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

The week that will might change my life. AKA The week I didn’t get into the AA.

I have a blog. Not this one but another one. It contains a lot of pictures of things that interest me as well as a few videos, mostly of Thom Yorke dancing funny. Whilst I love posting to this blog and get a lot of enjoyment from sourcing and posting content, the tumblr format has it’s drawbacks.

I really enjoy the scrapbook element to tumblr but I have started to think that I want to blabber about some things and offer more of my opinion on certain things that aren’t just ‘Ace!’ or ‘Brilliant’ or ‘Pile of shit. Why do people even commission Zaha?!’. I’ve been out of university for almost three years now. The longest bit of writing I have done in those three years is a personal statement to get me back into an educational establishment. I’m not saying I want to be a journalist, essayist, critic or Carrie off Sex and the City but there comes a time where you just want to write stuff.

It’s Good Friday. I’m no longer a God-botherer so it’s importance stretches to the fact that today is the start of a four-day weekend. Which is nice. This week has been quite a significant one in a relatively insignificant way. I accepted my place at London Metropolitan University to study for my Architecture Part II. I also, somewhat bizarrely, had an interview at the Architectural Association that I didn’t care about, or fully appreciate. I don’t want that to come across arrogant or uppity, that is completely not the case. I would love to study at the AA, I wouldn’t have applied there if I didn’t but I came to realise that it wasn’t the right place, at the right time. Unfortunately this was at the exact moment of walking through the door of the interview room.

Now I’m not saying if I had put effort into preparing for the interview and my performance in the interview I would have got in. Far from that ridiculous assumption. After talking with friends, peers and colleagues I came to the conclusion that I was not right for the place nor it for me. Its hard for me to articulate the precise reason why, mostly because it’s a feeling that I have. It might be that I don’t think I have reached the maturity required to study there, but I think I’m being hard on myself when I say that. I have been out of practice in architecture. I have been working, in various guises (one, two, three), in the profession for the past three years but I haven’t challenged myself mentally or critically. A large part of why I want to write this blog is to train myself back into writing. Writing about things that I’ve done and my opinions on what other people have done. I need to be critical.

I want to be able to offer my take on things when people talk about a topic, not just say ‘Oh yeah, I blogged a close up of the concrete detailing of that project!’. I need to read buildings more, look at their plans and sections. I always say I really enjoy the materiality of buildings but I feel that is just an excuse for not paying attention to how the building works. I’ve settled into a very vain and superficial view on architecture that isn’t good. I can confidently say I like a building but struggle to say why beyond it’s looks. I know I have more to offer and I know that I can enjoy and appreciate architecture more, I’ve just got to grow up and think more about these things.

Like my tumblr blog, I’m starting this purely for myself. If other people come to read it and like it then that’s a bonus. I’m always keen to engage with people and read people’s comments.

I don’t want to set a target for a set number of posts a week because I think that will force me into doing it. And that’s not what I’m looking to gain. Let’s just wait and see when my next post will be and what it will be about.


Note to self: Include more jokes next time. And complex sentences.

The week that will might change my life. AKA The week I didn’t get into the AA.