Danger! Workshops must put ideas before mere function
A workshop, particularly when it is held in the summer, should be dangerous. Not dangerous in the form of risk to life and limb, but in the sense that there should be no guarantee of success.
The work should deal with the unfamiliar as well as the possibility of engaging in practices that are unfamiliar.
I am about to embark on a workshop in Wakefield at Public Arts. The participants are, in the main, professional people who have given up their work and leisure time (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) to join in an open exploration. There is no point confirming their existing modes of preparation or even their beliefs. They might return to those later, but the main point of such an event is to open new ways of seeing and, perhaps, doing.
For some this will form part of a continuing professional education programme, a term I despise, because if people are any good at what they do, they would be doing this anyway through their own personal interest.
My idea is that the two days should be unconditional fun, from which more questions are posed than answered.
The choice of subject is important. It should not be pregnant with political and social issues such as affordable housing, as these subjects tend to promote too much discussion.Although this might be very good debate, talking tends to obscure the possibilities for action, and action is what we want. For this reason I have selected a hybrid of function to explore, which is church/theatre. Both are, of course, highly political, but so far as I am aware there is no official government policy covering either of these building types, and there is certainly no policy for an edifice that contains both.
We will not concern ourselves with a specific place, as this will also lead to another type of conversation regarding context, colour, scale and need. I would like to get down to the essence of architecture itself.To test out the function of pure imagination in a manner which is unfettered, unfiltered and free from interference.
The style police are rife and often prevent the public getting what they rightly deserve.
We are also confronted by other so-called advisors that act like quasi-developers (without the imagination), who also influence decisions that often do not need to be influenced.
Our workshop does not rule out the possibility of finding a Wakefield relevance, or indeed a specific location, but the point is that whatever we do will not be prescribed by such mundanity. We will search for our church/theatre by drawing, painting, making daft models and performances, if really necessary. The images produced will create the agenda for the discussion, and from the discussion will emerge a work of beauty. It is only at this point that we can begin to access who pays for it, where it might be and how it operates.
Both functions are full of convention but neither are beyond reinvention. In fact, both are in desperate need of being revisited, as they are controlled by the corset hold of the Arts Council, the church and artists (who are extremely conservative).
Both functions lift the spirit, and since architecture's main purpose is to do the same, the subject is ideal material for exploration.
Both functions involve a significant number of people, more than a house and less than a football stadium. They are true public buildings that affect our lives.
I am looking forward to extraordinary results.
WA, from the garden table, London