On the occasion of the annual President’s Medals 2012, Paddi Alice Benson of the University of Cambridge received the SOM Foundation Travelling Fellowship Award, given to a student who has completed the Part 1 Course of study at a school of architecture in the United Kingdom. Paddi’s winning submission for the award is entitled, “Remember Berlin – Kunsthochschule Archipelago.”
In explaining the essence of her project, Ms. Benson describes Berlin as a “chaotic” city, and one in which, “… the best of its past is obscured by the global anonymity of the present.” Observing that, “Every urban place enjoys dual identity: one from the building which addresses it, and secondly as a part of the spatial armature which embraces the city,” Ms. Benson’s proposed Kunsthochschule (Art School) reclaims Berlin’s spatial and building typologies, “…articulating individual and collective identities, and mirroring the cultural ensemble to the north. Conceptually, the building is porous, carved from a single solid by light, similar to its Renaissance ancestor, the Villa Guilia.”
Ms. Benson describes her approach to architecture and social perspective as, “…essentially traditional and evolutionary. Architecture is not simply a style, but a language that both reflects human experience and permits transformation based on evolving contexts….My approach is ‘selectively inclusive’, with an interest in interweaving historical and contemporary references in order that the building emerges from a synthesis of ‘what it is’ and “where it is.’ This necessitates a thorough understanding of the brief; potential and evolving patterns of use ( the contained); the history and cultural topography of the context (the container); and the technics / materiality which is itself conditioned by place and purpose.”
Having grown up in London, with Scottish and Irish heritage informing her culture, Paddi hopes to explore in the next stage of her architectural education how the issues encountered in her study of Berlin, “…could be challenged and have evolved in the culturally distinct context of London.” Her SOM Foundation Travelling Fellowship Award will be used to investigate how the social and urban dilemma confronting her generation has been addressed in 18th century Bath, Edinburgh and Dublin, 19th century Paris, Barcelona, Chicago, and New York. These visits will take place between the end of her year out and the commencement of her Part 2 Course of study at Cambridge.