News > Veretec Tutors at the Royal College of Art

07 July 2017

Tutoring ADS4 – Royal College of Art


In January 2017 Tom Greenall from DSDHA approached Veretec with a different type of enquiry – to help provide tutorage to first year MArch students at the Royal College of Art in relation to their Technical Studies module.
Tutoring students is not something Veretec has undertaken before; however, it proposed a great opportunity to widen our experience and exposure to the future practitioners of Architecture as well as, hopefully, in some way influence the thought process of the next generation when it comes to detailed design.
On behalf of Veretec I was tasked with providing this influence through a series of one-on-one tutorials, culminating in providing technical support to the students ahead of their end of year presentation.
Being a student of architecture is never a straight or smooth path and my experience working with the students was an enlightening and wholly enjoyable visit back to this windy and romantic thought train.


Some Background


As part of the first year course, the students do a technical studies module. This involves producing technical drawings for a building of their design, with particular focus on the technical resolution of a particular component. 
The module was intended to be fully integrated into the design. Engineers from AKTII and Atelier10 were lined up to provide structural and services tutorials alongside Veretec as architectural tutor. These one-on-one tutorials were to aid the production of detailed drawings and a 'Technical Studies Journal' that recorded the design and technical development over the course of the project as well as research into relevant products, systems, technologies.  
In the past there was a pretty loose interpretation of what counted as ‘technical’. This meant that some students focused on technological and material innovation, which Tom noted as resulting in some great work, but risked the students managing to avoid learning the detail skills that they will need in practice. His ambition for this year’s ADS4 was to balance technological innovation with solid technical resolution – what better way than bringing in Veretec!

The final submission of the Technical Studies journal included a general arrangement design for the project, structural and construction resolution, an environmental strategy and a ‘One2One’ model of a detail or material relating to the design.


The Process


The students started the project in the previous semester creating a movie based on a premise that London had been split into a series of independent cities, each with its own social specialism. Each student picked one of these as a foundation to develop their scheme which included:

Wimbledon: Fitness

West End: Culture

Southwark: Romance

Thames Estuary: Energy

Harrow: Education

Hounslow: Momentary Encounters

Kew: Memory & Nostalgia




The projects that developed out of these premises included:

  • a stadia complex to house a new reality based sports and fitness culture;
  • a factory for Meme production to feed social culture;
  • a theatre building designed to create moments of artificial romance;
  • a cyclical renewable energy factory which creates a new form of mass residential development;
  • a portable and moveable system of building elements to create an immersive and co-located learning environment within the Wembley Park development;
  • a new hotel typology that meshes the characteristics of hotels, motels, backpackers and B&Bs to force chance encounters reminiscent of various hotel movie scenes; and,
  • a beautifully sculptural, frozen archive for synanthropic species of tomatoes based on the lost architecture of Kew Gardens.
As mentioned above, I found the tutorials in some cases were not quite linear but after the first few, setting the scene and picking a site, most of the students were starting to head towards creating some semblance of a building. This step, from theory to physical form is something I definitely struggled with during my studies and I was more than happy to be guiding rather than grappling with some of these most ambitious topics myself.

Once built forms were developing it was down to technical duties and working out how to theoretically build these projects. We helped develop LVL kit-set typologies for the sustainable energy production and mass residential scheme incorporating biomass boilers and heat recovery systems; we aided the design of a moving roof system that 

adjusts the volume of a restaurant space to dramatically alter the atmosphere within the chance encounters hotel; and guided the creation of a rainwater attenuating basement archive that fed a building-wide irrigation and cooling system that would freeze to form a building of ice for frost resistance tomatoes.

The projects were all elaborate and successful in their own right and I was left feeling not only impressed but also relieved. Relieved that all the students managed to produce great work. Relieved for the students themselves that they all got through yet another gruelling architecture module and relieved for myself, that I am past the University phase of my career – I still have nightmares…!


In conclusion


All in all, I found being involved with the next generation of learning and architectural thought was incredibly rewarding. It helped me remember the investigative foundation that should be rife within all of our designs. It reminded me that architecture is about so much more than just buildings. It is a study of anthropology, of histories and geographies. It is about gaining a critical understanding of physics, maths and art.




It is a strong statement of societal and a political critique and good architecture should be deeply engaging with all of these. It is a study of all things that inwardly and outwardly influence our lives. And most importantly it should drive us to question these things with the aim of enriching our world. To ADS4, keep questioning, keep dreaming. Just remember to ground it in some sort of reality if you ever want to build it!


Mark Boyland



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