A fantastic day out - thanks to zips, Pollock and rocket science
Two students dressed in black stand in front of a packed house. They are presenting their project.
One is wearing what looks like a straight-jacket festooned with Velcro and zips. The other one does the talking. He advises us that we all want to transform our bodies into objects, and a black zippered body-suit like that worn by his colleague will make it possible. He shows that his friend's arms are zipped tight to his sides and his legs zipped together. Then, by inviting him to adopt a crouching position and judiciously fastening other zips, he converts him into a frighteningly bouldershaped bundle, small enough to travel as hand baggage.
Shocked by this crit display, I, an invited juror, am struck that anyone passing the Architectural Association in Bedford Square, with its two blue plaques and its button-down Georgian facade, would never guess what was going on inside.
Next is a man whose 'exhibit A' is a sheet made up of hundreds of cigarette papers. This he has photographed as it wafts to the ground, studied the structural implications of, and otherwise pumped dry of all significance.
Less imaginatively, another aspirant has designed a 120m table with a restaurant to fit, and made a huge model of Deptford.
Another has tried to cross an animation of Jackson Pollock painting with the plan of the Schroder House, and another the Greenwich Village meat packing district with a Prada image - the result being data-generated shapes worthy of Claes Oldenburg or Paul Rudolph.
I begin to get it now. It is the people outside who are crazy. The presenters are basically setting up processes that will generate mutations, then giving names to the mutations and assigning meanings to them. The trouble is that the resulting data fascination can be as deadly to a designer as instrument fascination is to a pilot. Take the group that takes a slice of landscape near Lisbon, cuts it into rectangles and then plays a randomising game of pass the parcel with it. Is this rocket science?
Another one just might be. It starts out illustrating the automatic balance achieved by the processes of crop rotation, fallow fielding, contour cropping and inter cropping in agriculture, and then promises to apply the same harmonising principles to urban planning, permitting for example seasonal development.
But wait, there's more. There are 16 wooden pieces, each representing a dream. There is a student who has followed people using mobile phones in the street and made a map of their movements. He has taken six hours to get from Acton to Bedford Square on foot by following the directions of everyone he asks, and has finally cast himself in plaster to see what immobility feels like because he wants a house that will reconfigure itself around him at will.
Next is branding and some high-quality image making. Several Guinness commercials are shown. For some reason a fragment of a panopticon finds itself inside a portable building. Curtains herald the conversion of the podium level of Centrepoint into a cult cinema, and Rolex diversifies from watches into self-defence with a jewel-like stun gun.
Finally there is the capsule hotel. This starts off made of shipping containers and ends up as a nest of demountable, foam-cored plywood capsules, enough 'to sleep 46 students'. The bed, 'a capsule in itself ', is to be built in prototype form over Easter.
Thus ends an all-day jury at the AA. The hall is packed with spectators from beginning to end. If it were not for that, I would urge everyone to attend the next one. It is, as Tony Blair once said of the Dome, 'a monument to our creativity and a fantastic day out'.