Category Archives: Real World

Outside of University / Anything else that I get up to…

Getting DMUsed to it…

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.

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Learning About Bid Writing….

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…

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The University Project…ongoing at the Hub Westminster…

I popped into the Hub Westminster today, just to see what was going on in this interestingly conceived place for entrepreneurial thinking and doing right in the heart of our capital city…

This weekend sees the Hub host the University Project, introduced by Dougald Hine here, which questioned what our universities have become, and asks what we should do next.

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Project Context Debate – “Schools of Architecture Should Be Dissolved!” (unless…)

I had the dubious pleasure recently of being asked to be involved in a debate at my School of Architecture, run by Project Context and hosted by SUAS (Sheffield University Architecture Society) which followed an Oxford-style debate format based upon the motion, “Schools of Architecture Should Be Dissolved!”. I was asked to argue for the motion, alongside Sheffield graduate Alastair Parvin, and current staff member Dr Tatjana Schneider. A synopsis or our argument can be found – thanks to Alastair – here, whilst the debate itself was videoed and broadcast live via Livestream. A recording can be found here (the debate itself begins about 20mins in…). A lively discussion with some interesting QandA…but boy am I glad I survived it!

 

 

 

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The Retirement Home For Amnesiac Wizards…or What’s Wrong With Architectural Education

A good article I’ve come across by Alastair Parvin, a former Sheffield student, in Makeshift magazine’s online stuff…..here

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New BD Blog post up…

My latest contribution to BD’s online content can be found here

Sam

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Summer Travels 2011…(21) – Tel Aviv. Just waiting.

So I’m in Tel Aviv. And I’ve been walking. And writing. In the wake of the attacks near Eilat, things have escalated. Israel bombed the Palestinian-controlled Gaza, from which it believes the attacks originated, within hours of the shootings on the bus near the Egyptian border. There have been further incidents, including the shooting of Egyptian border police by Israeli forces, and rocket attacks of the city of Be’er Sheva, where I was headed just a few days ago.

Tel Aviv still exists in its bubble, but with its own tensions. Protestors camp out on Rothschild Boulevard, despite some calls that civil protest should abate in the wake of the terror attacks in the south in order that the country may pull together. However, the homeless and debt-ridden persist. As one tour-guide put it, “they’re looking for peace now, they’re so tired…after all the free performances, late into the night, from celebrities looking to support them, they just want to sleep!”. Its a different world here from that which exists, also on the glistening shores of the Mediterranean, just a few tens of kilometers further south.

So here’s a photograph of what I wrote when I walked, and a video…the tension is getting to me, and becoming harder to escape.

On a cheerier note, this film is about to come out, and shows in glorious aerial detail many of the places I have visited…

I’m off to try and lift my mood. Checked into a private room for tonight, at some expense…I cant go on without sleep. Especially with the anticipation of Ben Gurion airport’s notoriously stringent security checks tomorrow before I fly out. In a nod to the archi-tourist inside me, I hope to head for a Mario Botta designed synagogue at the Tel Aviv University campus tomorrow, hopefully to be reminded that beautiful places and spaces can lift the soul…

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Summer Travels 2011…(20) – Time to come home…

So, despite having just posted, I have this piece of breaking news…just heard the tragic news related in this article

I was planning to head to Eilat today, potentially on this bus. So something tells me it is time to come home. I’ve changed my flight to the 22nd, the earliest available, and I’m looking forward to relaxing in relative safety of Tel Aviv until then. In part, my decision has been informed by the facts of history that say Israel rarely leaves attacks like this unpunished. My plan had been to head to Eilat and on to Sinai, before returning to the city to go to Petra in Jordan. It seems unwise at best given today’s events, and I am growing incredibly weary of the tensions of travelling here…

So. I’m safe. But getting the **** out.

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Summer Travels 2011…(19) – The North (1)

So I have just returned to Jerusalem from a week-long jaunt to the north of Israel. I passed through Haifa, Akko, Nazareth, the Golan Heights and Tiberias on my way, learning that even heading to where Israeli’s go to seek some rest and relaxation, you are never far from tension…

First stop Haifa. Having fought my way out of bed early in the morning to get to Tel Aviv in time to meet the Falafel Bus (a backpacker bus pass I’d purchased to meet people whilst travelling solo), I was taken by the driver Ishay to Caeserea. The ruins here sit in front of the backdrop of one of Israel’s power stations, making for an interesting beachscape, if a somewhat frustratingly tourist-orientated heritage site.

Caeserea and the nearby power station

The ruins at Caeserea...like a lot of things here, fenced in and insensitively used.

Ishay is from Giloh, an Israeli settlement near Bethlehem in the West Bank. I have my own views on this, but wanted dearly to hear his. He couldn’t, or wouldn’t speak much English to me. I was also the only one on the bus that day (and later, it turned out, for the whole of my intended trip). Arriving in Haifa, brooding with angry disappointment at having had my money taken from me in return for an underwhelming and expensive ‘experience’, I decided to cancel my further travel on the Falafel Bus, preferring instead to return to my usual mode of travel via public transport and backpacker hostels.

In Haifa, I was lucky enough to be meeting up with Sarah’s family, and had been invited for the traditional Friday night Shabbat dinner. Having waited in the Ba’Hai Gardens overlooking the port city (please google these for another interesting religion claiming part of the Holy Land), I was whisked away by Sarah’s parents to the beach for a much needed dip in the Mediterranean. Here’s today’s video…

Ba'Hai Gardens in Haifa

Yoav, Maish and Sylvia (Sarah's cousin, father and mother, respectively) on the beach in Haifa

I didn’t end up meeting Itay, as I mention in the video. Instead, I ended up accepting Sarah’s family’s generous offer of a second night in the gynecology clinic, and then moving on to the northerly Arab town of Akko, taking advantage of my freedom from the Falafel Bus itinerary…here’s another video…

Efraim, Sarah’s uncle, is a doctor, and her cousins are students…both social groups are affected by the extraordinarily high cost of living in Israel, alongside other causes such as debates surrounding how bets to deliver things such as healthcare and education. I was invited to join them in attending a rally, similar to many that are happening across Israel at this time, calling for the govenrnment to address concerns about ‘social justice’…

Protest in Haifa. The Placards read "Arabs and Jews together will not fight anymore"

Protests in Haifa

Newspaper report about the protests in Haifa...

On the next day, as I headed to Akko, I decided to try and learn something about the British Mandate period of occupation on the Holy Land…’Haifa’s Museum of Clandestine Immigration’ had some interesting material on Jewish ‘terrorism’ between 1945 and 1948, when the Yishuv (the term used in Hebrew referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel) was fighting to establish Israel as a state…

Haifa's Museum of Clandestine Immigration has a submarine...

I was thoughtful as I reached Akko……which lasted until El Classico kicked off (Real Madrid vs Barcelona). Spanish football is really popular here, especially Barca. Arabs feel affinity with the Catalan cause, and its not uncommon to find bus drivers adorning the interiors of their vehicles with flags and portraits of their favorite players. Here’ a taste of Akko, Nargileh and all, which I share with Anya, who turns out to have worked for (and been equally frustrated with) the IPCC…

The next day I went on a trip with Walid, the slightly unhinged owner of the hostel i was staying in in Akko, to the Golan Heights, a contested piece of ground in northern Israel, where many Israeli’s vacation in the summer months. We drive along the borders with Lebanon and Syria, and visited the holy town of Tsfat, previously mixed, but now almost entirely Jewish. The old mosque is an art gallery…

Anyway, I’ll continue with some stuff from my trip to the North when I next can, for now, Im off out in Jerusalem…

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Summer Travels 2011…(18) – Final Crit…

Its a mixed bag as we walk back from the bus stop after the final crit…I have the tang of tear gas in my eyes as it wafts on the breeze from an incident just outside the Old City, and the usual euphoric weariness that accompanies the passing of hours post-crit…

But it seemed to go OK. We gave a good account of ourselves, mostly through Marcelo, with whom I’ve been working this past week. From an urban planners point of view on ‘urban management’, we presented an analysis of existing land legal structure (i.e. ownership), and ‘urban tools’ for development, which included methods such as ‘saleable development rights’ for empowering individual landowners to negotiate with developers and the municipality. For me, its been an interesting exercise in meta-design – we didnt actually design anything beyond a road layout – and one that I hope will inform the way any masterplan is carried out on the ground. Ive always believed that designers dont pay enough attention to the way these things actually affect the built reality of places, and so despite the frustration, I’m glad we took the time to try to communicate some of it.

However, our ‘presentation’ was pushed to the periphery of proceedings this evening, scheduled for the final half hour before sundown – and therefore, before the breaking of today’s Ramadan fast. Considering the fact that the majority of our jury was muslim, and that designers don’t know how to keep to time, it was no surprise that we began late, and that we were cut off by the canon from the old city signalling time to eat…our audience evaporated as the traditional feast was brought out, and despite some attempts to resume later, we suffered from a greatly diminished attendance.

Tucking in to the Ramadan feast...

The ‘cool group’ – having this evening acquired the moniker “new romantics” – faced tough criticism from the predominantly planning-savvy jury, and their work seemed to be misunderstood. I thought it had some real value myself – and my problem with these people has always been the exclusivity of their operations within the wider design team rather than anything based on their design methodology. The videos will certainly make some interesting watching when I upload them…

Romatics crit...

The ‘hardcore urbanists’ faced similar problems of communication, with a number of local architects and planners on the jury expressing their opinion that whilst the project was an ‘interesting research’, it simply “will not work here in this context”. “This is not the netherlands”, said one jury member.

'Hardcore Urbanists' crit...

The general feeling – although I put a lot of it down to politeness – was that IPCC are pleased with the output of the study, its diversity of focus particularly, but disappointed that we couldn’t bring it together under one body of work. I’ve said this all along, and so it is with some satisfaction that I hear my thoughts echoed – although ultimately with frustration and disappointment. They seem to expect us to work at this this week…but my sentiment – as I suspect is shared by the majority here – is that IPCC have another thing coming.

Marcelo presenting our work on urban management strategy. We pinned up outside 'for a change of scene'...

..and continued after the Ramadan feast, in the dark, to a greatly reduced audience...

Just off out, either to a bar in West Jerusalem, or for some beers on my rooftop, and then tomorrow to Masada and the Dead Sea…looking forward to it very very much!

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