Tag Archives: Architecture?

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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Filed under ARC571 - Education, Just Stuff, PhD Scrapbook, Real World, Thoughts

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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Summer Travels 2011…(7)

Ive been having trouble finding an internet connection quick enough to upload the video blogs, so I may have to resort to writing for a while…

Today was another pivotal day in terms of operations in the studio. I feel like I’m a step closer to understanding the different methodologies at play, especially the ‘emergent’ sense-makers (mac-users, inclusive design camp, etc…), as today was the first time I say their work all together. We had an informal crit of all the work being produced by the different groups, and a walk around in which we invited thought and comments, and parallels that were emerging between different workstreams….and encouragingly people are starting to have conversations about working together.

But over the last few days an easy metaphor has revealed itself to me…

In this place where religions meet; and at face value contest; contradict; oppress and disregard each other, it is easy to draw a comparison to the ‘religion’ of design methodology. Ethnographers study language in order to understand a culture of a particular ethnographic group, particularly their system of belief and its influence on the concept of value. Here in the ‘Jerusalem Urban Resilience Design Studio’, due to an unfortunate lack of hierarchy resulting from IPCCs inexperience of running these workshops, a number of ‘religions’ have emerged as various individuals resort to processes and epistemologies that they know. Various ways of designing, that value different things, have come to clash with each other when they should be complimentary…a situation exacerbated by the reality confronted by participants upon arrival, of a weak brief, confusing professional expectations, dynamic and extensive participant base, and highly charged context. For me, joining late, and remaining somewhat of an objective outsider, the parallels that can be drawn to the situation surrounding Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories are partly amusing, and partly a cause for serious concern about our ability, as a group, to deliver something of value in this project.

However, todays ‘crit’, however informal, went someway towards bridging the gap in communication. I am learning a great deal about design psychology, and have been praised for my ‘diplomacy’ since Ive arrived – as an outsider, Ive found that my own natural resort in the face of confusion was to dive into organisation, data management, and the understanding and communication of what the apparent ‘religions’ of design methodology were from my point of view. A certain amount of babblefish-ing lead in part to the progressive events seen today in the studio, and of this I am a little proud, even though I remain frustrated by the lack of a ‘quick win’ contribution I can make in terms of design in the limited time we have remaining.

One day remains of this week, before the final few weeks of our project, which finishes on the 12thAugust. As our ‘positive grey’ period draws to a close, and we look towards developing our work into tangible proposals, I remain hopeful that we can come together as a group and leave the IPCC with something of serious worth in their continuing struggle for Palestinian land rights and freedom of existence in the face of Israeli occupation.

The 'other' room, where they are pursuing a methodology of looking and investigating the site, producing a sensitive analysis on what is there in order to inform any proposal. I think I'd be much more at home in this group, but they definitely come across as exclusive...it seems I was too late to join to be a part of this process.

My room...as in where Ive been working...where we've been concentrating on a study of typology and organisational grid, alongside a strategy for mediating landownership to achieve those things incrementally over time. Its been difficult...

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Summer Travels 2011…(4)

This post is mostly video…I’m pretty tired, so I apologise if it is at all incoherent. There are a few reflections, but mostly snapshots of life in Jerusalem….

First visit to site…late in the day, I tag along with Mercello and Daniella to visit an are of ‘illegal’ housing on our site. One of the IPCC aims is to retain and integrate these dwellings into the new plan, seeking to legalize them rather than allow them to be bulldozed by Israeli authorities. The kids throw stones because they think we are Jewish, which we later resolve after talking to their mothers….


Climbing the Mount of Olives…


…and the view from the top…


Diary 11/07/2011…


I’ll write properly as soon as I can, and follow with photographs that give a little more detail about what I’ve been up to…



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Summer Travels 2011….(1)


Thought I’d give this blogging thing a go while I am away…two reasons really; one, to keep in touch, and two, to write as I go, which might help me out at a later date if I need to put any presentations together….

So here goes.

I’m currently sat in the cafeteria at Roskilde University in Denmark, having skipped out of the morning sessions for one reason only. Because they were dull. I am definitely suffering from conference fatigue….

The introduction to the conference…


However, both the first and second days were great…really useful for the dissertation, and enlightening as to the wider theory around the subject I am studying (which for those that don’t know is social enterprise in the specific context of architectural design and Localism in the UK). The paper I am here to present went down fairly well yesterday…i think that, in the graveyard slot at 18:15 (!) people just liked seeing my pretty pictures in the slideshow….but I got some good questions and useful comments. It was a strange experience though….having had my nerves soothed by the kindly Irish facilitator and having helped a smug but confused Frenchman find his powerpoint, I had to squeeze myself in between an impenetrable Finn and a gung-ho Australian and deliver my (by this point severly humbled) case study (Hill Holt Wood) and plea for rigorous academic advice. If you’re interested, the paper can be found here (Brown_S_Exploring Architecture in Civil Society), and the slideshow, without audio, can be found here (Sam Brown – EMES – Exploring Architecture in Civil Society – 97-2003 ).

I’m also going to try and use lots of different ways to record the things I do and see…including an embarrassing web video, which you can find below). I’ll be using photographs, and audio from the dictaphone as I walk around places. Varying the method makes it less of a chore, and actually I think it helps me to remember things…each observation is then attached to a set of conditions that stay in the memory longer.

So yeah, thats it for the time being! Those of you that like this sort of thing might enjoy it, those of you that take the piss, will take the piss, which I’m pretty used to by now 😛


Roskilde University…


Until the next time I feel compelled to write something, here’s my first video diary…

Diary entry 1 – 05/07/2011 pt.1

Diary entry 1 – 05/07/2011 pt.2


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Filed under ARC556 - Dissertation, Real World, Summer 2011

Initiating Architecture…







Initiating Architecture is a Doctoral Research Project being undertaken at the Sheffield School of Architecture by Anna Holder, under the supervision of Prue Chiles and Cristina Cerulli (who is also my dissertation supervisor).

I share some of the project’s motivations and aims, and find the website linked above a useful and worthwhile resource for my own dissertation. Anna is currently compiling a long-list of projects initiated for social or public good,so if you have something to offer then drop her a line via the website!

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This guys got a good idea…

Architecture 5 cents…changing how we engage with those that might make use of our skills.

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BD Post – Contemplating Practice…

***The published post can be found here.***

Having recently returned to my Part-2 studies, I have had the opportunity to reflect upon my year out, which was spent helping to establish an unusual model of practice at Hill Holt Wood (HHW), an award-winning Social Enterprise based in rural Lincolnshire. HHW operates not only as a sustainable woodland management and conservation outfit, but also as a school and training provider for troubled and under-employed young people in the local community. Facing almost non-existent employment prospects, two colleagues and I were able to use our graduate skills to exploit the business’ embodied knowledge of sustainable building and establish a student-led design office that specialises in eco-build – now continuing to employ students in its second and third years of operation.

Having enjoyed the hands-on experience of building, the fulfilling sense of facilitating a design process rather than imposing one, and the realisation that architecture as practice is both dependant and depended upon by the community it serves, I have become interested in other ways in which students of architecture might apply their skills to responsibly bring about change in the built environment. With evidence presented almost daily of dwindling employment prospects, I am fully open to the idea that our profession as it currently stands may be fundamentally unsustainable.

A recent colloquia, entitled ‘Social Enterprise: Lessons For Architects’ and facilitated by humanitarian change-agents Architecture Sans Frontières-UK , has been able to bring together a thought-provoking array of individuals operating within an as-yet under-explored area of architectural practice. The conference was of particular interest to me as in celebrates the kind of entrepreneurial ambition flavouring our endeavours at HHW. A base premise of social entrepreneurship is that a reduced financial reward is accepted alongside an auditable demonstration of social or environmental gain. There has been recent political support for the model, alongside access to funding and development grants not normally accessible by the private sector.

A number of cases were presented in which processes of participation and community engagement in the design process (Studio Tilt, Cristina Cerulli/Anna Holder) sat alongside impassioned advocacy for fundamental change in the way that architects facilitate and procure change within the built environment (Inderpaul Johar – 00:/, Jonathan Essex – Bioregional). Having witnessed the inspiring diversity of thought, it seems to me that the term ‘alternative practice’ does not necessarily encapsulate the tangible hunger that can be felt amongst students at schools such as Sheffield for something other than an office-based desk job. Indeed the word ‘alternate’ may be more appropriate – allowing for the practice of those skills that already successfully define us as a profession, alongside those which we will need to develop to best exploit the changing context in which we operate. Social Enterprise, to me, seems to represent a fitting business model for a profession that – bound by its own Code of Conduct – aspires to show ‘proper concern and due regard for the effect that their work may have on its users and the local community’.

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Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture…Student Shelters

At the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin, students build their own shelters to stay in while studying…which lets face it, is pretty damn cool!

The School’s motto, Live Architecture, is practiced continually in the context of the residential learning environment where life and work are integrated;

Donald Schön (1983) suggested that the capacity to reflect in action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning was one of the defining characteristics of professional practice. He argued that the model of professional training which he termed “Technical Rationality”—of charging students up with knowledge in training schools so that they could discharge when they entered the world of practice, perhaps more aptly termed a “battery” model—has never been a particularly good description of how professionals “think in action”, and is quite inappropriate to practice in a fast-changing world.

The cultivation of the capacity to reflect in action (while doing something) and on action (after you have done it) has become an important feature of professional training programs in many disciplines, and its encouragement is seen as a particularly important aspect of the role of the mentor of the beginning professional. Indeed, it can be argued that “real” reflective practice needs another person as mentor or professional supervisor, who can ask appropriate questions to ensure that the reflection goes somewhere, and does not get bogged down in self-justification, self-indulgence, or self-pity.

The Taliesin pedagogy values the well-being of the individual student and encourages students to plan their time to include periods of reflection and rest, despite the ongoing urge to be “doing something.” Despite Frank Lloyd Wright’s well know motto “add tired to tired,” in recent years the School adapted to the needs of a fast-paced culture that may exert redundant pressure on individuals, particularly learners. The beauty of the natural environments at both campuses offers opportunities for retreat and reflection outdoors, in addition to the students’ personal spaces.

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What is architecture…

“architecture as a global resource” – Edwards Moore Architects

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