Critical and Contextual Studies

Layan Harman, Cordage. Braiding a nettle hat

Critical and Contextual Studies (CCS) is a school-wide teaching curriculum that aims to orient and engage students in the histories and theories of their discipline. It offers students a space to reflect on their practice, to test the ethical and ecological implications of their work, and to acquire the language and practical tools that help them understand the histories, theories, objects and phenomena that constitute the culture that surrounds us. Taught by an interdisciplinary team of practitioners, the programme helps students to develop important academic skills, but with a specific focus on the creative and critical affordances of writing in its many forms.

Teaching and learning in CCS culminates in the development of an independent thesis in the final year of study. In this context, the school has created one of the UK’s most innovative teaching frameworks in third-year undergraduate study. The AAD Dissertation brings together students from all areas – art, architecture and design – in cross-disciplinary, elective dissertation studios led by tutors and practitioners from a broad range of backgrounds, whose differing interests, approaches to teaching, research and writing practices produce a uniquely open and vibrant learning environment.

After an introductory series of school-wide lectures, seminars and workshops, students join a dissertation studio to develop an independent topic which can be aligned or productively juxtaposed to the studio’s programme of research and activities. The outstanding work produced in the dissertation studios represents the cumulative effect of three years of sustained learning and the quality of the dissertations is a testimony to the the creativity of our students and school’s unique and expansive approach to teaching history and theory.

Vittoria Gerardi, The Lethegraph

Vittoria Gerardi, The Lethegraph. AAD Dissertation Studio 9 — Le Marteau Sans Maître. Tutor: Joseph Kohlmaier

Overall Winner, Best Dissertation

‘There are events in history for which humans are forced to interrupt their activity. In the present moment, an event is affecting humanity as whole forcing it to reconsider the very ability on which man has based its entire existence: movement. A virulent and invisible agent is forcing humans to stillness, making them behave almost like vegetal beings. That is to say, living, communicating and observing within the dimension of the invisible. Unexpectedly, the rather abstract notion of latency becomes a tangible physical condition. Through this experience, to look at the plants is to see potential actors of latent images. Avoiding any botanical interpretation of the subject, latency is photographically framed to the simple and humble form of a blade of grass. The one that grows both in an open field or through the cracks of the asphalt, both in freedom or in confinement.’

Vittoria Gerardi, The Lethegraph

Vittoria Gerardi

Alessandro Caruana, Lacan in Love

Alessandro Caruana, Lacan in Loave. AAD Dissertation Studio 6 — Writing Rough. Tutor: Andrew Hewish

Winner, Best Dissertation, Fine Art and Writing Prize

‘Prearranged messages in the own past. The first letter is never the first message. The dominant sender is the recipient of the very first letter. It is a form of missive unconsciously sent, and it is the only form of love message that does not have a designated recipient because the destination from it is sent, it is from the past of the receiver itself. I become the addressee of the message at the moment I recognise in the present other, the other from my past. Only then I answer to that message re-awaken by the other, the letter that seeks contact with conscious present and the unconscious past.’

Katrina Walker, Grief and Love are Forever Intertwined

Katrina Walker, Love and Grief are Forever Intertwined. The Pains and Pleasures of Mourning. AAD Dissertation Studio 15 — Souvenir. Tutor: Lesley Stevenson

Winner, Best 3D Dissertation and Commendation for Runner-up to Best Dissertation

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The stigmas attached to mourning solidifies to me that the pleasures of it can only be understood by those who have truly experienced grief’s unyielding force.

Luca Vicenzo Puzzoni, The Unaware Sculptor. The Sardinian Pastore as Spinozan Prophet

Luca Vicenzo Puzzoni, The Unaware Sculptor. The Sardinian Pastore as Spinozan Prophet. AAD Dissertation Studio 9 — Le Marteau Sans Maître. Tutor: Joseph Kohlmaier

Zio Gino – Puzzoni

Winner, Best Dissertation, Architecture

‘Gino said it numerous times, ‘there is not a necessity to obscure our work with nothing that is unknown to nature. The less you do, the happier your herd would beʼ. … How can the currently opaque splendour of pastoral prophecy survive the threshold of indifference between the modern industrial production — a sphere demanding for a quick quantitative approach — and an immemorial mass of skills and techniques?’

Eleanor Hopwood, ‘Stuff’ – Finding Meaning in the Mess

Eleanor Hopwood, ‘Stuff’ – Finding Meaning in the Mess. AAD Dissertation Studio 10 — Globalism. Tutor: Harriet McKay

Winner, Best Dissertation, Interiors

‘Through the surrounding of ourselves with our ‘stuff’, the objects we know the best and are of most importance to us individually, we can begin to see the presence of the inhabitant. So it is that we can begin to read the domestic environments we experience and are allowed a glimpse of the lives that are lived there.’

Niamh Arklie, Where Do I Fit In?

Niamh Arklie, Where Do I Fit In?: How Inclusive is our Education System?, AAD Dissertation Studio 13 — ‘If I stay silent nothing will change’: Identity, Politics, Social Change and Creative Culture(s). Tutor: Christina Paine

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Year 3 Class © Steve McQueen and Tate

Does this government want to create individuals who learn in a robot like form in order to pass exams with little to no experience of the outside world? Or should schools be producing well rounded individuals? Whom have basic life skills and are well equipped for adult life?"

Elena Colli, The True Fashion Victims

Extracts from Elena Colli, The True Fashion Victims. AAD Dissertation Studio 2 — Narrative and Storytelling. Tutor: James Baldwin

Elena Colli – The True Fashion Victims

Elena Colli

‘… When experiencing loss, things are the exact measure of what we are left with of someone we loved. Things however, doesn’t sum up the complexities these objects carries. Clothes in particular, are dense with the physical tactile intimate trace of those who owned them. Their history and the moments in which it crossed our paths, are witnessed by clothes. The construction of memories and a cohesive, although evolving, identity, sees objects and textiles as central protagonists, companions of our everyday. When intersected with loss and mourning, the consumption of these fashion identities slows down and becomes more aware of the importance of hyper-valuing what might not look updated or trendy, but that carries a real emotional value, far more powerful than the “next new thing” …’

Michael Brown, A Defence of Comic Sans. On the Critique of Type, Character, and Culture

Michael Brown, A Defence of Comic Sans. On the Critique of Type, Character, and Culture. Dissertation Studio 9 – Le Marteau Sans Maître. Tutor: Joseph Kohlmaier

Winner, Best Dissertation, Visual Communication

‘Type is an organism not dissimilar to language as it evolves through time alongside adapting culture. Consider typography a homeomorphic entity, undergoing an infinite number of homeomorphisms, each change influenced by the people who read, use, design, criticise and celebrate type. For me, type is almost entirely socially driven in this aspect. Some turn out to be Helvetica, others Papyrus. Ideally, they should be celebrated as evidence of a sophisticated and diverse society. While some agree, others have used design & typography’s ability to be socially influenced to highlight systems in design that perpetuate social separation.’

Phoebe Agnew, Understanding the Significance of Lennox Castle Hospital’s Ruin

Phoebe Agnew, Understanding the Significance of Lennox Castle Hospital’s Ruin. AAD Dissertation Studio 7: Thinking with Ruins. Tutor: Danielle Hewitt

Phoebe Agnew

Phoebe Agnew, Lennox Castle

Twelve miles north of Glasgow city centre, set in the heart of the Camspie Fells, is a small town called Lennoxtown. If you walk east from Lennoxtown for thirty minutes, through the forest, past a suspicious ‘Logging – Do Not Cross’ sign and along a grand overgrown road, you will find it: Lennox Castle Hospital’s ruin.

Rose Frawley, Digitally Man Dwells

Rose Frawley, Digitally Man Dwells: A Reinterpretation of the Poetic Home for the Post Digital Age. Dissertation Studio 3 – The Conquest of Joy. Tutor: Aleks Catina

The dichotomy of the home as a private and public space presents a challenge. Its resolution does not lie in the restoration of pre-digital traditions and connections, but rather a comprehensive deconstruction of past practices to conquer enduring attachments to dated dwelling rituals.

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Michela De Santes, Migration and Integration in Venice. Current and Historical Thresholds of Belonging.

Michela De Santes, Migration in Venice. Current and Historical Thresholds of Belonging. Dissertation Studio 1 – Ideas in Places. Tutor: Ektoras Arkomanis

In Latin the word integer, from which integration comes from, means ‘immaculate, unblemished, unspoilt, unbridle and passionless’. Rutar argued the concept of integration and he affirmed that ‘The idea is stale because it presumes that the society is a flourishing, virginal, unselfish, and flagrant meadow in which integration is necessary because of some civilisational blunders which were unfortunately incurred by certain groups of people. Through integration, we return to the previous uncurtailed and undamaged state; that is why all the maudlin and melancholic images of beautiful youth, unspoilt paradise, genuine nature, etc. are attached to it.’

Veronica Dell’Orto, The Alienation of the Public Sphere

Veronica Dell’Orto, The Alienation of the Public Sphere. Dissertation Studio 4 – Bullshit, propaganda and post-truth. Tutor: Jeremy Collins

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… accused of having failed in its form, due to the disappearance of open public spaces within the urban configuration of metropolis and in its function, due to the advent of machine control over human motion, the Twentieth Century architecture seems to be technologically improved only and exclusively for the sake of the economy. It fulfils the demands of capitalism while failing into explain how individuals and populations will be distributed through this new system of privatisation of public spaces. Going against most of the principles and values on which this discipline is founded, the multi-faced nature of this modern discipline seem to have become too materialist, clearly stating the predominance of the economic sector over social factors. In so doing, the human is alienated from the city centre, leaving no room for the community.

Jodie Barnacle–Best, Econyl: A Case Study of Sustainable Swimwear Design

Jodie Barnacle–Best, Econyl: A Case Study of Sustainable Swimwear Design. Studio 14 – A Material World. Tutor: Emma Davenport

‘Undeniably the success of the sustainable swimwear industry cannot ride on one regenerative fabric alone.’

Helaena Blanch, Learning from Vernacular

Helaena Blanch, Learning from Vernacular. Dissertation Studio 5 – Meaningful Work. Tutor: Paul Harper

‘We embrace technological change at an alarming rate. Yet it is shocking how little we apply these talents to our housing… These homes have no sense of place, do not encourage community spirit and offer extremely low space and design standards.’

Elena Hastry, Interior Suspense. The Chill of the Victorian Mansion

Elena Hastry, Interior Suspense. The Chill of the Victorian Mansion. Dissertation Studio 11 – Performative Acts: Art, Architecture and Writing. Tutor: Nico de Oliveira

Start with the forest, then get into the trees and the branches and the leaves

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Emily Summers, Designing a Space Inspired By, Rather Than Filled with, Personality

Emily Summers, Designing a Space Inspired By, Rather Than Filled with, Personality. Dissertation Studio 16 – Paths of Desire. Tutor: Heidi Yeo

The interplay between interior design and human psychology is significant. Despite the importance just demonstrated, it is strange that it is not an outstanding part of interior design; however, developments are being made. Due to the ignorance and stigma that surrounds the industry, sometimes the legitimacy of these developments can be overlooked. However, in reality, an interior designer is responsible for the way in which a building affects our lives. It is a powerful and influential part of the way we function within an environment and anticipates our needs with a combination of atheistic and design knowledge. With interior design being so significant, are we currently using it at its highest potential? Taking into account the current strain on NHS Mental Health Services, can interior design be used to help tackle this problem by proposing design improvements established by evidence-based design?

Hannah Williams, Thoughful Rubbish

Hannah Williams, Thoughtful Rubbish. How the Representation of Waste is Changing: Is Waste Going to be the Defining Factor of Our Time? Studio 12 – Decay, Repair and Back. Tutor: Gabriele Oropallo

‘Finding a way to stop this relationship with objects from continuing by changing what we think about objects / waste is the best way forward for us now.’