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Architecture Personal Statement

I believe that having a visual stimulus in your environment is important. For example, if I'm walking down the street I want to see an eclectic mix of buildings that I find exciting to look at, rather than rows of uniform houses. David Harvey, in his book Rebel Cities, describes the value of this connection between people and their environment, writing 'animated by neighbourhood life, squares full of people, children relishing the river bank'. This idyllic vision makes me want to create equally vibrant spaces for people to enjoy. This ideology influenced a design project I completed while on work experience with PTE architects (October 2013). I wanted to create a building that would both excite its users as well as onlookers. The house I designed using Google Sketch-up I was perched on top of two living trees. I imagined how a passer-by might look up in awe at the sight of a tree house in central London, or how the inhabitant would feel as they ascended into their house on a staircase suspended by wires and draped with vines. Architecture combines creativity and art with a significant social function and it is this that attracts me to study the discipline at university.

On Open House London I enjoyed exploring several unique houses from a range of architectural styles and eras. Comparing Erno Goldfinger's modernist house at 2 Willow Road to new developments such as 44 Willoughby Road allowed me to appreciate the advantages of each architectural movement, and how each is influenced by the social conventions at the time of building. For example the conversions adapting older houses into homes more suitable for today's society tended to remove the traditional separation between the kitchen and living spaces, reflecting how open plan living is now more desirable. This layout has been embraced by Richard Rogers in his design for Oxley Woods, a new housing development. It presents an interesting solution to the current housing shortage, offering an exciting and colourful exterior that contrasts to the often bland and characterless appearance of typical housing developments. Rogers' exhibition at the Royal Academy increased my admiration of his work, particularly the Bordeaux Law Courts. Its design illustrates how architects can implement political ideology into their designs, with the wide entrance steps leading to the court 'pods' representing large seeds that would draw in the public, where they share in the judicial proceedings.

I am also interested in set design as it has the ability to transform the stage and evoke atmosphere. I find it exciting to see how designers overcome the practical challenges of set design with inventive solutions. One example that stands out was in a West End production of Billy Elliot when a bedroom spirals out of the floor and later retracts. This scene change was much more innovative and creative than simply placing a bed in the corner of the stage, and it is this integration of creativity and practicality that relates architecture to set design.

I enjoy taking the time to observe the buildings around me, considering what it is I like or dislike about a building or bridge then recording my thoughts alongside a drawing in my sketchbook. I hope to continue this during my gap year, when I look forward to seeing a range of foreign architecture, and exploring how each is influenced by the country's culture. To improve my drawing and spatial skills I am attending life drawing and art classes at galleries and The Prince's Drawing School, experimenting with a variety of media including sculpture. As a hobby, I do parkour, which has given me an unusual perspective of, and interaction with, the urban environment. This has made me think more about how we move through surroundings, and the importance of features such as corridors and how they force us to traverse environment. I look forward to applying these experiences to a degree in architecture, while developing new skills and interests.

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This personal statement was written by George W Smith for application in 2014.

George W Smith's university choices
The Glasgow School of Art
The University of Edinburgh
The University of Sheffield
University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
The University of Manchester

Green: offer made
Red: no offer made

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