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News catch-up: Students to sue Glasgow School of Art over pandemic teaching

Simon Aldous

Angry Glasgow School of Art students threaten legal action over teaching during Covid. Plus Adjaye's adaptable hospital will fit 101 Ghanaian sites, China's 'farmscraper' promises zero food miles and solve the housing crisis with self builds

Architecture students at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) are among those planning to sue the institution over what they describe as its failure to provide adequate education during the pandemic.

Across the country, higher education has been hit hard, with many students having their teaching provided solely online. Earlier this summer, an Architects’ Journal survey found students had overwhelmingly felt isolated by the lockdown with little contact or guidance.

Many complained that learning online could not create the same experience as being in a physical studio.

But Dezeen reports that the group of around 35 – also including students of fine art, fashion and design – believes the GSA has tackled the situation particularly poorly.

The group, which calls itself Art School Racket, said that when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, the school cancelled the remaining seven weeks of the spring term.

It added: ‘We had no contact from our tutors for 10 weeks whilst other universities, like the University of Glasgow, were tutoring students online within a few weeks. GSA management instructed tutors not to speak to us during this time.’

The group says that only in late July last year did a ‘limited amount of Zoom tutorials’ take place, ‘roughly one month before our final submission deadline’.

Another major grievance is the cancellation of the end of year degree show, an important opportunity for architecture students to have their work seen by potential employers.

In 2016, students protested outside the campus complaining of a deterioration in standards, a lack of studio space, and an overextended teaching staff, together with a serious lack of communication with senior management.

Art School Racket says it asked the school for a ‘pause option’ whereby studies were suspended until campus learning could be resumed, as well as a partial refund of fees to recognise the difference between online and studio-based teaching.

The group has already been through the school’s official complaints procedure but has had its complaints rejected by both the school and the independent Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. 

It has now hired law firm Harper Macleod as well as launching a crowdfunder to pay for the legal challenge.


  • District Hospitals Public Garden and Circulation.
    District Hospitals Public Garden and Circulation. Credit: Adjaye Associates
  • District Hospitals Public Garden and Circulation..
    District Hospitals Public Garden and Circulation.. Credit: Adjaye Associates

Adjaye designs mass hospital building programme in Ghana

Adjaye Associates has revealed that it is designing 101 hospitals in Ghana – or rather implementing a standard model that can be adapted across 101 different sites.

The first of these – in the southern Ashanti region – broke ground last month.

Each district hospital will be a single-storey 8,500m2 campus containing a lush garden at its centre.

They will use a prefabricated system as well as local materials which, practice founder David Adjaye said, would allow efficient reproduction and minimise carbon use.

The district hospital building programme aims to provide access to healthcare facilities throughout the country. Adjaye stressed the design was intended to reposition the hospital ‘as a piece of community infrastructure that embodies sustainability and efficiency and generously provides green spaces to facilitate wellness and healing.’

Wards are designed to promote natural light and cross-ventilation while roofs will harvest rainwater and provide an insulated shell to minimise heat gain.

Adjaye, who is Ghanaian-British, has been the go-to architect for a number of recent Ghanaian projects, including its national cathedral, which is under construction.

Adjaye was officially presented with the 2021 RIBA Royal Gold Medal at a ceremony in Ghana’s capital, Accra, where the country’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, paid tribute to him alongside other international leaders.

  • Jian Mu Tower.
    Jian Mu Tower. Credit: Carlo Ratti Association
  • Jian Mu Tower..
    Jian Mu Tower.. Credit: Carlo Ratti Association

Does Chinese 'farmscraper' set out the future for agriculture?

In future decades, will country walks through farmland be replaced by treks up and down the stairwells of skyscrapers that are also used for growing crops as the world becomes increasingly urbanised?

Italian practice Carlo Ratti Associati has revealed plans for a 52-storey 'farmscraper' in the Chinese city of Shenzhen that would grow crops using hydroponics – a soil-free method of growing plants using water-based nutrients.

And while previous proposals to grow produce within urban buildings have felt tokenistic, the practice says this one will supply 270 tonnes of food per year, apparently enough to feed 40,000 people – though as this amounts to less than 7kg of food per person, that calculation sounds wildly optimistic.

The building would dedicate 10,000m2 to cultivating crops and 90,000m2 to offices, a supermarket and food courts.

Speaking to Dezeen, practice principal Carlo Ratti said that the tower ‘embraces the notion of zero food miles in the most comprehensive sense’. Crops cultivated in the tower are sold and even eaten in the same location.

He said his firm had worked with a company specialising in innovative agriculture to come up with a proposal that ‘adapts traditional robotic hydroponic farms to a vertical facade’.


Increase self-building to avoid social unrest, says MP

A Conservative MP has written a report on self-building which concludes that the housing crisis could lead to political unrest and extremism.

Richard Bacon, who was commissioned to write the report by the prime minister, says that while a younger generation has been priced out of home ownership, ‘new housing is feared’.

Bacon has long been a champion of self-build and custom-build housing, and his report suggests that as many as 40,000 extra homes could be made available every year if more land was made available where people could build their own properties.

At the moment, around 13,000 self-build and custom homes are built each year, which Bacon notes is tiny compared with other countries. In Germany, it accounts for 55 per cent of all new housing.

And he lays much of the blame for the shortage of housing on a planning process where ‘land comes forward almost exclusively as large strategic sites'.

Most opposition to new housing, he writes, is directed ‘against the second-rate, the environmentally damaging and the bland’ which he believes the planning system favours.
His broad solution is to create the conditions ‘where house-buyers are treated as if they matter the most’, which he argues is what happens when they are allowed to commission their homes themselves.

And he recommends that government body Homes England should set up a Custom & Self-Build Delivery Unit to help kickstart the market.

The report has been welcomed by housing secretary Robert Jenrick, who said he would consider its recommendations fully.

It remains to be seen how seriously he will take the proposals. Some of Jenrick’s previous efforts to increase housing supply have not obviously been geared towards the users, with his expansion of permitted development rights allowing offices to be converted into low-quality housing while bypassing most of the planning process.


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