Last week we met with a studio group from The University of Sheffield to take part in one of their workshops for their Live Project based at Mester Works in Neepsend. Part of the project considered the energy use of the building (something we will touch more on this week at Gripple) but more specifically for our workshop; how to reimagine one of their existing spaces to make it more inhabitable. This involved looking at a mixture of things including program, constituency and feasibility.
The workshop was interesting and informative for a few reasons. Collaborating with
students at The University of Sheffield was successful in that we got to share experiences and knowledge and expand our networks. The usual dynamic of a design studio was broken and allowed new opportunities to flourish, this was seen successfully in some places and unsuccessfully in others. The live projects short time span and real life clients meant that things could move with pace and also made it goal-oriented, I’d argue that while this gave us a clear focus; the workshop was set up too much as an attempt to reach that goal and not to question or define it first. Towards the end of our workshop we almost worked in reverse; moving towards proposals on how to encourage participation and engagement, questions of constituency; temporality and “hacked” spatial solutions started to creep in and questions of the priorities of spaces.
Learning from the workshop:
I think that trying to establish a
connection with engagement and participation from the constituency of the site could help define and enrich this design project; but without the live aspect, would people be interested? To follow on from this, as a counter almost, could we then in some way, make this project “live”, at least to some extent?
Another key learning point is to try and understand the influence and limitations of the questions you ask and the outcomes that you aim for. At Mester Makers, the clear roles and tasks for each group made the workshop more manageable; but arguably limited and predetermined the outcomes; potentially stifling the creative process, although there appears no easy or clear boundary between the manageable and predetermined. However, finding this balance is an important part of the design process as argued by Awan, Schneider and Till (2011) “[…] critical practice or rather, to use the accepted word, “praxis”, starts with an “open-ended evaluation of the particular external conditions, out of which action arises with no predetermined outcome but with the intention to be transformative.”
Photo: Mesters Works, Udall, J., 2016
Awan, N., Schneider, T.,Till, J.,(2011), Spatial Agency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture. p29. Oxon: Routledge