Final preparations before for the start of the workshops.
Memorial Day is the day Americans honour the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, but it also marks the start of the summer vacation season. As a result of this peculiar combination, Boston Common was packed with families eating ice creams and enjoying boat rides, and 20.000 flags, each representing an army person from Massachusetts fallen in any combat since the founding of America.
Introduction, start workshop
for more photos, click here.
Introduction, start workshop
Most of the workshop participants arrived in Boston. Monday evening they met for the first time. Henk van der Veen (Archiprix International) welcomed them , followed by Alexander D’ Hooghe (MIT) who gave a brief introduction on the main topic of the workshops. And then there were drinks. After ten, fifteen minutes of socialising (see the Archiprix International facebook page for photo’s), workshop leaders called their groups together and started with the introduction of their specific workshop theme. Daily updates about the workshops can be found here.
In random order:
1. Always start your conversation with as much compliments as you can think of, only after that ritual is over, you can have some (not to much!) critique.
2. Don’t bump into people, not even accidentally!
3. Respect a personal space of at least a half arm length (in Boston perhaps a little less, in New York to be on the save side, a little bit more)
4. Be prepared for the many options being given even when you order just a plain black coffee.
4a. Be aware in Boston a "regular" coffee is with Cream and Sugar...
5. Don’t talk to strangers.
6. If they ask you: ‘Hi, how are you?’, just say GREAT, even when your cat died, your bike has been stolen the evening before and you have to go to the hospital for an operation. (Americans just don’t like to hear negative stuff)
7. Don’t sit down at a table where a person sits you never met. (If you ask if the chair has been taken, they will tell you the truth but it is NOT an invitation to take the chair, see also point 5). An exception are the designated “meet people” tables, the main purpose of these tables is that you sit together with strangers.
Do you have more handy tips? Please send me an email
MIT is getting ready for the big commencement event this coming Friday: the lawn is watered, chairs are lined up with great care, flowers and even complete trees are planted.
Every night between 6.30 and 8.30 a so called Fight Club is being held. (Americans wouldn’t be Americans if there isn’t a competitive element somewhere, even if it is only in words.) In the Fight Club, workshop leaders introduce themselves by showing a few projects and then have a discussion with each other about their workshop theme and/or approach. Last night Brandon Clifford and Cristina Parreno + Gonzalo Pardo stood in the ring. But before the fight started there was, what at first glance seemed to be a commercial break about MIT’s Aga Khan programme. However, it turned out to be a passionate plea by Nasser Rabbat for a more global cannon of architecture knowledge. He gave the example of Frank Lloyd Wright, architecture students all over the world know who he is, and why he is important for the profession, but only a few have ever heard from Sinan, an architect who designed half of the monuments in Istanbul. The talk could have serve as a starting point for a debate on the question is the language in which architects communicate with each other via drawings and this canon of knowledge is truly universal? And if not, what does it tells us when judging proposals from other countries then our own. Should there be an architectural Esperanto? Etcetera etcetera, but alas the show had to go on.
Scheduled was Team Data vs. Team Manifest. Questions were raised like: is it better to start designing from a tabula rasa state of mind, or should you first collect information? Is it possible to make a radical proposal when your starting point is collecting data? (Radical is the buzzword in the architecture department at MIT). Team Manifesto got some help from out of the audience, when a workshop participant stated that manifestos are needed to have a true discourse on architecture and the profession, and that you can’t have a discourse based on data. It is an interesting view and certainly a discussion point, but unfortunately the referee didn’t allow this intervention.
At the end of the Fight Club, it turned out that Team Data was not against manifestos as a working method, and Team Manifesto was not against data. Analysing the fight afterwards, someone compared the final round with the kiss and make-up phase at the end of a marital quarrel in the kitchen over something minor, where perhaps only a small IKEA teacup was broken. This remark made some sense.
The filmcrew (Arne and Christiaan) at work, interviewing Nicolás Newton and Gonzalo Parma about their graduation project Spa Ferrando.
Turn up the volume, it's almost art.
One of the goals of Archiprix International is to give young professionals an opportunity to present their work to the world. The other, perhaps even more important goal, is to bring young professionals from all over the world together for one week of workshopping. During this week they get to know each other, learn from each other (professionally as social), and establish friendships. The workshops are therefore serious fun, with the same amount of emphasis on serious as on fun.
Perhaps it is the American spirit, the 24 hour drive, the competitive element that this edition has (after the final workshop presentations on Monday only three projects will be selected to a present their proposal for Manthattan the Nwe York Center for Architecture, a presentation where representatives of the city of New York will be present), but sadly sometimes the emphasis lies only on serious, and I mean Serious, Serious. Some workshop participants haven't seen Boston yet but only the inside of the windowless workshop studio. Some work until late, like 4 a.m., and wished that the building closed at a certain time (the studio is accessible 24/7), and two days ago the first participant sleeping on his laptop was spotted. Everybody is working so hard and so intense on their own little islands that they haven't the slightest idea what the other groups are working on. To change this rather strange situation two guerrilla Pecha Kucha's took place yesterday. One, a 'work in progress' Pecha Kucha and the other a 'present your own work' Pecha Kucha.
In the work in progress Pecha Kucha, team members of six groups - the other three couldn't join because of their tight schedule - presented in 10 images, 20 second each image, their interpretation of the workshop brief and the research they did up to then. Pecha Kucha: quick, to the piont, no discussions, only presentations. (For the presentations see the weblog of the different groups that participated).
The second Pecha Kucha took place an hour later and was organised by team members of Group 4. Everybody was invited to show Pecha Kucha-style , the project they worked on back home. Whether that be a project of the office of which they work, or a project of their own office, a competition entry, study or realised project. What started with presentations of 10 designer, grew and grew with new people joining in. Their hunger to get to know each other seemed unstoppable. Malcom MacLaren was right, in Boys Chorus he sings: 'all work no joy makes Mac a dull boy'. The participants understood this yesterday evening; the studio was deserted.
image: 'present your own work' Pecha Kucha
All the walls of the MIT Architecture department are covered with the entries for the Archiprix International 2011 edition. More than 300 graduation project from around the world are now on show. MIT clustered the projects in themes: Megaforms, Independent Objects, Infrastructures, Techno-Craft, Modernist Incantations, Eco-Utopias and Phenomena & Anthropology. Saturday was time for The finishing touch: matching 300 so called passports of the participants with the right graduation project.
Film impressions of the workshops
The final workshop presentations take place on Monday in the penthouse of the Medialab building.
Monday afternoon was showtime, the presentation of all nine workshops. It was great, all the participants worked so hard and the results showed for it. (For the presentations of the groups, select one from the menu on the right).
After the workshop presentations, it was time for the critics to shed their light on the proposals for Manhattan. Ten critics (one from University of Pennsylvania, three from the MIT, five Dutch deans and the chairwoman of Archiprix International) were asked to come forward. Everybody had his or her say: nice words were said, compliments were given, and points of attention were named. Chris van Langen of the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture defined design as a tool to think through reality; through design a conversation can starts about reality, and what can or should be changed. All projects are modest about the role of the designer, he went on, and that makes him happy, for the designer has power, but not a making-the-world-change-power. Also, through design the logic of architecture was questioned by some groups. Critical self-reflexion is always a good thing, Van Langen said.
Adèle Naudé Santos, dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, stated that the success of the workshops is not what is produced, but the blue sky thinking and the conversations that took place. For some of the critics the sky was a little bit too blue. They wondered if the problems that some groups addressed, were real problems. And if some of the answers do not created more problems than solutions.
Mark Jarzombek, Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture at the MIT, felt a bit disappointed that there weren't any dystopia projects. "Always a happy story, a little bit to happy for me." He liked the more witty projects, projects that are consistent with inconsistency, and thought Malleable New York was brilliant. Overall, the projects could do with a little bit more fun, "lighten up!", and could be a bit weirder. His last advice to all participants; avoid looking at ecological problems with rose coloured glasses. Alexander D'Hooghe ended this part of the meeting by praising the participants for their willingness to share minds and share authorship.
A 'global conversation' between the critics and the workshop participants was scheduled after the critic's voices, but didn't take place. After a week of intense workshopping, and almost four hours of presentations and talking, everybody just wanted to go outside, feel the sun on their skins and see Boston.
The day after the workshop presentation, MIT organised a lawn party for all participants. BBQ en beer for lunch, who could wish for more?
For more photos, click here
Today (Wednesday) everybody is moving to New York for the big Archiprix International award ceremony in the Guggenheim on Thursday afternoon. How will recieve a Hunter Douglas Award?
On Friday afternoon four MIT workshops will be presentated at the Center of Architecture.
From the MIT pers release: "The critics of the monday reviews really appreciated the workshop results, and insist that all the projects will be shown on the boards. When pressed as to which projects definitely deserved more airtime, if only because their powerpoint presentations seemed the most 'ready' and articulated, the critics selected: Empire Port, Malleable Manhattan, In Grid we Trust and New New Amsterdam."
So if you happen to be in New York: 4.30 p.m at the Center for Architecture, 536 Laguardia Place
The day of the award ceremony and it is boiling hot in Manhattan. In the early afternoon the Guggenheim slowly fills with workshop participants, guests of Hunter Douglas and Archiprix, friends, and family. The workshop participants look glamorous, how do they do that after a week of hard work, little sleep, and a after-workshop party that, according to rumours, went on until daybreak?
After a welcome by Madeleine Maaskant (chair of Archiprix International), Nader Tehrani the head of the architectural department at MIT, takes the floor. His lecture is rather academic and hard to follow for people that are not quite familiar with this particular discourse. This is followed by a lecture from Yung Ho Chang, the chair of the Archiprix 2011 jury. He is charming, and shows some beautiful projects this office is involved with, not only architecture, but also things like ceramics, and the promotion of Chinese design. The work he shows is not iconic, not super spectacular, it doesn't make use of the latest construction techniques, or the most fashionable materials. What characterise all projects, is a honest caring and love for good design (whether that be architecture, clothes or a fruit bowl) and the people using it, or as Yung Ho Chang puts it, 'an architect should first of all think about the quality of life'. As it turned out, this sentence was the key to the award winning projects; this is what links them.
During the short break between the talks and the prize-giving one could feel the tension building up. In a duo-presentation Yung Ho Chang and New York based Dutch architect plus former Archiprix NL participant Winka Dubbeldam, present all nominees. When a workshop participant is named, a big hand of applause fills the Guggenheim rotunda. And in the few seconds it takes to open the envelope and announce the name of the winner, you can hear a pin drop; followed by applause, cheering, and the clicks of many cameras.
After this nerve-racking business, there is the plops of champagne corks and the sound of thunder, announcing the tropical rainstorm outside. The party continues with a Hunter Douglas dinner for 300+ guests at Guastavino's, an impressive space under the 59th Street Bridge. After the main course the Archiprix participants don't wait for dessert but take over the dance floor, and dance, dance, dance.
For more photos of the award ceremony, click here.
ArchiNed editor Marina vanden Bergen will be present during the whole workshop. She will infiltrate into the workshop groups and write her daily observations...