Since 2003, Experimental Practice (EXP) has undertaken a number of ground-breaking initiatives, including the much acclaimed Archigram Archival Project and Superscript Series. Its work is often shown in Ambika P3 and it currently leads the University of Westminster's participation in the Marie Curie funded 'Architecture, Design and Art Practice Training research' (ADAPT-r) international Training Network, a unique and ground breaking research model for creative practice research across a range of design and arts disciplines.
The Supercrit series aims to combine lively and informative student events with international research and criticism at the highest level. The series brings some of the world's greatest architects back into the studio to present one of their most influential projects to a panel of international critics and a studio audience for critical debate, as though they were students presenting their work at a student crit. The events are recorded, carefully edited, illustrated, annotated and discussed in accompanying essays and were published, first in book form and now as a website. Events in the series so far have been Cedric Price: The Potteries Thinkbelt; Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown: Learning From Las Vegas; Richard Rogers: Pompidou Centre; Bernard Tschumi: The Parc de la Villette; Rem Koolhaas: Delirious New York ; Leon Krier: Poundbury; James Stirling Michaal Wilford: the Staatsgalerie. The last five events were all run in collaboration with The Architecture Foundation, and Supercrit 7 also with Tate Britain and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
L.A.W.u.N: Projects 19 and 20
David Greene of Archigram worked with EXP Research Fellow Samantha Hardingham and a team of collaborators between 2003-8 to produce new projects in Greene's L.A.W.u.N. (Locally Available World unseen Networks) projects which he developed throughout his career, and which challenge the supremacy of the idea of 'built' architecture, with projects recording and proposing networks of 'unseen' technological and personal situations and circumstances. Collaborators on this speculative project included textile sculptor Rowan Mersh who re-interpreted Greene's 'hairy coat', filmmaker and tutor Nic Clear, Theo Spyropoulos, AA tutor and artist Shin Egishera. The work formed the basis of a book which acted as a retrospective of 40 years of David Greene's projects: L.A.W.u.N #19: The Disreputable Projects of David Greene, by David Greene and Samantha Hardingham, and designed by Zak Kyes (AA Publications, 2008, 2012) with contributors including Sand Helsel, Robin Middleton and Sam Jacob and an exhibition at London’s Architectural Association (also in 2008). A video of Greene and Hardingham discussing the work can be found here. Other exhibitions of the work were at the 2006 London Architecture Biennale and as the subject for a specially invited interdisciplinary design workshop for the ESPRC Ideas Factory in Middlesbrough (May 2006), set up to look at ideas of designing for uncertainty. This event was jointly organised by Greene and Hardingham, and was attended by many of Britain’s leading mathematicians and scientists.
Experimental Practice (EXP) was instrumental in setting up openstudio, a live online exhibition, teaching and learning tool for the design studios, research groups and other bodies at the Department of Architecture at the University of Westminster. Openstudio creates a network between open access software to allow students, teachers and researchers to share information, images, movies etc. live online. The project was designed and developed by Filip Visnjic and was launched in 2009.
Archigram Archival Project
The Archigram Archival Project made the works of seminal experimental architectural group Archigram available free online for an academic and general audience. The project was funded by a £304,000 grant from the AHRC and was led by Professor Kester Rattenbury (Principal Investigator) with Professor Murray Fraser (co investigator). It was designed by the EXP Research Group in the Department of Architecture in collaboration with Archigram and their heirs and with the Centre for Parallel Computing, School of Electronics and Computer Science, also at the University of Westminster. Clare Hamman was Project Manager, Filip Visnjic and Pierpaolo de Panfilo designed the website. It was a major archival work, as well as a new kind of academic archive, being purely digital -– displaying material held in different places around the world and privately and variously owned. It was aimed at a wide online design community, discovering it through Google or social media, as well as a traditional academic audience, and it has been widely acclaimed in both fields.
The impressive design events initiative Ambika P3, one of London's leading alternative arts venues, is located in the former Engineering Halls underneath the University of Westminster's Marylebone building. It was founded by Professor Katharine Heron in 2007 and directed by her, working with Dr Michael Maziere of Westminster's School of Media Art and Design. The astonishing venue plays host to a range of ambitious art and architectural installations, music performances and events, as well as being available for private hire. It forms a cornerstone of the School of Architecture's commitment to the study and production of experimental work in practice.
ADAPT-r/ PhD by Practice
The PhD by Practice model invites practicing architects and other eminent design practitioners to make a major contribution to the growing study of how designers work, by developing a PhD on their own practice, analysing, developing, questioning and improving their own work as it is in progress. This rigorous and innovative programme was developed by Professor Leon van Schaik at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. It is a programme tailored to run alongside, and help improve, participants' working practices, of whatever kind they may be, from teaching, arts practice, small practitioner to player in a major commercial office. The programme is structured by the twice-yearly Practice Research Symposium events, a series of crit-like sessions with other practitioners from around the world, which forms part of a new level of truly design-based teaching, debate, critical feedback and ideas for designers of all kinds. Westminster is a partner in the ADAPT-r European start up programme for this type of PhD, with Katharine Heron leading Westminster's involvement. Professor Kester Rattenbury also contributes as external examiner and panelist on the RMIT programme, and has written about the programme here: