learning architecture


a PhD in live projects and architectural education

Aerial surveillance: Britain’s first live project?


Regular readers will know that I am not to be fooled by schools of architecture claiming that they invented live projects in the last decade. It seems, from my research, that the Birmingham School of Architecture was the first, in or around 1950. Perusing the RIBA Library while in London last week (and even splashing out on the ferociously expensive and frankly average quality photocopiers therein) I dug out more articles documenting the buildings designed and built by students at that time.

One of the earliest such student projects was this modest terrace of six houses in Rednal, completed in 1951. The Architects Journal, Architecture & Building News and The Builder (above) all reported on the project. From the latter:

This terrace of four houses which has just been completed at Rednal, near the Austin Works in Birmingham, is believed to be the first to have been designed and carried through by students of a school of architecture. It is hoped to make this type of work an annual third-year event at the Birmingham school. A student, David Radford, was primarily responsible for this scheme together with Geoffrey Darke, Michael Keyte and David Meylan.

The work has been given to the school through the kindness and co-operation of the Birmingham Corporation Housing Committee. (Mr. H. J. Manzoni, chief engineer, and Mr. Davies, chief architect.) The site is situated on the edge of the estate overlooking the Lickey Hills to the south, with a moderate rise from rear to front.


… at Rednal, near the Austin Works in Birmingham … on the edge of the estate overlooking the Lickey Hills to the south …

Did I not mention to you fine readers that I used to be an air cadet? (a Cadet Warrant Officer, no less). That tentative description was more than enough to whet my appetite. And with the power of Multimap’s Ordnance Survey maps and birds-eye aerial photography, there’s enough information to start the hunt for a terrace of four houses, sitting under a shallow single pitch roof with a view over the Lickey Hills.

Nearly 60 years after construction started, graduates of the Birmingham School of Architecture will be delighted to learn that the four houses are still there, and still occupied, albeit with some dodgy plastic windows, and what looks like a complete set of porches retro-fitted under the original in-situ concrete flats.

I still feel a trip to Birmingham coming on…


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