New students, that is.
On Thursday, under advice from the course directors, we new ambled about together. I gathered a group of about twelve of us who went to the Tate Modern. The permanent collection was closed when I was here in 2006, and so I had not seen a lot of it before, but it is incredible. I have been twice since I’ve been in London, and I find myself in need of yet more time with it. I almost lost my breath when I walked into the room charting Russian and Soviet propaganda from earliest 1910’s pre-revolutionary Constructivism through 1940’s high Socialist Realism. If I ever go missing, look there first.
Then we walked a bit of the South Bank, and had some mediocre crepes for lunch. Over lunch, the conversation foreshadowed the year to come and turned to a spirited discussion of our styles, methods, and interests, including some good smack talk about established architects.
Regarding the time together, it is wonderful that as people we can all get along so well with intellectual and life interests that overlap so little. I mean this about life in general, not just specific to my fellow students on the course, but it is a great example of it. We come from different places, we have wildly divergent aims, yet we all are passing through this same state in our own way and finding so much to exchange. The bonding of those first few hours was really positive.
Then, that night, another eight or so of us met up and braved the crowds for First Thursday in Shoreditch, which ended with breaking bread again – this time some much tastier Vietnamese cuisine.
As I have mentioned previously, I have been suppressing my usual nature as a shutterbug in order to concentrate on my drawing. I wish I had a scanner online to upload some of the sketches and notes that will better explain my interests and aims for this year. But patience will be rewarded in due time with the ideas I am getting through in my sketchbook. I will keep some secrets so my end results aren’t anticlimactic, but I am excited to share this unique time with everyone, as well…
Friday morning, we got a tour of the exciting facilities at the Bartlett. The Digital Model Center is incredible, and I am looking forward to using the heck out of the metal shop, and CNCs and laser cutters in the CAD-CAM, as well. And once the 5 axis CNC is rolling, things may get out of hand. If I’m not in the Soviet Propaganda room at the Tate Modern, look here.
Then, I headed over to the gallery at ARUP world headquarters to check out the closing Digital Hinterlands exhibit. It was put together by Bartlett’s own Ruairi Glynn. I’ll go ahead and lay it out. Considering that this was mostly student work, it was quite impressive. Objectively, the quality of the design and execution of almost all the work was excellent. And thematically, it was well curated. Hats of to Mr. Glynn for a really well put together set of work. It definitely felt as if the work on display is a well thought through examination of an emergent genre.
The term genre applied thus may betray certain limitations to the … imagination of some of the work. I have a bit of apprehension over the tool driven process and the tool obsessed nature of the design work. It all seems a bit baroque, so to speak. There seems to be an argument that flawless internal logic seems to gloss over avoiding some design decisions. As if having worked within the factuality of the material of the models – be they laser cut wood or paper, laser sintered nylon, what have you – frees the designer from considering the factuality of design.
There were a dispiriting number of student-aged people were hurriedly taking high quality pictures of the work itself, without pretending to read the project descriptions. Voraciously consuming the imagery without trying to evaluate its relationship to a brief. I was left a bit worried by this trend.
Anyway, I should move on. This is a much bigger discussion than I have room for here. It is also a discussion to which I am relatively new, and my opinion is by no means fully formed nor informed on the subject in all its nuance just yet. A year of monk-hood studying the nature of the tool in the hands of the designer [physically and intellectually, but not just] is a major part of why I am here, and will enjoy highlighting the forthcoming dialog about said. While I may have observations as to the nature of what I have seen, I’ll leave judgement to my eyes when they are a bit more experienced.
I will say one ill thing. The pristine and beautiful work itself is displayed on perfectly cut and folded aluminum display units. Incredible looking things on incredible looking things. But this is how they are suspended from metal pipes [with exposed ends] running along the ceiling. It is becoming a depressingly regular feature of the architectural exhibition that the least thought through, hacked together display methods are being applied to otherwise immaculately considered and executed work. This too is architecture. This too deserves design.
Anyway, I took care of business the rest of the day, including surviving the maw of Tottenham Court Road to purchase electronics. I am the proudly non-ripped off owner of a digital audio recorder and webcam. The digital recorder is for lectures, and it will moonlight in recording the sound of approaching underground trains to make ambient music.
Then after hours with I met up with the improbably named Jen Lager. She is one of the “Denver” contingent of my friend Lisa’s friends, and we had a great conversation at the non-improbably named pub The Jeremy Bentham [“the Bentham” is very close to the University College of London, of which he is considered the spiritual father, so the name if odd is by no means improbable.]
I have been housesitting for the incredible Charles and Kate for the last week while they were on holiday. Today I moved most of my things to my new place in Tufnell Park. As I packed I watched a bit of Welles’s classic The Third Man. You would be hard pressed to find a better chase sequence than the climax. I have seen it many times, yet every viewing reveals a new detail, a new bit of magic that only a really masterfully done movie can offer. Later, I read on the IMDB page that the director’s friends jokingly gave him a spirit level to use on his next film, as they were annoyed and disoriented by the odd “Dutch” camera angles. Dutch angles have always been a favorite of mine, as they are only possible with the cinematic device, and they transcend the pitfall of movie-as-filmed-theater.
Of course, I myself feel as if I could use a level for my camera, wincing at most of the shots I took on the walking tour I took today in the shadow of Senate House. My sketching eye is coming along great, but my photo eye needs some work. The Senate House walk was great. An interesting close-reading of the very unique surroundings of the Charles Holden designed Senate House of University of London was a wonderful as education and entertainment. Hats off to the faculty and students of Birkbeck College who put it together. This really does deserve an entry to itself, so I’ll try to work one up soon. I took a lot of [badly angled] pictures, and I really should share. I am going to try and attend the tour of the Holden designed Picadilly line stations with the same group of people, but we’ll see if I have time.
Back to tonight – I finally settled in with a newly returned Kate and Chuck, had some pizza and watched some relaxing television. Tomorrow I close this last month-long chapter of transient life in London and will have a place to unpack. But I rapidly switch gears into life as a harried and enthusiastic student – Monday morning we report for a four day intensive workshop. Kicking it off for real we will be spending serious time and effort with Perry Kulper from the University of Michigan.
But this chapter’s been written, you’ll have to wait for the next for that story.