An Auction House for the 21st Century
Once a year, visitors to Roca's London Gallery are treated to an unsual sight.The clean lines and flowing geometries of the Zaha Hadid-designed showroom are abruptly broken by unruly piles of paper, cutting mats, and assorted model-making materials. Scattered on all available surfaces, pens roll along the smooth curves of the injection-moulded countertops and shelving. At the centre of each pile of materials is a small group of students, huddled together, lying down, or draped across all manner of high-end sanitaryware.
Visitors could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled across a futuristic performance artwork, but the occasion was, in fact, the 24th annual AIA UK charette. A frantic and fun event, this year's charrette was once again generously sponsored by Roca and Laufen, who not only provided the gallery space but also enough carbohydrates and coffee for the 42 hungry students attending, and, equally importantly, the winners prizes.
This year's edition of the charette saw six teams drawn from Westminster, UCA, Portsmouth, Kingston, Ravensbourne, and Kent universities, competing for the coveted winners goody bags. The students spent the day drawing, modelling, cutting and pasting to prepare their designs in response to this year's brief: the design of a 21st century auction house.
The brief asked students to respond to the impending relocation of Lots Road Auctions, and to imagine what an auction house of the future might look like; who it would serve, what it might sell. The day began with a walking tour of the site which included Chelsea Waterfront and Lots Road, and an early morning visit to Lots Road Auctions, where staff were on hand to explain to students the workings of a succesful commercial auction house, and the programmatic and organistional requirements they might consider during the design phase of the competition.
Back in the Roca London Gallery, the real work began as teams spread out throughout the showroom and transformed every available surface into a pop-up studio. The one-day format of the charrette meant that students had approximately six hours to prepare their proposals, before spending five minutes presenting to the jury, and receiving a further five minutes of feedback.
This year's jury was drawn from academia and practice, and included Patrick Lynch, founder of Lynch Architects, Steven Gage, Lecturer at the University of Reading School of Architecture, where he teaches design studio and history and theory, and Carsten Hanssen, founder of Atelier 27 in Paris, and 2018 President of Continental Europe Chapter.
The presentations and discussions were lively, and students presented a diverse series of proposals, with a distinct bent towards the dystopian. Parasitical auction houses clinging to the tops of buildings, narratives of water scarcity, and proposals for an auction house submerged in the Thames jostled for attention alongside a number of more subtle perspectives that examined interior re-configurations and organisational strategies of existing auction house precedents.
After an extended deliberation by the jury, the team from Westminster (mentored by Jörg Matthaei and Katharine Storr) emerged as winners, taking home the glory and the goody bags that were generously provided by our sponsors. The team's considered proposal for an auction house specialising in paintings impressed for the poetic quality of the display system they designed, and for the clarity and coherence of the perspective drawings, photographs and models presented in support of their concept. Second place was also awarded to a Westminster team, while the team from UCA was awarded third place.
Thank you to the jury for their engagement and insightful comments, to the mentors: Alex McMillan, Amrita Raja, Daniel Smith, Elizabeth Daily, Francis Hur, Jörg Matthaei Katharine Storr and Kevin Flanagan. Thank you also to David, Emma, Indra and the team at Roca London, and Ilker Hussain at Laufen for their sponsorship and hard work throughout the day, and of course, a huge thank you to all the students for their energy and enthusiasm, we hope you all had a great time and will encourage your classmates to join us again next year!
Written by: Nicholas Kehagias, AIA RIBA
Image Credits: Barima Owusu Nyantekyi (www.barima.co)
Please click here to see more photos of the event.