Without going to the other extreme of courting the vernacular in austere sackcloth and ashes style in response to the zeitgeist , the exhibits are a cross section of building elements promoting high quality, bespoke micro-design. The craft roots of architecture are evident, and not as mere techniques or decoration, but as sound solutions for roofs, ceilings, facades, furniture and a staircase – birdboxes, even (51% Studios) – embracing in different ways an ecologically advanced ethos. The latest digital tools were behind a modular system for insulation based on a parametric software system (by FACIT), and Superfusionlab's seaside kiosks and windbreaks evolved from analogue and digital modelling. The 21st century architect is also shown at his most idiosyncratic, as with Tobias Klein's exercises in fashioning an urn made out of turtle bone fragments into a baroque revival building to demonstrate that the dichotomy between techne and poesis is overcome.
In some cases the design logic is very simple, like Walker and Martin's sensual door handles. The pillar box red step by designer Ab Rogers is part of a steel encased fibreglass staircase in a rainbow of colours for a private house. A piece of architects AOC's printed fabric could be worn around the body, but it turns out to be from the envelope for The Lift, a mobile theatre pavilion. Lumpy plastic cast scale models are supposedly evocative of the fabric ceiling of Ron Arad's Ohayon Villa in Marrakech, a tent-like structure enigmatically represented by a single shot. Other presentations convey the story without words: three layers of square of de Rijke Marsh Morgan (drmm)'s ETFE roof for Kingsdale School in London shows the moiré effect produced after modelling to define the solar gain control. Their CNC-cut timber benches are recycled off cuts from the walls of the Music and Sports Hall.
When the exhibition best responds to 'how did they do that?' without recourse to an explanatory video, it is by showing a range of elements so that a non-linear process of evolution can be observed. Urban Salon's Tide & Times pavilion for the BBC was developed in a series of workshops with children. EcoLogic's Light Wall for a villa in Cirie outside Turin reinterprets the traditional concrete wall as a sponge capable of absorbing and filtering heat and light. To demonstrate the effect, the architects add an interactive apparatus. Opening a rich book of stories about design and material possibilities in a digital age, the exhibition is a rare process-based presentation, but some of the time it is down to the observer to practice the art of unravelling the narratives. Lucy Bullivant