Lessons on urban cooperation

Image available here

The other day I was watching a documentary (in Greek) on Berlin’s housing problem. According to the researchers up to 2010, Berlin was one of the European cities with the lowest average rent prizes. However, this condition was dramatically changed in the more recent years as private real estate companies made massive acquisitions of state-owned housing units and then doubled the rent. In fact, people appearing on the doc claimed that it has become impossible for the weaker social groups (refugees, single families, unemployed, students) to rent a descent house.

Today I ran into this great article in Places Magazine that described the successful efforts of a band of artists to turn the Haus der Statistik into affordable housing units. This group of artists had originally formed the Alliance of Threatened Berlin Studio Houses to protect people who could no longer afford their rent from evictions. Yet in the light of the continuous privatization they developed another endeavor; to turn Haus der Statistik, a derelict building near Alexanderplatz into a “gentrification-proof island” and turn it into affordable housing units; studio space for artists and communal space for the public. After several months of research and negotiations with all stakeholders they managed to become official partners in the consortium responsible for bringing their ideas to life.

What started as a mere protest has now become a exemplary public initiative based on people’s massive cooperation. Their systematic approach helped them to establish trust and defend their claims in a way that could work. Very inspiring indeed.

Modernism is dead, long live modernism

I read through the 13 points made by Patrick Schumacher on architectural education. It never seizes to amaze me when nowadays people choose to address a wide public audience in a manifesto-like way. It’s quite alarming that the very structure of the text alludes to the “five points of architecture” by Le Corbusier; an autocratic system of principles that lead to an “hegemonic paradigm,” as Schumacher chooses to call it. I just cannot seem to bring my self to identify with this degree of certainty especially when we all agree to be living in such an uncertain and fluid, post-fordist world. And isn’t it ironic that now of all times, someone should claim to have found a uniform/canonic/normative way of doing architecture?

Schumacher condemns the “anachronistic” way we teach architecture today, and he allocates this anachronism to continuous experimentation. But experimentation in general isn’t the enemy here, is it? After all parametricism is a product of experimentation itself. Perhaps experimentation on form specifically, is anachronistic. Because arch schools have indeed promoted and appraised originality of form for years thus producing practitioners whose only interest lay in impressive yet un-realizable design solutions. And yes, that is perhaps what created this unevenness between academy and practice; the persistence of the value of form. But isn’t this also one of the shortcomings of the extended use of parametricism in some schools and design practices?

So are we really supposed to fully converge to an educational paradigm that has has already cost us part of this void? How about trying to overcome the anachronism by striking to its very core; relieve the students from the burden of originality of form towards an understanding of architecture as in “what it means to be fully human” as Pete Buchanan has eloquently put it.

I can see many schools today struggling to bridge this gap; design build studios, live projects, hands-on workshops and practice-led research studios in sensitive social neighborhoods appear at all continents in an unprecedented rhythm. Isn’t this a way to get over the lack of practical skills or social awareness and relevance that are so much needed to an architect? I have also encountered numerous paradigms (many of which I’ve described in this very blog) of newly formed arch schools that experiment with getting students to work in world renowned practices and actively participate in ongoing projects to gain experience and insights of how arch is actually being produced: talk with clients, organizations; even travel around the world.

And then there is also another issue; if we are to converge, are we seriously supposed to share curriculum between different countries, people, political regimes, economies, cultures? This is where I read convergence and I hear compliance. Because if we are indeed experiencing life as in the continuous process of becoming, are we to think that we all need to reach the same place? Isn’t the beauty of diversity what makes this world so interesting? Isn’t it its complexity that motivates us as how to better understand it?

To introduce a shared paradigm undermines the very meaning of learning especially today when education is becoming all the more open, and people can freely learn from each other. Restricting education to a single core defies the personality of the learners, their peers contribution to their learning and their relation to the rest of the world. Why not set some principles, give them all we can and let them decide who they ultimately choose to be.

ACSA-EAAE Conference Presentation

Re conceptualizing the role of tutors in research-based pedagogy: the tutor(s) as the curriculum

The paper presents the efforts made to experiment with the pedagogical framework and the operational model of a postgraduate urban design studio based on the reconceptualization of the role of tutors. In the model examined here, the curriculum was devised as an open and evolving network of the tutors’ resources and affiliated researchers from within or outside the setting of the academy. This mosaic consisted of different individual research and design practices that are problem-focused and context-specific, communicated directly to students by the very people responsible for their conception and development. Learners were required to investigate the instrumentality of these practices according to their own personal pursuits; to make their own networks of connections, and were even encouraged to create their own personal schemata of design research. In fact, the second major shift of the rethink lay in recognizing learner autonomy and diversity, thus establishing a new operational framework for the two to prosper. An amalgam of interconnected learning spaces provided the conditions necessary for all these networks to co-exist and interact. The paper describes the different aspects of the tutors’ involvement and contributions in the design and implementation of this model, as they assumed a number of roles, but most importantly, as they became learners themselves.

What does a controversy look like?

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/539856/this-is-what-controversies-look-like-in-the-twittersphere/?utm_medium=tr_social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=site_visitor.unpaid.engagement&fbclid=IwAR2x8wdCJNxc5v0aeaPYIAYVJUoOHGPAIz7CPYgL_t8gSWnkvl0U6Wi81Dw

Kiran Garimella and pals at Aalto University in Finland have found a way to spot the characteristics of a controversy in a collection of tweets and distinguish this from a noncontroversial conversation (…) And they think this structure can be spotted by studying various properties of the conversation, such as the network of connections between those involved in a topic; the structure of endorsements, who agrees with whom; and the sentiment of the discussion, whether positive and negative (…) Garimella and co map out the structure of these discussion by looking at the networks of retweets, follows, keywords and combinations of these (…) In all cases, the images clearly show the polarization, or lack of, in the debate.

Full article available here

MYOM: Make your own Masters

https://www.makeyourownmasters.com/

This is something I bumped into today and I am really, really impressed. This woman has indeed re-conceptualized design education in such a simple and subtle way that makes me wonder, why didn’t anyone think of this before. Genius, bravo!

Stacie Woolsey approached four practising designers she admired: Thomas Thwaites, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Seetal Solanki and a contact at Room Y, the innovation arm of UK department store John Lewis. She asked each of them to set her design briefs to complete in her own time – an idea she describes as “freelance learning” – and completed all four briefs over 18 months of self-directed study (…) Woolsey didn’t feel that she could burden the designers with every question, so she started approaching industry professionals with different skills and asked them to be mentors, for project-specific help. She built her own network of peers – one of the benefits of attending an established institution – by approaching people her age across a variety of fields and asking them to follow her progress and be her first port of call. She hosted meetings as a way to set deadlines and present her projects (…) Rather than try to get her course of study accredited, which “felt a bit irrelevant” and would be “almost cheating on the idea a little bit”, Woolsey searched for a means to “validate it in a different way”. Instead, each of the designers who set briefs are writing a statement to say how well they think she answered it – more like a reference than a grade.

Dezeen: Stacie Woolsey creates her own masters course as “viable alternative” to design education

The designer is exhibiting the results in a “degree show” she named Make Your Own Masters, which opens this week at Somerset House in London.

The Problem of Expertise in Knowledge Societies

https://www.amazon.ca/Death-Expertise-Campaign-Established-Knowledge/dp/0190469412

Great article on the development of the perception of expertise by Reiner Grundmann

The pool of knowledgeable citizens has increased enormously between the 1960s and today. Many more people are highly educated and earn their money as ‘knowledge workers’ (Brint 2001). At the same time, as traditional ties have been loosened, people cannot rely on received wisdom and traditional ways of life. They have to make decisions about their lives themselves. This trend towards individualisation and risk decisions has been well described by Beck (1992), Giddens (1991) and others. This means that individuals are seeking expertise, and may find it being offered by non-certified experts (…) The laboratory as the site of knowledge creation, and the scientific institute which signals competence of the researcher and thus makes her a ‘certified expert’ is not the only source of expert knowledge, and it is arguably not the most important one when it comes to political decision-making

The Problem of Expertise in Knowledge Societies, Reiner Grundmann

Full article available here