly honed, most recently by course leader Adam Sharr, to give students the opportunity to explore individual predilections through thematic studios. The only area that is, perhaps, a little neglected is that of digital representation and design.

But how refreshing it is to see beautiful hand-drawings, developed under the tutelage of Peter Salter. Rachel Hurley’s haunting Institute of Darkness, set in Aberystwyth, is a casein point. The importance of Salter’s contribution to the school is immeasurable. His work, and that of Sharr’s ‘memory’ studio, are highly complementary to what by now have become the core values of the March. Salter also leads a group in the seriously competent undergraduate degree, where the presence of actual buildings encourages pleasant and fruitful trips down memory lane.

Two further exhibits of note: the first, Joe Belcher’s scheme, begins with an analysis of his local pound shop, situated in a redundant church, and explores the issue of changes in use and identity over time. It finishes with a temporary intervention at the Palast der Republik site in central Berlin, one that is to be absorbed and transformed into the coming Stadtschloss development. The second: on discovering that north Wales’ famous Portmeirion china is actually made to Stoke on Trent, Tom Brigden plays with a recreation of Clough Williams-Ellis’s eponymous and well-known Welsh fantasy village ‘up North’. Flora Samuel is chair in architecture at the University of Sheffield

Resume The talent on show at Cardiff is evidence of brave and skilful teaching