Tutorials # 4

Tutorials started again this week. The issue was how does one do tutorials now that the ‘hard’, bossy stage of the process is over. If one just gives tutorials in the normal way, are we not just reasserting the power structure, and resulting combination of dependency and imposition, that accompanies all architectural studio teaching? This was the question we raised in open discussion. The response was twofold. First, the students will have weekly sessions without us, in which work is discussed collectively in the spirit of mutual support. At the end of each of these sessions, a newsletter will be made and published here (awaiting the first.) Second, in tutorials we accept the inevitability of some degree of imbalance of power, but in that very acceptance have to use it responsibly rather than exploit it. I think that we are also feeling that unpicking some of the assumptions of practice is ambitious enough in its own right, and to add in wholesale revision to pedagogy may be another project. But that is a bit of a cop out.

Tutorials thus proceeded. Below are short descriptions of what was discussed and the way forward, as much for Tatjana and my benefit as anyone’s (because we only saw half the studio each).

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14 responses to “Tutorials # 4

  1. Tutorial: 06.02.08
    Tutor: Jeremy Till

    Current response to avoid redesign of the building has been to start multiple strands of investigation (mapping, concept, physicality, installation). Consider what this means in terms of output and it is essential to understand or question on what judgements I make my next steps? Be conscious of the different strands of thought and consider adding further methods, both standard and ‘unusual’. Work on them for a limited time and try to focus in. Pin up all different types of investigation at next tutorial in order to examine/analyse the relationships properly and try to develop agenda/responses based on this exercise.

  2. Whilst presenting my revised set of control drawings it was commented that, given the nature of my agenda (interference), my presentation should become progressively messier. That is to say, the spatial qualities that represent the controlling physicality of buildings i.e. in “stuff” should slip away to represent activity. My control drawings are, at present, too illustrative and require titles. Once I have developed a drawing to represent social activity/interference I must take on an archaeologist role and begin to reconstruct my site from fragments in my drawing. Providing a method to which I can begin to construct something spatial and invent my own new form of layering.

  3. Currently I am exploring how the building manifests as a cluster of ‘interfaces’. Working within the framework of the competition brief I presented work based on how creativity is consumed, with some work based on paradigms of advertising as ‘interface’. This appraoch however is inherently superficial and surface based (bad art), and negated the depth and oppourtunity to really explore ‘interface’ in space. Therefore it was proposed that I perform ‘operations’ on existing models of creative space, as a means of uncovering social interface in creative space.

  4. Recognising my architectural role now to be that of strategist. My first steps in my ‘new direction’ will be surveying the CIQ, to understand and recognise areas of interest and potential as alternatives to the given site. Recognising the potential and limitations of these alternatives: existing structure or empty land? ownership? length of time availiable? size? physical state? paint job vs complete rebuild? location? economic value? adjoining external space? where the information is missing, making it up based on clues/ assumptions. Once done, this should provide a framework within which to work. To test out more socially/environmentally sustainable proposals to benefit user, client and city.

  5. Tutorial: 07/02/08
    Tutor: Tatjana

    I summarised the story of my project so far, particularly since the competition stage. I presented previously unsuccessful control drawings and then drawings that I have completed since which i feel are more successful. I explained the various conflicting conversations that I have had concerning the direction in which to continue my work. We discussed my reading into feminist theory. An outcome of the tutorial that I wish to pursue, and which would definitely be a different way of working for me, is the presentation of the reading and resultant thoughts in a clear, more visual way, and it might be that the different ways of ordering these thoughts become important. It was suggested that I need to be much braver in the steps that I take and the work that I produce. Further reading was also suggested, as well as the need to consider feminist theory not only in terms of design and spatial considerations, but also in terms of feminist working methods to fuel my own techniques.

  6. My tutorial was a discussion of the role the architect in defining form… Is stuff boring? It was agreed that it isn’t and my project could be an attempt to discover the precarious boundary between architectural design as the detached imposition of form and architectural design as a way of facilitating use through the manipulation of materials. I am going to continue my investigations in Sheffield by walking in the city, documenting moments of architectural indeterminacy, moments where architecture supports multiple uses and encourages urban diversity. Terraced housing, industrial buildings, 1960’s offices – what are the specific conditions that allow these typologies to respond to the multiple needs of their users. Can a palette of specific elements, principles or working methods be developed to enable the architect to relinquish control without withdrawing completely from the world of stuff?

  7. Work undertaken since the reviews has focused upon the role of the architect within the life-span of a building and how the building process can reconfigure extend involvement, both for professionals and users / clients. The mapping of these changing dynamics should include another layer, identifying what affects the architect’s decision-making process in the long-term. There is an opportunity for the architect to reformulate their role in the life-span of a building as a manager of the brief. The process of briefing can become an iterative, creative process, a journey to support the client, design and construction teams in achieving the user’s expectations. The architect can become facilitator of an architecture based upon process rather than product, sustaining extended involvement in the life-span of a building.

  8. Juliet Sakyi-Ansah

    Having explained that I was begining to withdraw from the current scheme of a 24 hourly used building in order to expand the idea behind the scheme, it was suggested that the scheme needs to be developed further. Presentation of the development will be communicated through standard architectural drawings. They will be used to demonstrate that the concept behind the current scheme can be followed through to deliver its just-course. The next three weeks will be spent improving the spatial arrangements and placing the building in its social and physical context. These will be preceded by several challenges to test the strength and successfulness of the program, perhaps through materiality reversal, intensification of the programs, etc.

  9. The tutorial focused my agenda further on the architect in the design process, leaving me with more questions than answers… Where does the architect operate in the value system of the process? What can he/can I bring to this process… It was mentioned that my initial diagrams do not go far enough to addressing the raw economic values that I am interested in unearthing… Growth and the building process are not a bad thing, never apologize for building its just what were building… What can I offer the Developer instead of Hard Cash? and the biggest question of all What is good design ? and what’s its value?

  10. We began by considering methods of provoking change within a building. Expectation of change often doesn’t materialise in buildings because people are not aware or active enough to enable it. Ownership, responsibility, management, operating structure, methods, patterns of usage, materials and financial sustainability are all things that should be addressed if the evolution of a building is to be realistic.

    As a starting point, we agreed that I should not abolish the building at the moment. An analysis of the building as it currently exists would be a useful exercise, trying to adapt it to a number of different situations and see what remains. What can the building be stripped down to? Reconsider the brief.

    One of the important aspects of my agenda stems from the fact that predicting the future of the human context is impossible. It is important that I consider different scenarios that are not contrived by myself. The group sessions may be a useful tool to generate some hypothetical scenarios so that I can truly relinquish control. This is NOT to say that the architect is passing on the authorship, absolving themselves of responsibility, but only to admit the mutation of that authorship. It may even mean that the initial proposal of the architect is more prescribed and more specific, more rigid, in order to provoke and to necessitate change. Think of games such as consequences to make up possible scenarios and reveal the unexpected.

  11. Portfolio review a real wake up call – and after I lots of thinking followed – started to see things a lot more clearly – things I believe in and can really develop in the next few months. – Starting from how farcical the brief actually was for a media centre – really not what I believe in – semi commercial and political organisations hijacking terms of creativity and culture, as they are fashionable. Paired with this really questioning the notion of media how we take for granted or even consider neutral so much that is actually mediated and controlled by commercial forces.

    I began reading much more seriously and widely, and started just writing a sort of dialogue between the site/a building/something and user/many users of the city. Many of these did come out as fairly negative. – Maybe I need to think more about the life affirming ones and how one word in each sentence can make negative – start to question what some of the words mean, and dissect more – look at oblique strategies.

    Advised that I will probably need to do some actions involving others – questioning – interacting, raising awareness – stickers, polite graffiti. – Can be very polemical but need to have a building backup – or force something into the building I had.

    Next do try to express ideas for questioning the structure of this part of city – montages – questioning laws of order/ fictional constructs (rumour) etc – but important to rewrite my own brief that can serve as a clear strategy for the project. – Think about how work and concept drawings might be ordered – sets of questions and statements on cards – in boxes?

  12. Retrospective:
    I took the ‘learn something new’ requirement of the ‘killer drawing’ more seriously than I took the drawing itself, so presented my half-cooked experiments in ‘4D’ drawing. Ironically time-hungry but interesting.

    Prospective:
    My response to the original brief has been to scratch away at its assumptions / value systems, and unearth the social aims behind the ‘creative industries’ project. I presented my short crit of the accepted ‘creative clusters’ model as being not only mono-economic and mono-cultural (i.e- Creative rennaissance as an exclusively middle class phenomenon) but also doomed to failure in that it fails to support a fundamental culture shift in how divergent thinking happens. I am interested in hobbies and how the city will provide for an informed-amateur society.

    The much more difficult question then becomes- What can architecture do? Where does it engage and what is the role of the architect- my tutorial started ripping open some of these questions. TS suggesting that I have to differentiate between ‘architecture’ and ‘planning’, and think more about political ‘activism’. I am suspicious of the idea that it is sufficient to ‘subvert’ or ‘oppose’ with architecture (where is the line between political designer and spatial politician?), but rather that it may be possible for architecture, through the application of tools and ideas, to distort soft-systems in order to create new fields of possibility. In other words: bend the rules.

    Conclusion: As I am avoiding my usual tendency to leap to an idea, TS suggested that I design my own thinking-system in such a way as to make it accessible to others. This is appropriate to a project where the means and the ends are consciously blurry.

  13. I’ve been approaching my project from a feminist, right-wing, libertarian perspective…

    Reading List:

    Eisenmann / Giuseppe Terragni: Transformations, Decompositions, Critiques

    Clarkson / The World According to Clarkson

  14. Since initially imposing a work ethic along Fordist / Warholist lines in my competition entry I have begun to consider the architect as total author and the notion of control in architecture (not meant in the ‘security’ sense, but in the will to order of the architect). Whilst this is prosaic and well trodden ground (reflected in the group discussion) it is the beginnings of a deconstruction of my own thought process and assumptions and inherently the institutions and ‘memes’ that have shaped this, using the original competition design as an engine.

    The group discussion centred on motifs that had been repeated throughout the day – can/should the user be given more control? Is flexibility / self-build a valid answer to this? Should users movements through a building be controlled? Etc.

    My current mode of representation seems to draw strong responses: Critical comments were made on the exploded axonometric drawings (drawn from ‘God’s Gaze’) for they render the designer, removed from the real, as a puppeteer of sorts. Others liked the ‘style.’ It has been suggested that different tools / methods should be employed (more ‘soft?’) or conversely that this diagrammatic / codified language, opposed to architecture in the classical sense, should be continued and that tweaks and subversions should be made from within.

    Various avenues of continuation have been suggested:

    The creation of a compendium of words present in my language and ideas; a critical self encyclopaedia akin to Raymond Williams’ ‘Keywords.’

    Discredit the tokenistic approach taken thus far. Polemically engage with; self-build, functionalism, open plan, ‘control’…

    A deconstruction of the original tick-box brief through a pursuit of opposing value systems.

    An exploration of representation – the diagram constructs our reality of architecture and buildings we’ve (in most cases) not yet visited, suggesting a new type of reality to come. Does this currently sustain architecture?

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