I should have known that things weren’t going to go as planned for my thesis mid-review when the jury scheduled to critique my project thought they were finished for the day with the previous presenter and were readying themselves to grab some coffee.
Let’s just say it may have been better had they gone for coffee.
That’s not to say that my mid-review went poorly. It didn’t. But it wasn’t good either. I can handle a bad review. I’ve had a handful in my nearly six years of architecture school. To me, the worst review is one you come away feeling as though you learned very little, if anything. And that’s how my mid-review went.
I probably came across as hostile to some of the jury. In my estimation I was simply defending my work. And its hard for me to keep from showing a wry smile or releasing a muted chuckle at some of the suggestions from so called professionals. At an institution where one should attempt to do the impossible or at least break the so-called rules, I had a jury that was so conventional and linear that my review could have easily skewed off into a rant about the purpose of a graduate degree. But it didn’t, barely.
I don’t have a program. Imagine the jury’s shock and disbelief. “If you don’t have a program, how can you design your space?” “If you don’t have a program how can we judge the success of your intervention?” “Don’t you know form follows function?” Ok, so no juror actually said the last one, but you get the gist.
Furthermore they weren’t sure how to evaluate my work because I
didn’t have perfectly articulated criteria spelled out for them A through Z. I didn’t have a point to which they could make a counter-point. They were confused and didn’t know what to do. So they returned to default which for them was to say to some degree that I was “wrong” or what I set out to achieve was “unattainable”. I assure you its not.
When thesis started at the beginning of fall semester I, along with everyone else, started at the macro level and slowly but surely whittled it down. That process of narrowing the thesis down continued when studio picked up in January and continues to this day. “Narrow the scope” the professors say. And so I have. I’ve decided my thesis is in a nutshell the “contemporary intervention in a historic building”. If I detail that further, specifically I want to look at the embedded memory and identity of the building and connect its “immediate/future” use with its historic past.
For me that’s looking at the materiality and details. How does my new stair connect at the existing floor? How does my new mezzanine transition to the existing wall? How do I integrate a sky light into the existing roof? I have plenty of opportunities to choose from, now it’s a matter of picking the most important “touch points”. But the jury wanted a program with square footage. They wanted me to space plan. I couldn’t simply look at the detail of the intervention.
For my building, the abandoned Richmond Gas Company building its about connecting to the Whitewater River and the railroad track (which is being converted to a trail). I simply want to provide a place for the people of Richmond to gather and use the space as they see fit. I want them to experience the building. The building is the star here, not the use. That’s the program. And of course through my design intervention I will limit or exclude how the space can be used.
In my thesis form isn’t going to follow function, but rather, function is going to follow form. And that function is going to be left to the people of Richmond. I think its possible. Hell I know its possible. And it will happen unless the conventional, linear thinking people get their way.