20 May 2010

The Final Review

Architecture reviews start notoriously late, but Roland gave the studio strict instructions to be ready at ten o’clock in the morning because we have a tight schedule and an impatient jury.  It is 9:40, and Dwight and I can’t get in touch with So.  When I left the studio four hours earlier, we agreed to meet at 9:00 am to pinup our drawings and set up the model.    I ask a friend to track So down while I drag our hundred-pound wood model down to the room where we are presenting.  Dwight is still upstairs finalizing the digital presentation.  Ten minutes later, Dwight has finished exporting the presentation and we are pinning up our two boards.  I get a text from So—“Sorry, In a cab, will be there in five.”   But before So shows up, Roland asks us to start because the group that was suppose to go first isn’t ready.

       As Roland is introducing the jury, So rushes in visibly upset and apologetic.  We settle him down enough to run through the presentation and discuss our speaking order before Roland announces “With that I will turn it over to the first group.”   We introduce ourselves and I start. Unlike the mid-review, this time we have the presentation in the right order with the process before the result.  We get to the first video, and the student changing the slides for us plays the video while I discuss the movement of the dots.   I ask him to play the video again but instead he flips to the next slide.  When we ask him to go back he misunderstands and advances another slide forward.  The jury looks annoyed as So runs back to the projector.  We move on hoping to get the jury’s attention.  Dwight explains the sticks and their aggregation and alignment to physically define the spaces.  As we show some renderings of the interior and exterior spaces, So uses the wood model to explain how we intend to physically connect the sticks together and eventually make them into a building.  Satisfied with our presentation we await the jury’s reaction. 
      Perhaps a little overconfident with our work, (Cecil and Roland have been consistently pleased with our project and progress,) I am surprised by the first comment from one of my previous professors Jenny Sabin:

     “Would you clarify some of the conditions that take place with this construction system?  How do you distinguish structure, partition or floors and windows?”

       Tom Wiscombe of Emergent Architecture says that he likes the effect of the building, the order of the interior compared to the fluffiness of the outside, but do we really think this system is organizing space in a way that creates a functional school of design.  I reply that the while the spaces may not be organized in a traditional fashion, they are accurately sized to the numbers of people who would be using them, and the variation in spaces in the building would accommodate all of the programmatic needs of a school of design.  He seems unconvinced and continues. He says that our design appears much more like a pavilion than a true building.  “Do you really have any structure or enclosure?”   
      Balmond steps in to redirect the conversation in a more theoretical direction.  He dismisses the structural concerns citing the wood model and the redundancy of the system, and then suggests that because of the redundancy, the users could actually move the sticks around and change the interior spaces as needed.  Balmond’s ability to think realistically and conceptually at the same time, I believe, is the secret to his success as an engineer and designer.  As the review wraps up, the conclusion of the jury is that our stick organization is successful, provocative, and beautiful, but most of the members still seem skeptical that the dots will really form spaces in the building.   
       I listen to the other reviews with some interest, but mostly I am just relieved to be done.  As the jurors depart, Cecil approaches Jim and me, and in his typically blunt fashion says “I think there were two interesting projects this semester…well done.” 

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