From a gender sensitive park to an elliptical railway walkway emerging from the landscape; an art installation reimagining the decay of a 900-year-old tree suffocating in salt to wooden iPhones inscribed with magazine articles – the WSD Degree Show provided a fascinating and inspiring showcase from the designers and artists of the future.
The exhibition in the three studios at Writtle College, near Chelmsford, featured work from Art & Design, Interior Architecture & Design and Landscape Architecture & Garden Design students studying at degree and Masters levels.
Interior Architecture and Design students presented innovative solutions to social, cultural and technological questions. They addressed contemporary issues of housing and care provision, functional and material sustainability, social and community wellbeing through to commercial, leisure and entertainment projects. There were diverse briefs, ranging from transport infrastructure to sensory environments.
Art & Design students showed an impressive range of novel themes and technical innovations, with a wide variety of influences mixing in unusual and exciting ways. Many of the works were for sale and there was a charity show, raising around £250 for St Francis Hospice in Romford.
Landscape and garden theory, urban and ecological design and artistic practice underpinned the range of work from the Landscape Architecture and Garden Design degree students. The final year design projects showcased students’ knowledge of horticulture, public landscapes, history, earth science and sustainable landscape technologies.
Work from the Landscape Architecture & Garden Design Masters students showed how their course has promoted thinking in terms of place and identity, physical and phenomenal relationships, social and ecological systems at scales from site to region.
Ruth Catlow, Head of WSD, said: “We presented the work of students whose informed, creative approaches sprang from theoretical enquiry and vigorous studio practice, creating meaningful places and experiences.
“The displays were set within the School’s generous studio facilities where much of the student learning takes place, enhanced by our picturesque green campus.
“Our lively studio culture comprises international students and staff whose presence extends access to ideas and practices from around the world. Students’ learning experience is further enriched by the many people who make up our professional, industry and community networks, as well as successful alumni who all participate within the life of WSD.”
Some of the students featured were:
BSc (Hons) Landscape Architecture
Sunniva presented her concept of a Gender Sensitive Park. Her design focused on a park in the Tower Hamlets and put forward ideas that are sensitive to women’s needs and wellbeing, particularly for Bangladeshi women, who have not been successfully using the park. Through using the design concept of a lotus flower, her project aims to offer these women a space which they can enjoy while feeling safe and connected.
From Caterham, Surrey
BSc (Hons) Landscape Architecture
Stuart’s concept looked at redeveloping the Lots Road Power Station in Kensington and Chelsea as a recreational destination along the Thames Path. By using ecological and hydrological systems, his concept reflects the past industrial processes of this brownfield site. It features waterside cafes tucked away from the busy urban streetscape, deck boards curving around linear trees to create a calming walk, wetland corridors, pockets of relaxing spaces with garden views, an exercise trail replicating the linear forms of the past railway and a play area using recycled materials.
MA Landscape Architecture
Megan’s ‘Unearthing the Palimpsest’ aims to transform a static drab and characterless near Lee Valley into a busy, energetic, active space for the community to enjoy. The revitalised park weaves together natural habitat and recreation, connecting into the surrounding landscapes via circulation routes. Boasting opportunities for community gardening, nature watching, heritage walks with viewing towers, winter sledging, skating, mountain biking, it also provides marshland, meadow grassland and reed beds.
BA (Hons) Contemporary Art and Design
Sam’s work explores the boundary between our online presence and our physical being. As well as images with captions and hashtags, she exhibited wooden books and smartphones printed with extracts from magazines, painstakingly carbon copied and litho-printed.
MA by Dissertation in Art & Design
The centrepiece of Marion’s exhibit was the re-creation of the skeletal form of a 900-year-old dead oak tree. She has produced stunning mixed media artworks of the statuesque trees she found in marshland near Mundon, Essex, based on photographs she has taken in the day and night, and researched whether the marshland and salt contributed to their demise. Her affecting exhibit captured the majestic yet vulnerable nature of trees as sea salt engulfs their roots, seeping up through their trunks and killing them slowly through suffocation, while ferocious storms batter them and economic pressures bear down on land use.
BA (Hons) Contemporary Art & Design
Naomi took the immediate and physical connection to live music as the inspiration for her exhibit. Her textile tickets are ordinary tickets purchased to simply get into a music event, and transformed into something more – enlivened with the memories and the tangible, in-the-moment feeling a concert provides. The sewed tickets rain down on ethereal threads from an umbrella, up-lit by torches and falling into empty beer bottles.
From Chipping Ongar
BA (Hons) Interior Architecture
Emily’s project is for a semi-subterranean public walkway which provides railway passengers with a new route between two train platforms at Epping Station. The 80m-long walkway becomes an inspiring space, an elliptical structure of sensuous wooden curves and warm but robust materials allowing interaction with the existing natural habitat and the delicate ecosystem of the preserved railway embankment.
BA (Hons) Interior Architecture
Curtis’s concept is for Colwyn House, a cancer care facility that is part of Essex County Hospital. It transforms the office building into a River Remedy, with areas for relaxation, group and individual therapies, providing an holistic space to fill the gap between home and hospital. As well as having indoor and outdoor garden areas, it focuses on a free standing structure in the centre of the building as a beacon of independence and strength.
This year's exhibiting students have already begun to establish themselves in the art and design worlds. For example, Sam Humphreys has produced affecting images of Barbie dolls in surprising situations of domestic violence, which was featured in the media nationally and internationally. She was selected for a professional show at the University of Leicester's own gallery, which explores what art can teach us about the effects of violence against women and girls. She also saw her work featured across Mark Owen's official online social channels after being a finalist in a national competition.
• For more examples of the work, visit the Facebook page set up by Art & Design degree and Masters students - Contemporary Art and Design Exhibition at WSD 2014 – which features profiles of some of the artists involved in this year’s show.
• Last year’s exhibition was a big hit with visitors, alumni and employers, many of whom visit the College to look for their next generation of creative professionals. You can watch the video of the WSD Exhibition 2013 on YouTube.