Cambridge's beautiful buildings showcase the work of great architects including Sir Christopher Wren, Sir James Stirling, Edward Cullinan and Sir Michael Hopkins. The teaching is ranked among the best in the country, and there's an outstanding record of graduate achievement. Architecture combines the intellectual challenge of a Cambridge degree with the opportunity for creative design. The course in Architecture differs from other subjects in two respects. First, there is a design component, which carries a weighting of sixty per cent of the grade. The design component requires competence in organising space and in constructional issues, good judgement and powers of interpretation. Secondly, the written portion of the course (which accounts for forty per cent of the grade) bridges the gap between the sciences and the humanities, with a group of papers on the technical aspects of architecture and a group on history and theory. Additionally, there is a dissertation written in the third year (of about thirty pages in length) whose subject is chosen by the student. The College is therefore looking for candidates who will be comfortable working in this broad range of disciplines. Further information about the course and the Department can be found here.
Architecture at Caius
Caius usually admits one, two or three students to study Architecture each year. This provides students with a high level of individual attention and support, and forges a close relationship between students studying the subject in first, second and third year. It also offers the opportunity of living and working in a very interdisciplinary environment. Dr Claudia Marx is the Director of Studies in Architecture at Caius.
The Department of Architecture assumes that incoming students have little, if any, background in the subject, and the teaching includes sessions on basic skills as well as on topics for examination. There is no A–Level course in Architecture and students are welcomed with backgrounds in the sciences or the humanities.
Whilst applicants often arrive with portfolios from A–level art courses, we would suggest that subjects which offer a good general grounding in cultural interpretation — such as history, art–history or geography, for example — are very useful for providing insights into the sorts of areas with which architecture is involved. What is of greatest use for a student of architecture, however, is the capacity to use these skills for the purposes of interpretation and judgement in a three–dimensional milieu endowed with cultural content. To a certain extent this is an aptitude or a talent, and to a certain extent it is something that can be cultivated through instruction while at University. However, because it is fundamental to success in the course, it is one of the key areas of assessment for any candidate.
The College would expect to see a sketchbook, of about 30 A4 sheets, along with the portfolio of A–Level work from candidates taking A–Level Art or Design, if applicable. The Sketchbook should be kept over a period of months as a useful vehicle for recording observations and studies. Since architecture or gardens occur virtually everywhere, the subject–matter is limitless: the back of a pub or a jetty or a barn are potentially as revealing of human habitation as a street, a square, a domestic interior or a cathedral. Views of buildings as isolated objects should be avoided: the interest should rather tend towards settings, whether indoors or out. Similarly, editing, adapting or inventing analogous settings are all possibilities. The main criterion is that the candidate’s drawings exhibit an understanding (which is not the same as archaeological accuracy) of their subject–matter. The question to ask is, “what makes this setting the way it is, what are its essential attributes?” Some aspects are quantifiable, others are more ephemeral and depend on light, materials, the nature of the activities, etc. For this reason the expected views might be supplemented with plans, details, collages, diagrams and so forth — whatever is appropriate. No particular style or medium is laid down in advance — again it is a question of fitting the mode of representation to the content of the space. It is useful to look at other representations of settings (paintings, drawings, film, stagesets, etc.), and some sources of inspiration (postcards, photographs, xeroxes, cutouts, etc.) ought to be included in the sketchbooks. Ultimately, this Sketchbook or collection of studies should be regarded as an opportunity to play to one’s strengths and interests — preliminary fragments towards the development of one’s visual culture. The departmental interview will take as a point of departure the interests displayed in this portfolio.
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