The Great British Brick Off

An Erasmus+ funded ARCH production of The Great British Brick Off hosted by the Kato Drys Community of Cyprus. Participants were selected for a week long course in traditional crafts and skills learning. With footage from the Cyprus Aerial Activities, and music from Tom Howe (Silva Screen Records)

STORIES OF SHELTER - Final Models

Shona and I are running a series of workshops with a group of women in Glasgow, in conjunction with the Village Story Telling Centre and Clydebank Womens Aid funded by Women’s Fund for Scotland. The workshop series explores Stories of Shelter and in the last two weeks of workshops we made our final models:

‘The final two sessions focused on participants using all they have learned in the previous sessions to build their final models. As we worked we talked about the traditional story Rapunzel and together we told the versions we knew and discussed the themes in it, particularly, how imprisonment can sometimes be mistaken as shelter, or shelter can be corrupted and manipulated into something else.’

Huge thank you to Iona, who stepped in on the penultimate week when I was out of the country. They spent the first half of the session finishing designs and even creating some quick new ones. And spent the second have admiring the work they had made and discussing the future.

Final session, we created a celebratory atmosphere with party food, music and  good vibes. In an exhibition format, we laid out our visual plans and all of the work we had moved through from the first session. It was an impressive collaborative body of work. Great session, very moving and a huge highlight of the whole project came when one lady, who had been unable to contribute to the making in the penultimate week due to arthritis in her hands, came with a highly detailed shelter, evoking a woodland tower. 

Participants children came to see the work we had made, it was very sweet and they were extremely complimentary. We sent the children off with packs of materials to make their own models which they accepted enthusiastically.

This has been a really successful series of workshops. We explored Shelter and the different meanings and connotations it can have to each individual, and the importance of Shelter, particularly for women. We hope to be able to continue our work with the Womens Fund for Scotland in realising a build structure that allows us to teach women basic constructions skills and collaborate design.

For more information on the work that the Women’s Refuge do, please visit their website.

STORIES OF SHELTER - Sketch Models

Shona and I are running a series of workshops with a group of women in Glasgow, in conjunction with the Village Story Telling Centre and Clydebank Womens Aid funded by Women’s Fund for Scotland. The workshop series explores Stories of Shelter and in this weeks workshop we made some sketch models:

“This week The ladies were asked to make five sketch models in 25 minutes, with whatever materials they felt like using. They were encouraged to make, to not over think, and to combine the last three workshops into producing shapes, and shelters, and sculptures that were subconsciously reflecting all that they had learnt in the first three workshops, about scale and massing, light and shadow, and spatial planning and architectural sections.”

This is the result - a wonderful collection of sketch models, that will be drawn on to produce a more refined shelter design in next weeks workshop.

STORIES OF SHELTER - Scale & Massing

Shona and I are running a series of workshops with a group of women in Glasgow, in conjunction with the Village Story Telling Centre and Clydebank Womens Aid funded by Women’s Fund for Scotland. The workshop series explores Stories of Shelter and in this weeks workshop we explored Scale & Massing:

‘In this session we explored space and scale. We started by doing some physical exercises exploring our bodies in relation to the space. We did den building and told a story inside the structure we made. We then moved on to learning about architectural ‘Sections’ and designed a fictional ideal shelter space. ”I sit awake at night planning this stuff, my dream house.” - one participant commented on her dream shelter’

This workshop explored how we affect space with our bodies, how to make your space your own, and what different levels of space mean to different people. The ladies were shown how to create architectural sections, and asked to draw a place where they felt safe and secure, and sheltered. The spaces ranged in size, complexity and in general arrangement. It was fantastic to see such a variation of what a home/shelter means to an individual.


Take a look at the sketch sections the ladies produced. They only had half an hour to sketch. No pencils, no practice, just straight in with the pens and ideas. They were building on their previous session of looking at how light and shadow would affect the space as well, and they learned how to relay information through an architectural section. We will build on these later in the sessions.

 
 

STORIES OF SHELTER - Light & Shadow

Shona and I are running a series of workshops with a group of women in Glasgow, in conjunction with the Village Story Telling Centre and Womens Aid. The workshop series explores Stories of Shelter and in this weeks workshop we explored Light & Shadow: 

'In the first session the participants were introduced to and independently experimented with light and shade. They did this first from a structural design perspective by creating model boxes and practically experimenting with the effects of light and shade. Then we considered light and shade in emotional and metaphorical contexts by adapting their box’s to be the symbolic setting of a story with a central female protagonist positioned within. At the end of the session a participant remarked, "We started making boxes, it ended up being about life."'

We made simple boxes, cutting out apertures, shapes, adding texture and colour to explore what effect light and shadow had on the space. This led to discussions about how the space made us feel, was it secure, relaxing, open, shrine like, calming? How does light and shadow affect your Shelter, what does it mean to have four walls and a roof? 

Take a look at the end results. An absolutely gorgeous set of models, all with completely different qualities. How would you feel in these spaces? Feel free to comment below.

STORIES OF SHELTER

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This Autumn I'm very much looking forward to working with Shona Cowie from The Village Story Telling Centre to run a series of architectural model making workshops for Womens Aid surrounding the topic of SHELTER.

We'll be working with a select group of around 10 women from a local Women's Aid collective which provides information, support and refuge, if needed, for women, children & young people who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse.

We'll be exploring themes of Scale & Massing; Light & Shadow; Spatial Awareness; and Sound to discover the stories of SHELTER resulting in a series of architectural models that deliver a range of alternative spaces which incorporate powerful stories and promote awareness of the topic within the local community.

Our intention is to advance this project a stage further with another group in building a structure that can be displayed publicly to highlight and promote the Stories of Shelter.

CASSELS & FATHER

Thinking I should rebrand to: CASSELS & FATHER... really stick it to the patriarchy! 😂

But seriously, I really enjoy working with this man, he's meticulous and tidy and respectful "And if you want something done properly he will do it. Perfectionist ain’t the word."... said a client yesterday!

Pretty high praise! Get in touch if you want some building work done in Ayrshire! 

WHAT'S A PART TWO TO DO?

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Having worked full time for five years in conjunction with studying part time towards my undergraduate BArch Part 1 at Glasgow School of Art, After graduation I took a year out with well earned savings to travel a little, explore the world and most importantly volunteer and join in design and construction projects so that I could gain some valuable experience working with materials and doing the job of builders on site. The year out led me to some excellent people, projects and ideas of what I want to do with my life and career. Sustainable living became a large part of the volunteer way of life, and vegetarianism, community meals and permaculture food production became more and more important to me. It got me thinking, is there some way I can combine permaculture, food production and sustainable living with sustainable, off grid, well built and efficient buildings? Why live in an energy efficient building but still shop at Asda? Why shop and grow your own food, but your living situation drains you of gas and electricity?

I stumbled across the Centre for Alternative Technology in Mid Wales, where I was delighted to find they had a course for prospective Part 2 architecture students; a postgraduate Diploma in Architecture in Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies. Fantastic!! I applied straight away, the only Part 2 course I intended on applying to, and was invited for an interview. On my interview day I was blown away by the place, definitely for me. I couldn't stop telling everyone about it, and now that I've started it's by far the best place for me to be. A chance to explore my ideas through 18 months of full time education, attending one week every month. I can apply for a Part 2 at the end of the process and this is one step further towards my goal of becoming a fully qualified architect.

So what's the problem I hear you cry? Well there are 12,750 of them. That's £12,750 tuition fees that I cannot seem to obtain from any source!

As I am a Scottish student I cannot apply for a student loan through SAAS (Student Awards Agency for Scotland) because I funded my undergraduate part time by myself so don't qualify as a 'continuing student' which is the usual method of part 2 architectural graduates getting funding for their postgraduate degree.

As I have travelled for a year, and not worked, and now have a job which is a ten week placement and not considered full time, my credit rating is poor and the bank won't grant me a Career Development Loan.

As this is not a RIBA certified course, I do not qualify for any funding from RIBAs many sources.

I have already enrolled on my course. I have thrown myself in head over heels, love everything that it stands for, started a new volunteer side project within the CAT community and have the resources there that I need to explore my future endeavours. I want to create healthier, sustainable efficient lifestyles for people.

I am working full time in the three weeks in between the week long intense attendance required at CAT and am being funding for ten weeks on this work placement by a GoWales campaign.

So dear lovely people out there, do you or your company fancy sponsoring an enthusiastic architecture student in a predicament? Small or large, any donations are going to help me on my way!

You can tweet or email me if you are interested in helping, or have any further information that could help my situation. All suggestions welcome!

EDIT : I reapplied for SAAS funding and moved back to Scotland. I was awarded the tuition fees in loan from the Student Loans Company. Still not ideal and I have to pay it all back - but it provided me with enough loan to actually do the course!

UNPAID INTERNSHIPS : THERE IS NO DEBATE

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So over the course of the last few years, the recession has proved difficult for architectural practices to take on architectural students. They have difficulty keeping on their qualified staff, never mind having to pay students for their time, and to be fair having to teach the students while they're in employment. Especially if the architectural students are RIBA part 1 students as this will most likely be their first experience of a practice and how things are run in the real world. As a result of this, many many companies, (and this isn't just directed at architectural companies) have been offering unpaid internships. Students need experience before returning to higher education and the companies cannot afford to pay them, so offer an unpaid internship with - if they're lucky - some basic expenses such as travel and lunches covered. The idea behind this makes a lot of sense; as a student if you're struggling to find somewhere for experience and you are told by the governing body RIBA that it is a requirement before you can further your education, then many people may just think this is acceptable and part of the many debt inducing consequences of choosing to study architecture.

However, you would never ask a graduate in any other field of study who holds a Bachelors degree to accept no pay for their first job. Perhaps if the job was a summer position and between years of study, it would be acceptable; gaining hands on experience in the field before graduating and finding a paying job. It is actually legal to offer unpaid internships for a period of three months, and I'm certain this is what it was aimed at - summer internships.

Architecture requires an entire year of work experience, between Bachelors and Diploma/Masters, although RIBA has conveniently altered the requirements down to a minimum of three months recorded experience. Again, to be fair to RIBA this is to ensure the students aren't missing out and can still gain the agreed credits and head back to further education. But, it has instead helped to contribute to architecture practices getting away with only offering three month unpaid internships.

You are either studying or have studied architecture, so you know as well as anyone that it is an expensive course. It has to be one of the longest courses and it requires a lot of financial input. There are course fees, materials, accommodation costs and general cost of living. For at least seven years. SEVEN. If you're on the fast track. You don't even have time to pick up a decent part time job to keep you going, and during the summer months you'll probably require a good job to save up and help towards the next year. I cannot imagine the amount of debt full time architecture students rack up in their seven years. Especially if they live in England or Wales where they are paying course fees as well.

So with this in mind, I really can't understand practices that have the audacity to offer unpaid internships. Do you think these students are made of money? That they have rich parents or an inherited trust fund? If these are the interns you are taking on, then you've condemned the regular middle or working class student and hindered their educational progression and put the privileged one step ahead.

Another argument in favour of offering unpaid internships is that the practice puts time and effort into teaching the students, but my counter argument would be that if any person in your office is contributing to your practice making money then they should be paid for their time. They make you money, you pay them money. Simple.

I know it's a hot topic of late, and times are hard. Students need the necessary experience and those who don't gain it begin to question their continued studies. Practices are all struggling to keep going and I think it's admirable that they wish to take on students and give them experience. I just don't think it should be at the expense of the student. While they are working for your practice they require money for accommodation, food and living expenses...if you are not paying them, where do you expect them to get this money? There really is no debate. A graduate can voluntarily provide their skills if they wish but practices should not be offering unpaid internships.

ARCHITECTURE & FEMININITY

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With the recent success of the Architects’ Journal Women in Architecture Awards last month,  the outrage over the 21 all male speakers at the RIAS Convention this month and stumbling upon Parlour archiparlour.org – it made me remember and revisit it. Hope you enjoy my insight into how I’ve found femininity in the architecture profession.

The more I learn about architecture the more I realise and accept that my designs are actually quite feminine.

In my five years of studying and working I have been pretty cautious and somewhat scared of designing what I like - organic shapes, curves, ornamentation, soft colours, delicate designs, subtle and elegant details. I’ve tried to train my brain to think and design along the lines of my co-workers and fellow students. Tutors always claiming the concept isn’t bold enough. It’s taken time, and trust in my self and my own opinion to understand that what I like and naturally aspire to design isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

Near the beginning of this term in a lecture about Adolf Loos I realised that being a modernist (of which we are all victim to, given our time) is to degrade ornamentation and reject nature. He was responsible for training generations of budding designers into thinking that clean and simple was the answer. Nature represents femininity. Nature is delicate, pretty, organic and subtle. It could be argued that abolishing ornamentation is to get rid of the feminine.

Without ornamentation, buildings wouldn’t have personalities, would they? Even Adolf Loos created a fairly ornamental bedroom for his wife despite being the man that proclaimed that ‘ornamentation = crime’. Is this because ornamentation is a feminine attribute or is it because architecture should be free from ornamentation, in order that personality can be injected into it by each of the individual occupiers?

My analogy is this : I have never dressed prettily, flowery, girly or frilly. I like my staple clean cut items, my mono block colours, my simple pallet. But I always always brighten this up, funk it up, or punk it up for whatever the occasion requires or my mood takes me with jewellery and accessories. I inject my personality and ornamentation into the outfit.

As a society, generally speaking we no longer express our wealth and status through our fashion. Sure, clothes can still be more expensive and of a higher quality, but there are no longer detailed, delicate folk dresses. Men no longer wear inner coats, outer coats, jackets, belts, suspenders, waistcoats and a pocket watch. We have modernised our fashion, throwing out the ornamentation to some extent.

This is a similar situation within architecture. We no longer spend extortionate amounts of money on a gold leaf and intricately carved marble lobby. It’s simply constructed and then interior furnishings are purchased to ‘jazz the place up’.

So do I have a right to criticise modernism, blame it for the lack of feminine ornamentation and suggest that the industry is more masculine when I myself walk around wearing examples of modernist design and the effect of de-ornamentation?