What can you learn from your work in the architectural studio?
Why do we need architecture classes in this day
Reading time: 4 minutes
Last year my colleagues and I implemented our vision of an international summer camp for youngsters, called the Art Box Camp, which took place in the Baltics and where English was the language of instruction. Over the course of two weeks camp participants worked on their projects in the fields of music, design and architecture. And today, after a half year long reflection, I want to share our challenges and thoughts on the subject of architectural studies aimed at 12-17-year-olds.
As it turns out, architecture is an extraordinarily exciting discipline. We were amazed at how people, who seemingly have no connection to architecture, were suddenly addicted to developing projects: spending all of their free time in the architectural studio, at nights and in the afternoon, being worried before project presentation, feeling excited, pensive and looking for answers.
However, it's easy to understand and share in their dedication and excitement, especially if you look at the architecture studio and see a place where new worlds are being constructed. The foundation for the creation if these new worlds is the viewpoint of the architects themselves, their view on how a person should live and interact with other people.
The following questions arise:
What is the most important thing when meeting another person? What should this meeting be like? What results should it yield?
What is a person's place and purpose in the city? Are they important? How does this importance present itself? How can a person feel it?
What should the public space be like and what is its purpose in the city? Do people of this city want to meet or would they rather just avoid each other?
These questions are not at all simple, but absolutely essential for design, and answers demand attention to detail and a clear author's viewpoint. An architectural project, no matter what's its purpose or location, always seeks to answer these questions.
Skill >>> Architecture teaches us how to be an author. An author of ideas, projects, cities, whole worlds. A person certain of their viewpoint and words, the one who considers how their actions will affect other people. A person who is able to consider many different variables, take into account the presence, interests and opinions of other people. And, of course, to think on a larger scale and not to limit themselves to the events of today and tomorrow.
Architecture means devirtualization.
The creative process that happens in the architectural studio lies within the limits of the physical, everyday world — the work materials are simple and accessible to everyone, the tasks are easy to understand. Anyone can build a house, children build houses to play with them, and the reference point in this game, the chosen scale, tasks and decisions are based on kids bodies and self-perception.
In a sense this is a continuation of a children's game, which, by the time the kids are 11-17 years old, is already somewhat forgotten. However architecture is closely related to games such as MineCraft, with one important difference — architecture deals with the material world, its limitations and physicality, self-perception of oneself as an integral existing being, not only as a “brain”, “imagination”, virtuality.
Skill >>> Seeing and “reading” the physical reality as a factor influencing one's life, creativity and a way of thinking. And, of course, paying attention to details.
For many of our participants their work in the architectural studio becomes a means to discover that architecture and urban design aren't about aesthetics. They aren't about beauty. Nor about functionality.
The architect creates artificial spaces in our world, and with them the new possibilities for meetings and their content. Along with bringing together differently vectored factors of functional necessity, the architect builds a poetic superspace: sets the tone, leaving room for the unforeseen, unplanned, alive to happen.
Skill >>> Spacial reasoning, thinking big and tapping into, along with practical thinking, one's feelings and aspirations. Noticing the existing issue on the scale of a whole city, community, public space, not being limited to just one's personal "corner".
The questions that the architect is facing are similar to the ones teenagers are trying to answer, and the way of thinking, cultivated in an architectural studio, can greatly enrich the life of a 11-17-year-old: step-by-step providing the keys to solving dilemmas, learning to face creative and intellectual tension, not being afraid of the questions that arise, but to rely on them and use them in the creative process.
Projects are usually developed in a team: that's how work in the architectural studio gives our participants skills to undertake joint creative activities. The inspiration doesn't come exclusively from own projects, but also from the projects of one's “neighbors” because they are looking to answer similar questions, and therefore it is interesting to consider them and give them feedback, thus finding new ideas and creative solutions. We are looking to create the most non-competitive environment possible: the main energy source lies in the projects themselves, not in trying to figure out which project turned out to be better than the others.
Skill >>> Critical thinking, teamwork and presenting results.
Architecture is a language of art. The teenagers develop an ability to see and create compositions and constructions, to think visually, to discover beauty in everyday life and to create it themselves.
In the era dominated by the language of the visual, the ability to “make something look nice” is in demand almost everywhere, from engineering to marketing on Instagram.
It is important to note that architecture teaches us, subtly yet in-depth, not by demanding blind imitation, but through research and experimenting. This is because, among other things, of the purity and sparseness of the field — modern young people aren't surrounded by many clichés and pictures telling them what cities should feel and look like, architecture isn't something that is casually glamorized on Instagram and YouTube in everyday life. And that's why the language of architecture is at first glance more confusing than, for example, the language of photography, video or collage. But in the end it brings more results. Considerably more!
Skill >>> Proficiency in a creative language
And finally, the most important discovery
is the fact that our architectural studio and Summer camp are possible, they are functioning and bear fruit. And there are children who are deeply interested in architecture and who need it and working with them brings great pleasure and joy. I am grateful to everyone who chose to be with us.
The context is important
The architectural studio is not the only creative space of the summer camp, it is what makes the camp come alive along with other professional studios (music and design), an array of workshops to choose from, evening events, trips, get-togethers, communities, groups, friends and new acquaintances — with all the things that fill our lives, puzzle, inspire, encourage growth and growing up. In relation to the work that happens in the architectural studios these things are, on one hand, buffer zones, spaces to decompress and take a break from thinking about projects, and on the other hand, they are the sources of inspiration. After all, the architectural studio, in our perception, is about one's life and sharing it with other people, and now, right now, in the summer camp, the life is happening, inspiring, provoking thoughts and providing an opportunity for reflection. Ideally, synergy, symbiosis, space, in which all aspects intertwine and support each other, emerge.