Tale of The Swan Bridge

Oluwaseyi Sobogun_Erasmus Bridge

What terrified me most was not the grand scale of you
In fact I stood in awe of you
But you blew me away, you let the winds of the oceans nearly carry me away
Oh Erasmus bridge I wish it wasn’t true
Now I’m not sure to cross you
Unaware of what was to come
I stared blindly at your elegant form
Structurally confusing, you’re not the norm
The imbalance of your struts/ties makes me question how tensed you are
Were you in equilibrium or was there an unknown pull on one side
I’m really asking how do you stand
Nonetheless you caught my eye, so I couldn’t just pass you by
I never knew this about you before
But you’re 802 metres long and 139 high
I could have travelled the shard more than twice and still hadn’t reached your length
I suppose you had to be twice that size to connect the rather huge divide
Between the north and south side
But why didn’t Van Berkel, your creator consider
That spans as long as yours, wouldn’t be kind to little tourists, mere passer by
Making a journey on the winds side
Frankly, you left us utterly exposed
Our clothes blew, our hair flews and some couldn’t even move
You let the sea throw its best gales our way and guess what?
You won. You stole the day,
It started so peacefully as your path led the way, blissfully unaware we stormed ahead
Until that moment the very ground on which I stood,
You shook, you moved
As before I was never sure of your structural capability, now honestly I fear
You’re not as stable as your cables appear
I trusted you to carry me, can you carry the self-weight of you?
That deflected shape must not have looked pleasant
If the internal forces I was feeling from inside were relevant
Did you know it was possible? That the winds of your very Rotterdam were fiery
Potentially dangerous? I doubt you do, because something about you
Your sheer construction, history and fame pronounce you never knew
I apologise for my attack of you, first time experiences are never as easy as it seems
I judged you before I knew you,
I won’t lie I’ll definitely never cross you a second time, but you’re worth the thought
Oh swan, remain elegant graceful and architecturally beautiful

By Oluwaseyi Sobogun, Stage 2

Oluwaseyi Sobogun_Erasmus Bridge 02

Diary of an Architecture Student in Lesvos: Boat arrivals, fake vests and papers, Registered NGO camps vs non-registered NGO camps

Fig.1 – First boat I saw arrive. Photo by Silvia Converso
Fig. 2 – Aftermath of a boat arrival in the clothing tent

The first boat I saw arriving was a challenge for me, being the overemotional person that I am. Somehow I managed to overcome my feelings, distance myself from the situation and help in any way I could. As soon as I arrive at the camp in the morning, Jacopo tells me, ‘Grab as much clothes as you can, a boat just arrived on a beach nearby’. We then get in the car and he drives skilfully like the good Italian driver that he is. The first thing to do as a boat arrives is to get everyone changed into dry clothes and get wrapped in foil blankets to avoid pneumonia. The boat trip normally takes between 4 to 6 hours; this means you can get soaked in the cold water and you are prone to getting pneumonia. We then give food and help people to move to the bus that will take them to the main UNHCR registering camp – Moria.

After the bus left we got together with some locals and started organizing clothing and separating it between dirty and wet. Our other allies – the hot Spanish Bomberos from Proem Aid http://proemaid.org/  – were dismantling the boat after they had rescued everyone in it. The Bomberos were a group of water-specialized rescuers who came all the way from Spain to help. Their intentions were as good as their looks. I learnt later that these well intentioned young men had been arrested under the claim of human trafficking, by the Greek coast guard, as they were rescuing people from a boat at sea that was sinking. They stayed in prison for a week and even after losing most of their funds to pay for the bail, they remain active on the island.  Many of the life vests are fake. They do not prevent drowning thus immediate action is needed, especially in cases where children are involved as they cannot swim.

Fig 3. Free Market in front of UNHCR Camp

Following the arrival of the boat, Silvia, Jeremy, Chiara, Jacopo, Rik, Julie, Justine and I went for a trip around the island to visit other camps. The UNHCR camps had a clear separation between volunteers and refugees, barbed wire and fences all around the camps. Although people seemed to be helpful, there was still a sense of coldness that was not found in camps such as the lighthouse where colour and warm materials like timber took over and the only barriers one can see is that of the sea horizon and the beautiful vines. The prefabricated Ikea houses and the barbed wire made the UNHCR camps look like a concentration camp whilst the lighthouse camp reminded me of a scene from a children’s book. The free market was starting to take over as you could see vending machines and stands right in front of the UNHCR camps selling food and goods to the refugees. Gypsies were also benefiting and making good money out of the whole situation, since they were infiltrating camps in order to get food and clothes as well as selling things.

Fig 4. UNHCR vs Lighthouse Camp
Fig 5. UNHCR vs Lighthouse Camp
Fig 6. Dirty Girls Tent at LightHouse Camp

When we got to Moria we were even more shocked. Moria used to be a military base that has now turnedinto the main refugee registration camp on the island. Thanks to the work of the individual volunteers the camp had been modestly transformed with a sense of warmth, with some paintings here and there. What was incredible to see was the tents for the already-registered refugees. On average, the waiting time for registration was about 4 days. Once registered, you have to leave the camp to get yourself a ticket to go to mainland Europe on the ferry. Where would you stay between registering and getting a ticket? In the tents next to the camp in the middle of a muddy vineyard or in other camps and squatted places if you were not lucky enough to find a generous Greek family to take you in or to have enough money to get a place to stay at a hostel.

Fig 7. UNHCR Camp Moria from the outside

We enjoyed the best tea ever from the British group called Wild Lemon Team operating in the muddy field next to the tents, and talk to some of the volunteers working at Moria. I met little Abdul and his friend who saw me taking pictures and insisted I recorded their friendship. They were about 9 years old and were just wondering around the camp alone. I then asked one of the volunteers what happens to minors arriving alone at the Island to which she replies, ‘They normally stay in a special camp for minors for 3 weeks until something is sort out for them, but I never report them as I believe that the minors’ camp is awful and they are much happier staying here’.

 

Fig 8. Vineyard outside Moria UNHCR tents, Jacopo Corsini’s photo
Fig 8. Abdul and his friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One other thing we noticed was that there was a special allocation of people depending on their nationality, the reason for this is still unclear to me.

Fig 9. Moria Camp map

When talking to Dr. Heather Johnson and photographer Iva Zimova about the issues behind the system for registration they both mentioned one very important thing – the system is too complicated for a newcomer to understand, and adding to this, there is a big language and communication barrier. Iva told me about a 16 year old whose uncle lives in the UK. His uncle had offered to pay for everything, his trip and his schooling but because he got denied asylum, he had to do the crossing illegally through the boats. The main aim for now is to privilege war and political refugees seeking asylum, yet a lot of new comers seek better economic and political standards. People as young as me or even younger get sent over through the financial support of their families for it is their family’s belief that this is the best option for their sons and daughters to get a better life. When the EU tightens policies for migration and registration this causes people choose illegal methods such as fake papers to get into Europe. Why are people being forced to have to make such decisions? Very often if they are not able to get registered and eventually get deported, they get arrested and put into prison back in their country of origin as the country of origin has to pay for the deportation.

Fig 10. Yamaha Fake Life Vests laying by LightHouse

No borders is a rather radical view on the whole issue but open borders is a different matter. Yes, there are borders and indeed we all belong somewhere, at some point, but given the circumstances and according to the basic human rights everyone has the right to seek asylum, no matter where they are from.

On another note, The scepticism of some citizens of Europe towards newcomers, in my opinion, is as a result of the fear of loss of identity and tradition as well as economic possibilities. Economically Europe would benefit from these hardworking people coming to produce and consume our goods and services. Like Nick Hanauer explains on his banned TED talk, “consumers create jobs, not the less taxed super rich”. Refugees and migrants are consumers; they do not steal jobs, and they promote the creation of jobs. Also the wave of refugees now arriving on the shores of Europe are those who have the money to pay for the 4000 euros per person for a boat trip. In terms of cultural loss what people do not realise is that cultural change and transformation has happened infinitely amount of times before. Take the Portuguese: there were the Celtics and the Iberians which merged into the Celt Iberians, later came the moors and to this day we have words deriving from Arabic such as Oxala (deriving from Inshallah) which literally translating means ‘hope to God’ (in Arabic) and ‘hope for something to happen’ (in Portuguese).

There is indeed a cultural clash going on but we must not show hostility towards each other and both sides must compromise in order for this to be a temporary or permanent (who knows) pacific progression of culture. A New comer will most certainly have to accept and practice the values we have for so long established in the West, the values of freedom so many of us take for granted. We also mustn’t assume freedom comes in a superficial form of cultural habits and what they integrate. Freedom relies on having the possibility to choose. In a case like this, one needs more empathy than sympathy. When moving into Germany, I realised Germans do not kiss on the cheeks when meeting someone new, and I thus learnt to shake hands instead. This does not mean I am not allowed to do this with those of same cultural background as me.

Like Gerda Taro and Robert Capa (war photographers from the 20th century), people continue to risk their lives to bring the truth to the surface. However, sadly media still spreads the fear and too many of us are foolish to let them do so. The attacks in Cologne, for instance, were used as a catalyst for the right wing to promote anti-refugee attitudes although only 3 out of the 54 attackers were refugees. [1] My family lives in Bonn and I often go to Cologne for parties, the sort of behaviour that happened during New Year’s was already familiar to me. During Carnival fests, about 5 years ago, also in Cologne by the Hauptbahnhof and Cathedral, we had been approached and assaulted by various Caucasian German and English speaking men. This is not a race-related problem, for race doesn’t actually exist, it is a made up concept that is used to separate and stigmatize. Sadly, due to the fact that so many people believe in race, one has to consider intersectionality when it comes to such issues. As architects we have to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and consider their background in order to produce something for them, yet at the same time we have to deal with our egos and persona. This is, for me, the most important thing one can learn from Architecture in practice and it is a lesson that can and should be applied outside practice.

[1] Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/cologne-only-three-out-of-58-men-arrested-in-connection-with-mass-sex-attack-on-new-years-eve-are-a6874201.html#gallery

By Luisa Luisa Pereira, Stage 3

Diary of an Architecture Student Volunteer in Lesvos: Food, Clothing, Muscles and Rebels

Fig 1. View from the camp. Photo by Jacopo Corsini

“There are people out there who are suffering and there’s very little they can do about it”…“Sometimes I feel guilty when I’m happy because I know that these people are hurting. How can I be happy when I know that people are being forced to live in refugee camps and ghettos, while women are being sex trafficked and millions of innocent people are suffering? So as I sit here and look at my life, I feel grateful, but I also feel confused.”
– Stephen Swartz author of Crossfire

Once I got to Lesvos, Silvia tells me, ‘Everyone is taking a break today’. There had been a storm the previous night, which had destroyed the tents and soaked everything. Everyone’s mood was down, so we decided to down a couple of Ouzu shots – the best alcohol to go with Chamomile tea and honey as I found out later that night. Seeing all your work getting destroyed was not easy but getting there on such day made it possible for me to get to know everyone. I got to talk with Dervla, this cool motivational Irish lady which gave me great advice. Silvia, the star of the falafel group, and I got some sober drinks and talked, the mood was starting to go up. I got some very good advice from Andreas our Greek man on how to help when the boats arrive. I then met Dani, a 30 year old cool metal head Syrian newcomer who is also a tattoo artist as well as a volunteer in Lesvos. Soon enough I started making connections and sharing experiences. The same situation was being lived differently by different people. We were sharing moments and having fun while going through chaos.

Although it did not become evident to me at first, a lot of the people were involved politically which is crucial but I came to realise that this ‘stand’, if not done pragmatically, can collide or even work  against the humanization and the solidarity that is so needed given the circumstances.

Leo had sign me in for the Lunch Shift. I did a bit of everything: cooking, sorting out clothes and just get to know people. I had the chance to put my French to test.

Fig 2. Omaira and Ella sorting out clothes

The clothing tent was extraordinarily difficult to manage; we had to sort out clothes and separate wet from dry from dirty as well as men’s from women’s from children. Socks had to be pinned together into groups of 3 pairs. Omaira, Ella and I spent the day sorting these out into bags to be sent to the ‘Dirty Girls’. The Dirty Girls are a group of women which gather most clothing from the camps, wash it, dry it and send it back to the warehouse which will then be distributed to all the camps across the island on list of demands made by each camp. Camps would cooperate with each other alot of generous donations came from locals. However chaotic the situation was … somehow things seemed to be working out.

After a while I started making all the shifts for the Clothing tent. A major issue was the fact that the tent had been damaged from the storm thus clothes had gotten wet. On top of this, we had stray dogs coming in and out leaving that wonderful dog smell on the clothes and blankets. I took on the task of sorting things out, fixing the tent and put the clothes on the top shelves for limited and practically impossible canine access.

Fig 3. Sassy Young Man at the Camp on New Years. Photo by Silvia Converso

Soon, I had my two habibis, Mohamed and Mohamed Saeed helping me out in the tent. As the camp, at the time, was mostly made up of sassy young men with a great sense of fashion they were the most appropriate to help.  Mohamed and Mohamed Saeed were Algerian, both with beautiful brown eyes always down to help out and make jokes amongst us with broken French, Arabic and English. Malik joined us a couple of times and he was so tired one day Ella found him sleeping like a baby in the blanket tent. Chiara joined us later on and she was by far the greatest contributor to this task, always motivated and focused.

 

Fig 4. Undocumented migrant Malik from Algeria adjusts his hair. Photo by Iva Zimova January 8, 2016
Fig 5. Silvia and Jeremy the Chefs

Meanwhile in the kitchen Silvia, Jeremy, Riki and Lulu kept busy making vegan food and distributing it. Leo and Louis kept fixing bits and pieces of the structure they had started to build in the previous weeks. Together with the help of Riki and Jacopo they started expanding and reinforcing the existing structures by using some reclaimed wooden pallets and covers recycled from the rafts and from some donations of the UNHCR. At this point Pierre was developing his project in the Greek man’s workshop.

Fig 6. Louis and Leo fixing the main tent

The collaborative spirit between volunteers and newcomers was a great thing to be part of. All these men and women put their muscles and brains to good use and helped Leo and Louis building the front reinforced cover for the kitchen. Men have just as many collaborative and multitasking skills as women do. I got to meet the most awesome male feminists and they took over the role of helping in the kitchen, cooking delicious things for everyone and making great contributions towards the construction of  infrastructure.

I was told I reminded someone of their mother, I could see how much he must have missed her. I got some speakers and we got a party going and interestingly enough I found out that I wasn’t the only one to obsess over Kuduro from Angola, which was so refreshing since no one around here seems to know what it was.  Everyone gathered in front of the kitchen listening to some Arabic or Portuguese lyric music, it was great. At some point the music stopped and someone had taken the portable charging device from the speakers. Surely they will give it much more use than I ever would!

Fig 7. Jeremy and Rik in the kitchen. Photo by Silvia Converso
Fig 8. Lulu cleaning the dishes. Photo by Silvia Converso

The collaboration in the building and management of the spaces was crucial in order to engage in conversation with the refugees instead of distancing volunteers from refugees. The political engagement of some of the volunteers we partnered up with was, for me, too extreme and not useful. Having had to spend hours and hours in meetings where my voice was ignored was frustrating as I would much rather be outside looking at the stars and dancing with the rest of the people. Our over politicized meetings sounded to the people outside like a ‘football match between Barcelona and Real Madrid’ – a quote from Malik’s friend.

Fig 9. Chiara and extra helpers in the kitchen. Photo by Silvia Converso
Fig 10. View from the Camp. Photo by Jacopo Corsini
Fig 11. View towards the port. Photo by Jacopo Corsini

Although the camp was managed throughout the day with the collaboration of everyone, for some reason only on one occasion did we have one of the newcomers present, the most linguistically intelligent young men I have met – Abdul. Abdul spoke Spanish, Arabic, Italian, French and English and he was a peace maker trying to help everyone, he translated so much for us! His voice and that of some of the other newcomers had not been heard during the meeting which infuriated me. It seemed to me that some people we had partnered up with had good intentions yet their blindness led them to make wrong decisions. Decisions that contradicted their own beliefs of freedom and of kindness, and obviously put everyone else at risk.

Fig 12. Kitchen tent Preparation for the Storm

When the next storm was brewing Abdul said to me, ‘As long as we have dry clothes and blankets to change to in the morning we will be fine.’ This seemed reasonable to me, yet some people decided to take some of the migrants, who had not get registered, to a ‘safer place’ – the hospital. One of the nurses had to inform the police and let’s just say that had they not had their hands full at the time they could have gotten those people into big trouble. Some guy also said, ‘Why would I go to the hospital and sit if I can lay down here?’ Indeed why would you sit inside a building that stinks of death when you can lay down outside looking at the stars and at the views.

It seems to me that some volunteers were only interested on being the ‘good guy’. Being a rebel, an activist and a volunteer has become trendy and ‘cool’. Going along and accepting all rules can be damaging, yet rebelling against them for the purpose of being a rebel can be even worse, and in all honesty, stupid.

The original definition of ‘Hero’ in ancient Greece, and for Brazilians, is that of someone who has the great ability to get themselves into a lot of trouble and get out of it in the most possible ‘badass’ way, that is pragmatically and ‘in the moment’. The two examples of real Heroes I know of is Ulysses (Greek) and Macunaima (Brazilian) and yes those young men (refugees) are the one and only real authentic definition of Hero, the volunteers are nothing but the secondary characters of each and every Odyssey of those heroes.

By Luisa Pereira Pires, Stage 3

 

Diary of an Architecture Student Volunteer in Lesvos

When the opportunity of going to Lesvos to work as a volunteer came up I did not hesitate to take part. I got involved with the Lesvos Falafel Project (http://www.lesbosfalafel.com/ ) through Leopold from BUREAU A (http://www.a-bureau.com/), an Architecture firm I had been working with during September in Lisbon. Their approach is very refreshing and different from the excessive formality we experience here in England, thus I knew the Lesvos Falafel Project would be something thrilling and interesting to be part of. The lessons I learnt throughout the week I spent with the Falafel Crew and the NBK (No Border Kitchen) people – our allies – were life changing and covered a range of aspects from politics to architecture to cultural differences. This was a very humanizing and extraordinarily enriching experience.

luisa

Architecture had a big role to play in this situation. An experience like this helps you open your eyes to the power we have in our hands to change things and to help us define aims for our generation. We cannot sit in the studio all day keeping our eyes shut to the rest of the world, we need to put ourselves out there to have new experiences otherwise architecture is really pointless and rather repetitive. Existentialism is perfectly adapted to Architecture, and, in my opinion, Architecture turns out to be a catalyst for Existentialism. I had been wondering about the irrationality and amorality of this Universe as well as the significance of being human ever since I have read ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus, 4 years ago. Now it seems clear that although we live in it at least we, as individuals, made up realities that allow us to walk through life. Architecture plays a big role in this, it helps us advancing and not only teaches us about life itself it also teaches us about ourselves as individuals in a broader context.

Our group consisted of young empathetic energetic people with ages ranging from 20 to 70 years old from different areas of interest: Chiara Banchini, the sassiest violinist I have ever met, Leo Banchini, my good friend and visionary with a great love for picking on Portuguese dishes, Silvia Converso, the mother and centre of the group, Jeremy Schuh, our Chef and self-employed organic farmer, Jacopo Corsini, the meat lover with the coolest sense of humour, Louis Mejean and Pierre Cauderay (http://www.aazar.ch/accueil.html), our ‘shower and bath architects’ with a lot of energy and a very decent pair of muscles. We have extra team members that stayed in Lesvos for a month: Julie Melichar and Justine Boillat working in Partnership with other camps amongst which were Moria (UN Camp) and Skala (Lighthouse Camp). Rik, Lulu and our kind workshop Greek Man have done great contributions toward the project.

In order to incorporate all the experiences and important topics that connect to architecture I will be composing a series of ‘entries’ that can be published weekly. So keep an eye on the KSA Blog First Entry will come soon!

By Luisa Pereira Pires, Stage 3

KSA End of Year Exhibition

11cOn the Friday 19th of June 2015 at 5:30pm, the Kent School of Architecture hosted its 10th End of Year Exhibition. The show comprised work of all 5 years as well as additional work from foundation and postgraduate years. The Marlowe building on the University of Kent campus (marked using an enormous pink X to symbolise the number 10) was unsurprisingly bursting at the seams with high quality work and scores of people who had travelled to see it.

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The exhibition was officially opened by special guest and Architects Journal Editor Rory  Olcayto who spoke shortly about the need for high quality schools of architecture and about the nature of architectural education itself.

The evening then progressed to the presentation of prizes including the Eliot Cloister design competition winners prize for Prinka Anandawardhani and Tracy Hulley, presented by Eliot College Master Stephen Burke. There were many other prizes awarded by the school and also sponsors including an award from Guy Holloway for Stage 2’s module Form and Structure. Guests who were in attendance commented on the richness and quality of the work on show, and their delight at how quickly the young school is progressing.

Also on show were the schools latest technological advancements including 3D printers, scanners and a drone in the foyer.

The Kent School of Architecture is in a constant state of progression, in both reputation and therefore quality of work, which means that future end of year exhibitions will continue to rise in quality. We look forward to seeing you all there next year!

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

Billhook Nook Theatre by SHED

There are few opportunities when studying architecture to translate your designs into built projects, except if you actively seek those projects which allow you to do so. This extracurricular project gave us an opportunity to put our design skills to the test and produce a multifunctional events space for use by both staff and future students. The theatre took about 2-3 weeks to complete and has inspired many of us to seek future projects with which we can develop our skills further. The difference between working as a team on an academic project compared to an active, built project is significant, and we have all learnt valuable lessons about both team work and designing as a result.

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The theatre concept originated from the study of popular natural artist Andy Goldsworthy and his technique of ‘ordering’ nature using materials found on site. Billhook Nook Theatre consists of a large sculptural roof structure designed to represent the ‘ordered’ interpretation of the surrounding woodland. This ‘birds nest’ form is built around a triangular structural frame which is then supported using chains by the surrounding trees. The benefit of securing the structure to the trees is that the roof, although static, moves gentle with the trees in the wind adding a dynamic character to the theatre (unlike many traditional theatres). The theatre is also intended to not only draw your attention to the focal point (in this case the stage area), but to draw your eye up to the canopy of leaves above.

Billhook Nook Theatre 22

The SHED (Studio for Hands-on Experimental Design) team, led by myself currently includes second year students Benjamin Nourse, Aut Angpanitcharoen, Luisa Pires, Andrew Warwick and Prinka Anandawardhani Choesin. We all look forward to experiencing Billhook Nook Theatre throughout the seasons, and we encourage everyone else to do the same as it will soon be available as a bookable education space on campus. The theatre can be found below the new business school development near parkwood on campus, just look for the door.

This project would not have been possible without the help of Creative Campus and Ian Bride, and we look forward to future projects together.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

 

Architecture Student Aut Angpanitcharoen’s Travel Diary

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Just before the exam I took a trip to the beach with a couple of friends for an afternoon of revision, tea, oysters and eventually dinner. Whitstable turned out to be a great venue for reading, although if you are planning on doing this yourself, do remember to bring paperweights with you.

The beach can get pretty windy and wet notes aren’t quite as informative as dry ones.

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After the stress of the Nineteenth Century Architecture exam and the final structural report hand in passed, I found myself with plenty of free time to start enjoying life again. So I picked up my sketchbook and my favourite watercolour set and have been busy. Well, not that busy.

Yesterday whilst waiting for the clock to strike seven, I got bored and decided to go for a stroll around the city centre. I have to admit it wasn’t the best day for a walk, hence I only ended up with this fairly quick sketch. The line work is particularly rushed as by the time I decided to put pen to paper, I was already late for dinner.

This is one of my favourite spot in Canterbury, the cobbled narrow street and shop signs frame Bell Harry perfectly.

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I have been drawing the cathedral a lot recently. Just a few days ago, fellow aspiring architect, Prinka Anandawardhani and I took an impromptu visit to the cloisters and spent half an hour sketching. Hers is a little better than mine so I chose to omit a scan of it to avoid competition.

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The restoration process for the cathedral is forever on going, the result of the successful “Save Canterbury Cathedral” Appeal launched in 2006. Though it is a shame that in order to save it, parts of the building and its surrounding complex has to be covered up. It was slightly frustrating that when my friends came for a day visit, Christ Church Gate was concealed behind scaffoldings and tatty white fabric. Well guys, if you’re reading this, here it is. Through my eyes. For more accurate representations go to google images.

http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/supporting-us/

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Finally, to end this ramble. My favourite sketch at the moment, this one of St Paul’s Cathedral from the 1 New Change rooftop, right by St Paul’s station. I would seriously recommend going there for a great view of London and a day out sketching.

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By Aut Angpanitcharoen – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

KSA ranked 3rd best school of architecture in the UK in most recent league table

The most recent Gardian university league table has seen the Kent School of Architecture (KSA) rise to 3rd position in the UK, up 11 places from last year. It is particularly worth noting that KSA, which only celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is positioned above some of the longest standing architecture schools in the country such as Cambridge and Bath. A highly contributing factor to KSA’s success is the high employability standards it provides students with, ranked joint 1st for graduating student employment prospects in the 2016 Complete University Guide. As well as this, recent expansions to KSA mean that it now boast some of the most up to date facilities available to its Architectural students.

It is quite clear that for such a young school, KSA is punching above its weight when it comes to providing exceptional architectural education and is now perfectly positioned to maintain its position as a frontrunner in the Architectural field.

Work Experience

Instead of spending my Easter holidays relaxing on a beach in South Devon with a cream tea at my side, I used this time as an opportunity to undertake some work experience with an architectural firm who specialise in the design of tourist attractions. Although at first reluctant to give up the only free time I had after a very busy term, I soon came to realise the benefits of my decision.

University learning is a vital part of the process to becoming a good architect, but it has its limitations, the first being the disconnection between students and active building projects. This means that while learning at university you may think that what you are doing is worthwhile, but it is not until you enter the industry that you realise what the most important processes are and therefore which skill areas are most worthwhile to develop. It’s like trying to paint someone’s portrait before ever seeing them. If it were up to me to decide, I believe that a degree in architecture should start with compulsory work in practice before theoretical learning begins, this however for obvious reasons is not the case in our current system. Now having spend time studying the profession I am in a better position to judge which skills are require and which are less so. This also means that I can now relate the projects I undertake at university to the real world subsequently giving my university work more depth and realism.

Another benefit to getting into the industry early is what is known as getting your ‘foot in the door.’ It is basic business that dictates it is more cost effective to keep an employee on than to train a new one, therefore as soon as you begin to learn company specific processes, you are making yourself very attractive when it comes to longer term planning. What I mean by this is that by getting into a firm early, knowingly or not, you are making the search for a year out position much easier when it comes to that time. While others are having the last minute panic as third year comes to an end, you can relax knowing that yours is already sorted.

Although I have not developed my design skills very much, I believe that I have learnt more about the processes involved in the architectural profession in those 3 weeks than I have done this year at university, and I would encourage everyone to do the same.

By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture

 

The Render Paradigm

As architecture students, we are entering into an extremely competitive working profession, one which is benefiting, or some would say suffering, from an increasing variety of channels through which architectural designs can be represented. The days of pencil and drawing board are numbered, and are being replaced instead by photo-realistic, idealised renders which in some cases deceive the client to buy into a proposal based on the quality of the graphic, rather than the quality of the design. So are these renders good or bad for the profession, or should we go back to the days of the pencil?

At university, speaking from personal experience, I have found that in order to get attention from other students and visitors to the school, your designs must stand out, either through striking visuals and colour or through quirky presentation techniques, ie video etc. Even the most exquisitely designed proposals can easily be lost under a smokescreen of artistic flair when students work is displayed together, as it usually is. This paradigm is worrying as it forces young architects to focus on graphic design and architectural design is often neglected. Time and time again, there is always a student who spend days producing exquisite presentation sheets and is reassured by other students that they are guaranteed a good grade. The issue comes when the student receives a lower design mark than a student whose presentation sheets were not quite as exquisite but were backed up by a solid design process. This student is then left feeling confused due to a misunderstanding of where his presentation lacked, after all, how could such a beautifully presented design receive such a low grade?

This student, like so many clients in the profession, has fallen prey to the deceptive nature of architectural renders, the only difference in the industry is that many clients are unable to see through this artistic smokescreen.

Many students look towards resources like precedents medals and top architectural universities for design inspiration, however many students, including myself, unknowingly find themselves taking away only graphic design inspiration rather than what we were searching for in the first place. I’m sure you can see how this vicious circle, encouraged by the current architecture education system and the industry itself can have a detrimental effect on the quality of building produced in the modern day.

Don’t get me wrong, artistic, realistic renders can be extremely useful in explaining complex concepts using only a few images, so long as they accurately represent the design which is to be built. As well as this, the emergence of sophisticated augmented reality software can greatly benefit firms trying to conveying a design to a client who is not likely to be able to interpret traditions orthographic drawings. What clients want to know is what the design is like to be in, and with this new software, they can be physically immersed into a realistic version of such a design.

Clearly there are major advantages which come with the use of realistic renders to convey a design, however, I feel that in order for their successful application, raw architectural design must be given greater attention, and not come as a byproduct of a graphic designers piece of art.

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By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture