Just finished what i think is my 4th week teaching in 2nd year at the Leicester School of Architecture. Small group today, but good students. We just talked about their projects on a loosely individual basis, where others could take part of they wanted.
I found this quite rewarding. It was nice after having two very focussed sessions in the previous weeks to have an opportunity to look at their projects as a whole, and think about their interim reviews in a couple of weeks time. I guess they’re also getting to know who I am now too. This made things a bit more familiar, and i found it easier to hear them out before trying to empathise with their situation and help them work out a strategy for moving on.
Im finding teaching really interesting. Ive always been quite critical of who is allowed to teach on architecture courses – my employment highlights the fact in can be anyone! Ive no formal teaching qualification and im not fully qualified as an architect…so on what basis can i be trusted with other peoples’ education? Especially an expensive one…
But i guess what is important is actually the reflective nature of the teachers themselves. Maybe the simple fact that i am interested in improving as a teacher is reason enough? Teaching – like the social production of design – is about co-creating knowledge; about building a common ground for dialogue about an idea that can be put into practice, and in this respect i guess i’ve had five or six years of training! In treating my role as an educator like my role as a designer, i can help students on their journey towards bettering themselves. A solution of aspiration and best fit that is not unlike the design for production of a building, product, service, event, etc
But how can i remain fresh? And resist the idea of settling into a job in a way that breeds complacency and – in the worst cases – apathy and dislocation from those whose time you have taken custody? This happens too often, and these formative and (now expensive) years are just too important to let that happen.
Writing up Live Projects, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering this beautiful project. Kyong Park, talking about his nomadic form of architectural and artistic practice, can be found on Vimeo here. In a world where everything is relational, it makes no sense for practice to fixed in one place, Park says. An interesting interview with him can also be found here.
18mins – Brief summary of the Fugitive House
36mins – Concept of Urban Ecology as something we have created, and how dramatic visualisation enables us to view cities as organisms.
So, another thing I’ve been doing recently is working with Dr Cristina Cerulli to develop a sustainable funding strategy for SKINN’s Furnace Park project in the Shalesmoor / Neepsend area of Sheffield. Currently this involves preparing an application for the University of Sheffield’s Collaborative R+D and Partnership Award….
See here for more about SKINN.
See here for SKINN’s project description for the Furnace Park project.
Here are some things I’ve learned;
1) Use ‘active’ language – see here. Strengthens your writing by making intentions clearer and cutting down word count. For example;
PASSIVE: The design document has been completed by the team.
ACTIVE: The team has completed the design document.
2) Academics can be strange beasts. I thought I’d learned about mouthing off from my posts whilst in Israel….but academics al seem to act like they’re protecting some kind of intellectual capital, when they could really benefit from knowing what each other is up to! This may be a naive view in today’s academic world where professors / researchers / lecturers are appraised on an individual basis and need to ‘stand out’…but it frustrates me to a point where I don’t care. The School is stronger as a School that as a roof over a number of individual academics. For the moment, I’m going to continue operating from my temporary office in the foyer of the Arts Tower, as it means I talk to people. This mean I find things out that are of benefit to my project, and that I can share the things I have found out with others, who can make use of it in their projects.
To Be Continued…
There will be a book.
The book will be about the nature of ‘live’ pedagogy; ‘liveness’ in general rather than just Live Projects as an ingredient for that condition; the applied nature of researched-based practice and ‘live’ as a way of teaching; drawing things out from 13 years of teaching at the Sheffield School of Architecture, to derive something broader and more meaningful for practice.
It will also look at the civic role of a project office based within a university. The Bureau of Design Research (BDR) has been doing projects in the city, bringing students back in after their formal education, but also pushing them out into the city to work. As a model, it is a way of teaching and a way of doing consultancy. Its location within a university is important – BDR probably wouldn’t have won certain work without the foundation of a project being in work carried out by students as part of their studies. The research informs – and leads – practice.
The Soar stream of projects is a prime example. Direct commissions (for BDR and others) than come out of ‘live’ work conducted by students (feasibility studies, participative exercises, etc), that then come full-circle to allow further ‘live’ opportunities for civic engagement by and with a university. (The Soar projects are discussed in a chapter of ‘Architecture and Participation’ – search Amazon). Further projects often feature shared organisations and procurement methods, further evidencing the live ‘effect’ – projects that continue to have a life outside of the university and beyond the academic career of its students.
Other Schools of Architecture are picking up on the value that Live Projects can add to an educational offer, but few (maybe none) are getting anywhere near the implications that ‘liveness’ can have for practice too, rather than remaining merely a pedagogical initiative.
Live is a model for education and for practice. It has implications for how you commission architects and where the power lies in the process of commissioning the built environment.
It also addresses the challenge of building an awareness of what people do in universities .
Nesta’s website says:
“Innovation could involve coming up with a brand new idea, combining things in a new way, or finding new ways of making existing solutions work better. The best innovations often involve re-organising processes or the way people interact for example.” (Nesta, 2012)
Interestingly, ‘giving’ is also a devolved issue in the UK…so some grant schemes and challenge prizes will only fund things in England, if their funding comes from the Cabinet Office, or Office for the Civil Society.
Trawling through EU Life+ funding criteria, it becomes apparent that you have to really design a project to meet the funder’s priorities…
It has been suggested to me that I begin to keep a research diary, or PhD scrapbook, to inform any future research / aspirations to do a PhD….
A general thought whilst swimming in the sea this morning:
A lot of my ‘research’ or ‘research by design projects’ interests seem to link back to a common theme, which I can describe as the ‘transformative potential of pedagogy’; or, the way that academic or learning initiatives can have a social and spatial affact, influencing economic and urban development of a place. This principally manifests itself in my interest in the Live Projects at Sheffield, and in my continuing participation in the Eco-Nomadic School project. It also develops my Masters dissertation, in which I looked at the potential of social enterprise to offer a ‘third’ way between practice and research and an approach to professional practice – in a particular place – strongly informed by a research agenda.
My two Masters design projects also took pedagogical programmes…the Wick Academy in Hackney Wick, London, looked at the potential of an educational institution to support the development of a resilient, creative community. Cultivating Heijplaat looked at the important question of education as a social value stream in urban development and regeneration, specifically focussing on how educational opportunities could be built into the procurement process of a building and what affect that had on the aesthetic qualities of the architecture procured.
The interest in transformational potential of pedagogy can be extended to the complimentary interest in how it could be possible to reveal, or seed community in development projects. For a community to be engaged with, it must first a) exist;and b) be capable of legitimately representing itself and interacting with other actors and agents. Pedagogical initiatives have the capacity to seed and develop community groups, which can then play a role in responsible urban and economic development.
That is all for now.