This ones a bit of a long one, sorry! 797 Words..
Although not directly relevant to other works that I have been pursuing, shortly after I arrived at home for Christmas, I was able to visit where my sister now works, at a local sixth form college in Lowestoft, the next town over from Great Yarmouth; my home! The Sixth form was opened in 2011, accompanied by the construction of its new campus building, the design credited to an organisation called Atkins [1.].She had told me that recently, on the 14th of December, the Sixth Form [L6FC] had held an event in which to present an award to the architect [who’s name I haven’t been able to find!]. During the acceptance of this award however, one of the Facilities Managers at L6FC had made a comment to my sister which got me thinking about the kinds of themes of this studio year, in Design as Distributed Agency. Although paraphrased from that conversation a couple of weeks earlier, the general gist of the comment was:
“Oh, get him over here, I’ve got a couple of things to say to him!”
As well as thinking about what can be suggested by this, I began to look a little into write-ups on the college building around the time of its opening, finding an article on the local Evening News website with comments made by the assessor, an architect called Stephen Hart. These also became interesting when considering readings that I had been doing for my essay.
I found it interesting that the users, who work in the environment daily, had taken issue with elements of the design, and that I have been exposed to this before but never thought much into it, for some reason! Although it was never elaborated upon what these issues where, the broader scope of the comment contained a smaller implication of the kinds of issues that I had been working towards addressing within my own developing project, the detached, controlling and anti-social nature of architecture/architects; as expressed in Jeremy Till’s interviews explaining the themes behind his book Architecture Depends.
The comment alone suggest that the future users had not had the chance to contribute toward the development of the project, implying they had been somewhat isolated or frozen out of the motivation of spatial decisions. The subsequent comments made by the architectural assessor suggest a reinforcement of concerns that Till has of architectural attitudes that the profession holds as a whole. He believes that architects are motivated by “architecture presented as a purity”, in designing “instant, pure and controllable profession and set of objects”, which is potentially reinforced somewhat by Stephen Hart’s assessment outlining that:
“At first sight, this building looks stunning, with its pristine white finish cladding panels and grey aluminium framed windows and unlike anything else I have seen in Lowestoft.”
Following it up with:
“There are stunning views wherever you go in this building, either looking up or down wherever you go in fact, and there are endless photos which can be taken.”
Admittedly, I too am guilty of wanting to photograph the Hertzberger-esque ‘pods’ in the atrium [2.], although I refrained when I realised they were empty of activity due to term having ended the week prior. The Atkins profile of the building do highlight reconfigurable spaces for working etc, but I do want to go back once term begins and see how its really used, if at all possible!Till argues that “what an architect can do, when working with others, is assimilate those stories and transform them into a set of spatial relationships, which is basically what buildings are; buildings construct and create spatial and with it, social relationships. Architects are not good at imposing those spatial relationships on the world” and this appears to be a present flaw within the development of this project, with the assessment of the finished product focusing on its purely visual attributes.
The idea that its real value [at least suggested by its focus in the assessors comments] lies within in its ‘photogenic’ form, is a kind of theme that I wish to challenge, or explore within my current project also, particularly as my project has been flirting with film and filmmaking as a medium.
The hierarchy of the article in general is also interesting in regards to this, with the only mention of the use of the building coming at the very end of the text, literally isolated to a final sentence and suggestive of being removed from any context constructed in the previous paragraphs, concerned mainly with the ‘critique’ of the completed structure.
“This is a fantastic building in which to work and study.”