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The week commencing on 2nd October was dedicated to the annual Charrette week organized by Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. ‘Charrette 2019’ focused on ‘Death of High Streets’, an incredibly sensitive topic in the modern digital world, where I participated in organizing a so-called Frankenstein’s Shop (pictured below).
                                                                             An extract from Charrette 2019 Brief

2nd October

The first day started quite lively! Lewis (our Charrette moderator) instructed students to create models from household items and toys. A rather childish activity turned into ‘a battle of imaginations’, where the most skillful ‘craftsmen’ managed to make dozens of models within an hour! By the end of the day, a number of limbless Barbie toys, scattered pieces of tubes and plungers transformed the ever busy studio into a messy ‘Frankenstein’s WORKshop’.


To be honest, such task was challenging and time-consuming for me, as instead of making an easily readable model, I desired to put quite a deeper thought into it.

3rd October

The second day saw the preparation of the final prototypes. Lewis introduced a bag of clay and it made an instant impact by joining the battle in order to ‘calm down the soldiers’ and ‘let them eventually rest’ on wooden boards. Furthermore, we transported them in the workshop and ‘the resting soldiers’ were transformed into plastic molds by using a vacuum former (first image below).

Plastic mold of the model
Filling models with plaster
Plaster board of the model

I still struggled to understand whether people would appreciate my model due to its size and scattered distribution.

4th October

This stage allowed me to prepare, pour and cast plaster into the plastic molds, thus creating a solid rectangular shape (second and third image above). Similar to swimmers, I ‘plunged’ my hands into the ‘waters’ of plaster attempting to reach the ‘finish line’. Students, which were confident about their boards’ appearance recast plastic molds with concrete. From the moment of starting this process, I immediately reflected back to the last year, where I, as an interior architect in the interior design company in Azerbaijan, was monitoring houses and apartments and observed labourers preparing concrete. Whereas now, I was hunkering down and helping my group mates to mix cement and sand (images below).

                  Mixing cement and sand
            and applying concrete on the mold

At the end of Charrette, I valued the experience of preparing plaster and concrete over other activities.


6th October

The final day seemed a happy-ending for everyone’s stories, except for mine! While entering the studio, I suddenly saw my concrete model on the table shattered into 22 pieces…

I was absolutely furious and demoralized and refused to accept such a disappointing outcome. I tried to persuade Lewis in removing ‘this failure’ from the exhibition.

Fortunately, Lewis directed me to embrace this misstep and use it to my advantage. ‘This is an artistic object and frequently the most bizarre exhibits tell the most thrilling stories’ he said. Thus, both models narrated contrasting stories of beauty and ugliness, peace and chaos, success and failure…

“Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through failure” (Aisha Tyler).
                                                       Final Exhibition

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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