Album of the Year 2014

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Now that I’ve finished university for the year and taking a few days break I thought it would be a good time to look back at a great year in music. Below are my top ten albums that I’ve enjoyed over the past twelve months, you may disagree with the list but its mine, make your own if you feel so strongly about it. Jeez.

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Album of the Year 2014

Potential?

Potential seems to be the best and worst thing to have. In the five months that I’ve been back at university it has been said many times that I have so much potential. Tutors have said it and fellow students have said it. It’s great to be thought of in that way but is it in fact a derogatory statement? ‘Yeah, you should be doing so much more’ or ‘Even you know you’re better than this.’

It is the most infuriating and frustrating thing to possess. Especially when you believe it too. When you know what you’re doing is not as good as what you think you can do. But why can’t you produce the quality of work that people think you can? And why do people think you can produce better work? What part of me as a person and student makes people think I can achieve more?

I think of myself as an aspirational person. I know what I want to achieve in life and I know what I need to do to be able to get it. But why can’t I translate that into tangible work?

There will be a time when people stop seeing the potential and start focussing on what they can see and judge it at face value. This scenario scares me, the idea that I’ll get comfortable with what I can do now. I sincerely hope that that time never comes, that I can figure out how the hell I can actually operate as people (myself included) think I can.

I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I’m well aware that I am a victim of my own making. I just hope that writing these thoughts down will drive me to changing my ways and ending the frustration that has plagued my entire academic life.

Potential?

Defending the pop-up

Pop-up architecture gets a fair bit of bad press. I agree with a lot of why it is bad but I believe it has its advantages. I am a big fan of a certain type of pop-up and that is a collaborative one serving a public purpose.

The point that I agree with about this type of architecture is that the designers who create these sort-term buildings and structures can better spend their time making permanent and larger buildings. And can get paid more (or actually get paid in some cases).

The angle I see this from is that of a young, inexperienced designer, still in education and wanting to learn new skills and techniques. This would be done with like-minded people and with the help of enthusiastic, approachable and sociable professionals. I’m not saying education doesn’t satisfy this criteria but there should be a system in place outside of university for those wanting extra in the big nasty world.

This article from Vice by Eddie Blake highlights the prevalence of the old guard in architecture. Their monopoly of the profession shuts out the younger (and more dynamic and progressive) architects from bigger jobs.

What I would like to see is more chances for young architects and designers to be able to get their name out there and seen by developers and prospective clients. I also want more collaboration and involvement of students and apprentices. There are precedents for young people doing fantastic things, like Practice Architecture who designed Frank’s Café in Peckham and Studio Weave‘s Studio in the Woods. These design and build projects teach people great new skills, create new friendships and interactions and (hopefully) attract media interest.

Photo: Andy Matthews and Jim Stephenson
Photo: Andy Matthews and Jim Stephenson

Councils and developers should look to these people for their youthful tenacity and verve, their willingness to try new things and their drive for experimentation and progression. I can be accused of naivety in an industry dominated by people who know how it works but when most people want it to change but don’t have the time, or energy, to change it, it falls to the new generation to speak up. I’ve spoken to numerous people who would actively ward people off the profession, saying it’s not worth the time and it’s too late for them but I can still get out. Support for young people from the architectural authorities and organisations will help change views and opinions and also create opportunities.

More competitions targeted at students and recently qualified architects will let the world see what great new talent there is. A Pecha Kucha style selection process for jobs and architects selecting students and young designers to work with (or other way round) will demonstrate the vibrant and fluid nature of new practice.

I know this won’t work for larger projects and it may not be the answer to the problem but I see it as a way of helping people get their foot in the door and also try to exact change.

Photo: Studio in the Woods, Andy Matthews and Jim Stephenson

Defending the pop-up

An absence

I knew this wordy blogging thing wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. And I knew setting deadlines was the wrong way to go.

My idea of what I want to use this for has changed also. My thought was that this would be a platform to improve my articulation of architectural thought and to try and develop a more thorough and thoughtful critique of stuff I like and, perhaps more interestingly, the stuff I don’t like.

My opinion on how to actually form an opinion and support it has also changed. I can easily say that I don’t like anything that has the name Zaha Hadid on but what else can I say except that I find it ugly? It’s this articulation of distaste that I feel I need to convey, almost as much as that of adulation and celebration.

It is also the process of listing buildings that made me think a bit more about opinions. Architecture, as with all design disciplines is subjective. It is easy to like and dislike things but its the appreciation of things you don’t like that I’m looking to work on. Yes, I may not like or even hate a building but you should also be able to see why it has significance and why other people like it.

This exercise should also confirm to me what I like about the architecture I admire. It’s like looking at the white space around an object. Focus on what you don’t see, or feel, as much as what you do.

It might seem glaringly obvious to others that this is what you should think, and it is pretty obvious to me now thinking about it but it is putting it down on in words that makes you fully aware and conscious of what you want to do.

So instead of using this purely for reviewing and pointing things out I want to be able to put my thoughts down about anything and everything.

And for the record, my favourite buildings, at the moment, are the Nordic Pavilion by Sverre Fehn and Exeter Library by Louis Kahn.

An absence

My favourite building

Now this is a pretty big thing to jump right in on. To me, and probably most other people in architecture, a favourite building changes as often as a favourite song and I will give a different answer to each different person who asks.

I wanted to see what I would pick as my favourite, see if I would pick one or struggle and do a list. I also wanted to see if there would be a common theme in the buildings that I would choose, perhaps a common material or location. Maybe even a common designer or architectural style.

I’m not going to rush into this decision so sorry for the misleading title. Just take this as a heads up for what is to come. I said that I’m not going to set myself targets for the amount of posts I will do on this blog but I am going to set myself a deadline of posting my favourite(s) by Monday.

What better way to spend a Bank Holiday?

JR

Edit: I knew this was a bad idea. I’m scrapping my stupid deadline!

My favourite building