Edward Simpson is the 2013-14 Rome Prize-winner in Architecture here at the BSR. After reporting on the BSR’s autumn architecture news (BSR News, Winter 2014), Edward shared with us some more personal thoughts about his residency.
Why did you apply for the Rome Prize? What was it about the BSR that made you want to come to Rome?
When I applied for the Prize I was a practicing architect in London and whilst my formal training was complete, the realities of housing development had triggered specific interests for me that I felt couldn’t be pursued in practice. Some of these issues are in the control of the designer and others are not and knowing which ‘battle to fight’ within the design process isn’t always immediately clear. My main motivation to apply was the potential for spending a period of time in which I could establish my own priorities in order to take them back to practice.
Have your plans remained the same as what you thought you would be doing, or have you followed a bit of a different trajectory than you thought?
Whilst the overall topic has remained the same, my work has become much more focused during the first half of my residency. I began with a number of broad questions relating to new forms of housing, their individual success and the extent to which they changed Italian cities during the twentieth century. However, through spending time in the projects I have developed a specific interest in public and shared spaces within these projects, and in the journey of the individual resident from the street to their own front door. In the December mostra I brought the first stage of this work together in a series of photographic studies of communal areas and a large model of a courtyard in the Testaccio district.
What has been the biggest benefit for you about staying at the BSR?
Living in Rome has placed me within a city of extremely varied housing precedents, developed due to a highly particular series of changes in politics and planning law after unification; to be amongst them for this period of time is invaluable. I have also been given the opportunity to live with both artists and academics, each of whom have their own specialities and opinions and I feel that the resulting conversations have strongly affected the way in which I have thought about my work. Perhaps the most significant benefit has been the ability to spend time, whether in reading, visiting, photographing or making. As a result I’m particularly grateful for the way in which the day-to-day organisation of the BSR gives residents the maximum number of hours in the day in which to pursue their own work.
What are your plans for the remainder of the residency?
It is important for me to bring together my studies into a consolidated body of work that can be easily communicated, as I intend to have exhibitions in the UK following my residency. In order to do this I will be visiting many more projects in Rome, but I also hope to travel to Northern Italy to look at workers’ housing in Milan, Ivrea and Genoa. Whilst much of my methodology will remain the same I am hoping to additionally produce a series of detailed drawings that describe the spaces that I’ve found most inspiring and – I hope – a series of films comprising static shots of the communal spaces studied.
Applications for the Rome Prize in Architecture 2014-15 are open until Friday 7 February. See our website for further details: http://www.bsr.ac.uk/awards/architecture-awards-ii