Edinburgh University's study of Budapest is its best student show in years.
Two thematic strands run through the M Arch show at Edinburgh University — the question of territoriality (and the "borderlands" which exist in the areas between territories) and tectonics — insofar as drawings, models, texts and buildings can all be considered constructs.

The first of these themes, territoriality, is rooted in political philosophy, and being based upon the notion that architecture since the ancient Greeks has always been territorial, raises the question of which territorial models should be adopted.

The city of Budapest provides the ground for the 35-strong student group to explore this. Their individual theses are founded upon the results of a collaborative analytic study. It is clear from the work on display that all the students benefited from this joint investigation.

In many ways Budapest is the perfect choice for such an intense study. It is a city whose extraordinarily rich and multi-layered history demands a full understanding of the underlying socio-political issues. The work focuses in on the city's own traditions and seeks hybrid solutions which connect critical elements of the past to new interpretations of city life.

The layout of the exhibition (itself divided between the territories of the school's ground and fourth floors) reflects that of Budapest. The student examinations of the ghetto area move beyond the polarities that have dominated debates since 1989 — namely faithful restoration versus the creation of a new commercial district — and seek new and relevant solutions which avoid any sentimentality over the area's tragic history.

Several very different student projects have developed out of an understanding of how this area works. Understanding the proximity of the ghetto to Budapest's cultural nexus, the construction of the city blocks that contain this quarter and the many routes through it, one project suggests the subtle insertion here of rehearsal rooms for opera, while another develops the block interior as a new theatre district. Both proposals have merit and go well beyond simplistic architectural solutions. Similarly, the several projects exploring the subterranean city, packed into the school's ground-floor Matthew Gallery, are rich with exciting and genuinely believable propositions.

The elegance and sensitivity of the students' projects for Budapest provide ample evidence of their tectonic abilities. This is a long way from the computer-generated presentations fashionable in so many schools of architecture today — these are beautifully drawn and modelled designs underpinned by material that clearly indicates the depth of exploration which has taken place. Standards are high here and some of the best proposals on display demonstrate an extraordinary conception matched by sheer hard work. This is one of the best student shows in years at Edinburgh University, and instead of having a few stars, demonstrates a level of intellectual rigour, tectonic understanding and design ability across the student body which ought to be the norm in postgraduate architectural programmes.