Budapest: Remote Discovery

The first year of the MArch operates at the intersection of architecture and the city. The studio is structured through a series of interlinked stages (ARCH401 and ARCH402 in semester 1 and ARCH403 and ARCH404 in semester 2), where students work through critical architectural projects that traverse the full range of scales, from the urban strategy to the design of an urban building, to its finest technical details.

This year the city of our study was Budapest, Hungary, which we could not visit due to the COVID-19 travel and health and safety restrictions. Therefore, the theme of the studio, Remote Discovery, focused on developing the tools to engage with a place we cannot visit. How can we explore, read, represent, and design for a city we cannot physically experience? What are the media that architects have in their hands today to understand the multiple realities of cities at a distance? What are the material, cultural, political, economic, and environmental capacities of the city that we can unmask and reprogram in this manner, and how can we develop interventions that release them and make them productive in new ways? Throughout the year we engaged with local agents; we studied the city’s deep history through text, maps, photographs and videos; we drew and re-drew its multiple layers; and, we modelled its endless potential. Under this framework, the four studios developed different methodologies and programmatic approaches. Ultimately, Budapest became trope to enquire what a Central European city is and how it may be reimagined in the context of complex contemporary challenges.

Alongside the studio, taught modules in Urban Design Theory, Practice Management & Contract Law, and Sustainability in Practice, provided further support to students’ academic development, while Research Methods in Architecture prepared them for the writing of their dissertation in the second year of the programme.