Alexandr Valakh takes First Prize at the Tata/BCSA Competition

Familiar face in the workshop Alexandr Valakh has won the Tata/BCSA First prize for his Stacked City Prototype project, with particular praise for his submission blending the use of models and renders to convey the different aspects of his design. MSA wrote a short article on their news feed here.

Alex final Project (1)

This Model along with some of alex’s earlier work will be on display as part of the upcoming exhibition, B.15:45.

We wish Alex all the best for his future projects.

A reimagining of slums , QED, Alexandr Valakh Part 2

Back in March we looked at Alex’s 1:100 model exploring the assembly of his proposed site. Alex completed his model series by producing a 3D printed site model and finally a cross section model showing the relationship between the individual units and the optional outer skin facade.

Alex 3d Print (1)

After several days in the chemical bath to remove support material Alex placed his 3D printed model in a purpose made display case to protect it from intrigued hands! It’s always worth noting that forms such as this require a lot of support material when made on the ABS plastic printer which often means extended periods of time post-printing in the chemical bath.Alex 3d Print (20)
Alex final Project (4) Alex final Project (11) Alex final Project (15) Alex final Project (18)The outer skin of the model was made using paper components that were CAD designed and laser cut before being hand assembled. The completed skin was fixed onto the plywood frame carefully using superglue.
Alex final Project (20) Alex final Project (21) Mass produced standardised components were designed to be quickly assembled to create the form much like the full scale proposal offers. Alex final Project (23) Alex Final Major Section (1)Alex Final Major Section (3)Alex Final Major Section (6)Alex Final Major Section (13)Alex Final Major Section (43)Alex Final Major Section (74)Alex has produced some fantastic models here over the last two years and we encourage everyone to look at this level of work for inspiration. All the best for the future Alex!

Alex final Project (8)

A reimagining of slums, QED, Alexandr Valakh

concept 1

6th year Alexandr Valakh has been researching the anatomy of slum functionality in Rio De Janeiro. Slum areas typically develop due to inadequate employment opportunities and the necessity to live resulting in the irregular and somewhat chaotic appearance of the constructions.

Alex module study (1)Alex module study (2)Alex module study (6)

To reinvent this Alex is proposing a loose set of structural rules that bring some much needed order the the slum idea. By implementing this theory Alex’s idea will allow a basic industry infastructure to help support formal employment opportunities as well as making efficient use of the same geographical footprint.

concept 2

Alex’s bold ‘plug-in-city’ concept involved units that can be adapted and extended to suit their purpose in the community. Units can be extended in any direction thus allowing the construction to climb and create a towering peak. Alex has called the project the ‘Stacked City Prototype’.

Alex module study (8)

Alex produced this 1:100 scale structural flow model to study variable layouts and in turn the conditions it would create for the people using the site. The model was extensively designed in CAD and made using laser cut acrylic and ply wood components to represent different material elements.

Alex (17) IMG_2850 PS IMG_2878 PS IMG_2841 PS IMG_2851ps

“Poppy” Pavilion at Dunham Massey

As we have documented since the start of this academic year, the poppy pavilion project has taken many hours of development and construction to create. Much of the final structure assembly was completed in our store space due to the sheer size of the piece. Alex, Lorena and Nancy assembled of structure in two main parts before transportation to the site.  


The group met on a cold and rainy February morning to assemble the pieces at Dunham Massey National Trust park. The poppy was anchored using 3 fence piles which were fixed to the bottom of the structure. The final assembly too a full day and another morning to complete not to mention some frozen hands by all accounts!

The completed structure held its form well and had withstood the recent stormy weather with no problems. The structure along with the other Pavilion projects can be seen on display at Dunham Massey over the coming months.

Well done all involved!


Danielle Foster and Patrick Gorman have begun making their moulds for concrete casting which will take place at the Sheds over the coming weeks. The actual concrete casting process will be time consuming and potentially costly so spending time to get the moulds right is essential.  Myself and Jim spent almost two days cutting components on our circular saw to make the moulds for the blocks. each mould will produce a positive and a negative indent to allow each brick to fit together. Each brick will also be numbered using the rubber number profiles the group tested at the previous stage of development. Cutting this material takes a little practice before going ahead to cut hundreds of components. The rubber had a tendency to melt and blacken as it was cut meaning that cleaning was required post cutting.

Hopefully we’ll start to see some of the finished components coming in the next few weeks. We’ll post an update when we do.

Further testing was required in Alexander Valakh and Lorena Chan’s design following some material and assembly issues.  Once the main structural form was complete Alex and Lorena were able to test the ‘skin’ components that started life being inspired by poppies. At this stage they are still unsure about the exact material that will be used to create this component. This project has been given the green light along with the concrete blocks so we can expect more posts from both of these projects in the next weeks/months.

Pavilion Development Continues

The development of the Dunham Massey Pavilions has been slowly progressing over the last two months with many different problems to overcome. Many of the original concepts have changed in scale and style whilst others have remained largely unchanged.

For Alexander Valakh and Lorena Chan the main problems have come from various material tolerances effect on their designs.

The group used the CNC router to cut plywood components for this phase of their design development. The original poppy concept that was made from cardboard and the riveted elements allowed a lot of flex. When applying the same ideas to a more durable and weather resistant material the same shapes could not be achieved. This is where 1:1 design development models come into use.To test the strength of each joint for their revised design the group decided to risk lorenas life lorena to the task. Luckily their design proved successful and despite a few oversights in fixing elements which can easily be rectified, the group can move on.

After the experimental first test in concrete casting, it was nesissary for this group to solve the issues of casting their numbers into each block. For their second attempt they tried using laser cut rubber components with a much smaller block to prevent material waste and save on weight.  Any mould is always worth considering in depth as a badly designed one will cause you a world of problems when you come to remove your cast. This box was simple but constructed well to allow easy disassembly once the cast has cured.  The finished block turned out well with the flex in the rubber numbers allowing for the expansion of the concrete as it sets. Laser cutting this material can prove time consuming and the number required may need to be outsourced due to demand on our machines from all Architecture Students. It is always worth considering outsourcing elements that need to be mass produced as if you are involved in a ‘real world’ project. Costs can often be lower and experienced companies will be able to offer you more specific advice on what you are trying to achieve at 1:1. We’ll be posting more on these project in the near future! 

Garden Pavilions Continued – Learning Curves and Problem Solving

Development of the 6th year pavilion projects is continuing at pace down in the workshop. Test models often bring assembly issues to the surface which Alexander Valakh, Lorena Chan and Nancy Chan have been finding with their concepts. This is exactly why these models play a vital role in design development.  Here Alex has created his outer skin from laser cut polypropylene plastic sheet fixed with pop rivets. This has proved tricky and mid way through assembly it became clear that a more uniform stapled fixing would have been more effective. Lorena and Nancy have spent the last few days fixing components for this concept together. The original concept was to have a smooth curved structure forming the tunnel walkway. As the components were fixed the group found that the curve was un-uniform due to the varying strain between components. Whilst this isn’t exactly how the concept was drawn it has still proved an interesting experiment and may still be taken to the next stage.

Pavilion Project (4)The concrete cast (below) has also had some teething problems with the cast numbers not turning out as refined as the group would have liked. This process will require more thought if it is to be taken forward. The group has found that their choice of aggregate or quantity used may be to blame for the irregular casting around the number details. One thing is for sure it wont be going too far given its weight despite having a polystyrene block inside to reduce the material used!

Garden Pavilions at Dunham Massey 2013

Much like the brief set this time last year students are currently in the concept stages of designing a series of pavilions to be constructed at 1:1 at Dunahm Massey (Read our blog post here). This project was challenging for both staff and students last year and really pushed the boundaries of what the workshops can handle.

This year the project is aiming to be more refined and, with support of workshop staff, come to an effective and ‘speed-bump’ free conclusion!

Alexander Valakh (Below) is working on several sketch models to help convey his project named ‘The Shadow of War’ to tutors in the hope it will be taken to the next stage of development.

To test his theory for eventual 1:1 construction Alex had produced a plywood sketch model in identical fashion to the full size proposal on our CNC. Producing this model has allowed Alex to explore problems he may encounter whilst using this method and has already identified several areas that will need more thought. These issues are not a hindrance to the design process but feed into it and shouldn’t be seen as a waste of time. problem solving through trial and error models are often the best way of refining a design for production.

This group is also producing another concept pavilion using paper to create the sketch model. The flower-like components are created and joined using pop rivets which will eventually form a curved canopy. 

Another (!) concept from the same group involves casting concrete blocks as part of a wall sculpture. This is part of the same brief but is less interactive due to the nature of the proposed site. This was poured yesterday afternoon and is still setting so we’ll hopefully have some more pictures of how that is progressing by the end of the week.


‘Trimo Urban Crash Bike Base’ Competition entry, Alexandr Valakh

This competition entry was completed in January 2013 by 5th year MA Architecture student Alexandr Valakh. Here is a brief project description taken from Arch Daily:

‘In digital imaging, a pixel, is a physical point in a raster image, or the smallest addressable element in a display device; so it is the smallest controllable element of a picture represented on the screen. The pixel is a multifunctional Cafe and Bike storage repair stop, designed on an orthogonal grid, with entirely adaptable elements including optional layouts and furniture arrangements. The Pixel like its name sake is in an adaptable social environment designed to to create a new and flexible social public space.

These spatial responses include differing strategies for Daytime, Nighttime as we all as
different strategies which can be implemented to respond to environmental/seasonal factors, site conditions as well as security requirements.’ -Alexandr Valakh

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Alexandr used laser cut ply wood to create this concept model showing how his proposed design would look in relation to its surroundings. He also used a minimum of contextual details such as people and a car to further convey its scale.

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In addition to the context model Alexandr produced a detail model of the units construction featuring laser cut bike silhouettes. The level of detail shown in this detail model would be inappropriate on the smaller context model.