#boxity: Saturday Club Masterclass at Chelsea College of Arts

On a recent Saturday, over sixty teenagers from across London joined forces with a group of Allies and Morrison architects to build a new city. Under the banner of #boxity, the day began as a brief lecture on architecture led by Partner Artur Carulla but quickly evolved into something much more dynamic. To the students’ surprise, they were then asked to jump right into the ‘mother of all arts’ themselves by building an entire city at a scale of 1:100 with 1,500 flat-packed cardboard boxes and a lot of masking tape.

#boxity (box plus city) used the simple medium of boxes to make a city, and the urban design process, tangible to the next generation. This real-life experiment saw the group divided into four neighbourhoods, each with different ‘land’ areas and quantity of boxes, leading to radically different urban densities and planning challenges to each. The groups were subsequently divided into subsets representing the different disciplines of city-making: builders, architects and planners, all needing to work together and communicate with one another to assemble the boxes into buildings and places.

Over an intense period of five hours, the students created an entire city – complete with roads, squares, parks and infrastructure, from a stadium to a twenty-box high skyscraper. The students embraced many of the typologies of a modern city. In the process, they tested structural capacity, discovered the importance of the spaces between buildings and the framing of the public realm.

All this took place within the Edwardian confines of the former Royal Army Medical Corps Banqueting Hall, now living a new life at Chelsea College of Arts. The contrast between the striking white boxes and the panelled rooms provided a dramatic scene, resulting not just in a representation of the city, but a memorable piece of live-action sculpture.

An initiative of the Sorrell Foundation, the National Saturday Club provides 14-16 year olds across the country with specialist tuition with an emphasis on exploration and discovery in art and design. The work of Saturday Club’s Masterclasses are exhibited at an annual summer show at Somerset House, which this year will feature #boxity.