Our penultimate ‘crit’ took place recently in the floor-to-ceiling glass meeting room on 7th floor Palestra: seven tired, over-stretched “scholars” and “mentors”, and the surreal sonic backdrop of an ongoing fire announcement asking us to “please leave the building via the nearest fire exit” over and over again for 2 hours (as opposed to the nearest window presumably).
Joe stole the show with his beautiful drawings, and Alicia presented an energetic mind map that managed to concisely represent a whole world of contradictions between the masterplan and real life public space. You can’t imagine three more different projects.
I showed a number of new sketches, and tried to find a way to tie the project back into a conclusion that could feasibly have an affect on the way a designer or a local authority might look at the whole concept of “High Road”. Having had my proposal for a last, climactic, concluding piece of work thoroughly trashed by my mentor (who, in fairness, was only trying to save me from myself), and with only10 days until we face a daunting crit panel for our final review, the pressure is now seriously on.
After two pints on no dinner in the pub after the crit I started to realise that I really am looking at design in subtly different ways since the scholarship started. Maybe I’m starting to think a bit less like an architect. Even though I know better, I am still predisposed to think in terms of problem-solving and looking for an innovative response - which might well be appropriate in many architectural commissions. But I am beginning to understand that insight is far more powerful than innovation when it comes to urban transformation.
Unsatisfyingly for the inner architect, that doesn’t lend itself to ‘final proposals’ and tidy conclusions, but letting go (a little) of what things might eventually look like, by concentrating on what processes and activities make our cities work - and seeing the design of cities as a continuous process, taking place over many hundreds of years - is both mind-blowing and liberating.