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Throughout the first week of academic year, the entire architecture school holds a week long challenge that tackles societal problems that faced in our community. This year, the challenge was called ‘High Street’. Every student on our MA Urban Design course was given a chance to choose 3 studios out of 10 of their own choosing. Oh boy! I was the lucky one and I got my first choice! 

On the first day, I was set on pairs with a first year undergrad. His name is Connor, a decent chap raised and born in Kuwait and a big fan of night outs in Soho. The first challenge was to pick a high street shop found in Newcastle, locate the shop and identify your emotional response and model it using card board and coloured paper. To make things more of a kick and buzz, we have to pick it randomly the possible list of shops in a bag. Connor and I got the Holland and Barrett. After locating our shop in Eldon Square we went into the shop and had a browse on the general vicinity of the area. It was a bit of a challenge to identify emotional response of a shop, being surrounded by pills and daily supplements with heavy green coloured cladding interiors is something we don’t notice and extensively think about when we go to any shops. Normally, I usually buy things I needed and leave. I have to ask myself, what kind of feelings i am feeling right now, standing in the middle of Holland and Barrett, surrounded with great many healthy products and supplements, surrounded by nature themed packaging, pamphlets and even shelves. With the sudden realisation, I was self conscious of myself. I questioned myself, do i really need to take any of these pills to keep me fit or healthy or more or less to become that person with 6 packs on those packages? Ermm. I don’t think so.

Self conscious was the theme we used on our design.

When we are self conscious of the hard decisions we made in life, we step back, reflect, evaluate, think what went wrong, what went right, how to improve the circumstances and etc. I believe that when we are self conscious, we are in the most vulnerable state. We shelter ourselves from criticism, distance to ourselves or even seeking a safe space to be alone. These principles and logic were used to defend our work. Building underground is an idea that came to us because there is a sense of enclosure, being sheltered and protected. Another reason was, nobody really consider building underground and it was a bit of a change from street view level (lol). However, we are also aware that staying longer in a space or bubble can also be a negative thing. We have to challenge ourselves in all form of adversities because that is how we grow, evolve for the better and for self development. 

Overall, the charrette week was intense. We have to talk about our ideas everyday before we leave, give suggestions and critique others work. For me, it was a perfect preparation and oversight of what architectural education feels like.  

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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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