NEW UNITS 2013-14 (originally published in AArchitecture 21)Profile
Speed Dating with the editors of AArchitecture
15 February 2014
Architectural Association, London
This year the AA welcomed three new units into the Undergraduate School. Curious to find out more about the units, AArchitecture asked the tutors questions, turning the tables on the student-tutor interview process.
Intermediate 12: Happening Architecture
(Tyen Masten and Inigo Minns)
What makes your unit different from any of the others? Why should students pick it?
Inigo: We are very interested in the generation of buildings around events. That’s the kind of theme that we’re working on, and we titled it as ‘Happening Architecture’.
Tyen: Partly because we wanted the idea of the event to be more ongoing rather than seeing events as kind of a one-shot thing. The ‘happening’ has a looser feel to it and it suggests something that is more ground-up in terms of the generation of architecture and how architecture can evolve through that event and have a legacy that’s beyond just the single moment.
If you were to draw an advert for the unit, what would it be?
Is the unit Now or New?
Tyen: It’s Now. There’s no such thing as New.
Inigo: We are really interested in the temporality of architecture. The starting point is temporality as a kind of gestation point, which makes way before the building, and it has a legacy that exists after the building. There are multiple side activities that happen within this range.
Tyen: We gave them a range of events: Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s wedding was the small-scale, and the large was something like a tsunami. We actually started the year doing an event in which we set up a few key items in which the students went on a scavenger hunt in London and had to map that event. We found is that events that were shorter in time had higher impact because of the legacy they left on the students, who were sharing the stories after the event itself. For example, they had to dance with someone random down at the tube station.
Inigo: I’m thinking about some of the things that they came back with and they all came back with 15 examples of events and took that down to their three favorites. We ended up with everything from Kate Middleton’s bum, Will and Kate’s wedding –
Surely it’s Pippa’s?
Inigo: Oh yes sorry it was Pippa’s.
Intermediate 5: R & R
What’s the most difficult question you’ve been asked so far by students? Are they challenging the brief?
Ryan: The most difficult is somewhat challenging the brief and working with constraints. But overall they mostly embrace that idea. Because I think it’s overbearing – here are these rules – and it’s actually more like a process of learning.
What are the criteria to get into your unit?
Students willing to take risks and engage, to open their minds to different sort of ideas and to be radical and visionary rather than just remain at the status quo.
Can you see that in a student in a 10-minute interview?
I think so, to some degree. When I see what they’ve worked on before; or just how they talk and what they’re willing to do.
What kind of questions would you ask them?
What interests you about the brief? – which sounds like a very basic question, but is very difficult to answer. Some people have a very distinct and clear response to that and then for others it’s almost as if they haven’t read the brief. So you can see right away where their interests are.
Well, there’s a basic one – what’s your favourite project?
Oh yeah, what’s your favourite building?
I asked my students that today!
What responses did you get?
I was quite surprised. They had answers and they weren’t the typical responses. It wasn’t your favourite building, it was their favourite architecture practice and what building of theirs did they like.
Ok, so did they ask you to answer?
They did. I said Le Corbusier and the Assembly Building in Chandigarh, mainly from my personal experience of that building.
Who was your first architect crush?
Actually it would be the same answer because it was jammed down our throats when I was in undergraduate school, and we had no choice but to love it. But then I went through a period of hating him.
If you could choose, would you be an ant, a spider or a bee? In terms of how they build.
A bee. I am drawn to the spider as well for some reason. Actually I want to be a fly. I don’t want to be crawling around in dirt.
Could you draw a self-portrait?
Diploma 3: One:One
(Marco Vanucci, Daniel Bosia and Adiam Sertzu)
Marco: The unit was set up as a partnership while we were working at AKTII, an engineering firm, where Daniel, Adiam and I were working in the Parametric Applied Research Team. I’m currently running my own architectural firm – OPENSYSTEMS Architecture in London, and Daniel and Adiam are working at AKTII p.art team, respectively as Director and Associate. At AKTII we worked together on creating an interface between architecture and engineering, in an endeavor to create a new form of design practice. So the idea of setting up a unit at the AA was to bring back to academia the world of real practice and vice versa; to make a fertile exchange between the two worlds.
What would you say are the challenges that you face?
We try to bring new concepts; the novelty is something that needs to be understood. We teach an approach, a design method, more than anything else. It is not necessarily connected to a style or to an aesthetic output, but it’s more to do with thinking systematically. We understand design as the organisation of matter.
Could you draw your unit?
How is it going so far?
Things are going well so far. Students bring new ideas to the table. We try to help them developing their own ideas and we enhance them through our design methodology.
What is your agenda?
The agenda focuses on 1:1 – real prototyping. We think that in the context of cross-fertilisation between academia and practice, prototypes can really help to unlock innovation for the design industry.
How do you work?
We divide the year into three phases. The first term is more to do with learning the tools and opening up to new possibilities by playing with computation and digital and physical form-finding. In the second term we will look into a real scenario – our site is Hudson Yards in New York: it presents a great dichotomy between a privately owned piece of land with the will to transform it into a public space. In the third term we will work on full-scale prototypes.
What are you looking for in a student?
We are looking for keen, open-minded and ambitious individuals; students who are interested in getting their hands dirty with material and have the ambition to go to real practices tomorrow and incorporate the knowledge they gained at school.
For more information:
Intermediate 5 Unit Brief
Intermediate 12 Unit Brief
Diploma 3 Unit Brief