What do you see when you think of an architectural review space? Is it a white-washed room? Bad acoustics? 15 pairs of judgemental eyes locked on you?
All of the above?
You’re not the only one.
Architectural student review spaces have been the same since the beginning. Spaces to pin up your work in a square white room, devoid of any life whatsoever. A blank canvas. Not only is this room an uncomfortable setting for to begin with, it’s matched with a jury of people looking in one direction – at you, the student. Not only is this unpractical to constantly move all the chairs around the room between each review, but it also creates an anxious atmosphere, in which one can find it rather difficult to fully focus. This Charrette studio, therefore, was all about redesigning the architectural students review spaces to become a more engaging space, which would also hopefully encourage the students to feel more confident and at ease. This could be anything from creating a pod-like structure to have reviews in or even designing a piece of furniture which might make the experience more pleasant for the student.
Within our group we had students from all stages of architectural education; which was a good opportunity to get an idea of how everyone felt about the architectural review from the very beginning of their education right up until the very end. There was a general consensus about the formality of them, which can easily distract from the creativity of the process. Within our group, after discussing and collating all our individual opinions on how successful or not we think reviews have been and what could have been altered to improve or even make it more of an informal and immersive experience, we began to sketch our ideas. We wanted to turn the conventional idea of the review on its head to bring out the best presentation skills in each student. A fun and alternative idea was suggested to create a piece of furniture which would have a 360 degree experience for the jury; so the work surrounded them fully as they were hearing what the project entailed.
Our design was the basic idea of having seats in which the critiquing panel would sit upon, supported within the middle by a column which would double up and a back rest. From this central column, there would be supported mechanical ‘arms’ spanning out radially which would allow for work to be hung upon, creating the immersive 360 degree viewing experience. One of the threads of thought behind this aspect was to be almost an analogue version of visual reality, being surrounded by the design imagery and beginning to imagine yourself occupying the spaces in reality.
We began to make the prototype using simple MDF and plywood to create the seating structure. We made our prototype large enough for two jurors as time was an issue, however, we envisioned a structure which would allow 10 – 15 people to be able to have this immersive experience, both the critiquing panel and students alike. This would also allow more room and the mechanical ‘arms’ to be able to suspend work upon, to respond to requirements students need in the recent age. These ‘arms’ are made with a hinge in the centre so they can be easily adjustable to suit the viewer’s needs. These took the longest time to design and build as some wouldn’t allow work heavier than paper to be suspended, and some were too heavy themselves to keep perpendicular to the column.
In terms of the prototype we made, I think we conveyed well the ideas we were aiming for, even if it was not executed as well as it could have been. It really would have been interesting to have worked on this project for longer than a week, however, the idea of Charrette week is that it is a quick and energetic, school-wide project to ease you back into the academic year.