Few outside the architecture field can imagine the rigor of an architecture studio or thesis experience. When Archinect launched the School Blog Project in 2005, readers began to experience this relatively closed culture as selected students at universities around the world blogged their experiences and discoveries. The School Blog Project has appealed to both architecture students, alumni, potential students, and those who live vicariously through the hard work of an architecture student. It has given the student an opportunity look into the lives of others that are doing what they are doing, at that very moment, in a different program - in another state, country or continent. The common thread throughout these blog entries reveals the sense of passion, excitement, dedication and sheer exhaustion that overtakes those headed into this fascinating industry.
When we heard about the film Archiculture , we were instantly attracted to its subject matter. David Krantz and Ian Harris, two recent architecture school graduates, decided to take time away from their day jobs to create a documentary film that peeks into the lives of 5 architecture students in their final thesis semester at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture . We were moved because we knew how well it would be received by all those that have lived through their final thesis, and the friends and family that were there to support this incredible endeavor. The amount of hours and perseverance is hardly known or considered among those not involved in the industry. We were happy that these film makers felt it necessary to share what these individuals experience during this important time of preparation. The creativity, stress, emotion, competition, critique and finally, relief, as they prepare to present their most extensive work in order to graduate and enter their professional lives as architects.
Mission Statment, from the Archiculture website:
Archiculture is a documentary that captures five diverse students in a single studio at one university throughout the entirety of their thesis project. The film will convey a mere sliver of time, wholly representative of the experience to create a student’s paramount work. The footage will illustrate the range of emotions and process of this extremely intense period at the conclusion of an academic career. It is our goal for the documentary to possess educational, entertaining, realistic and inspiring qualities in response to the dynamic world these students cross.
We spent a few minutes chatting with David and Ian.
Filmmakers David Krantz & Ian Harris
How do you describe yourselves as filmmakers? Do you have any formal experience in film?
We don't describe ourselves as filmmakers, we describe ourselves as architects who have merely added another tool to communicate our concepts. The two of us have been amazed at the similarities between the two professions. They both evolve around the ability to communicate an idea or "story". It is the exact same process with a different set of technical tools. In both you use point of view, senses, space, texture, light, etc. to sculpt an experience. We've just used our design training and applied it to another medium. In regards to formal experience, the two of us did take a one on one course with a Bay Area production company to better understand the medium and gain the technical background. Previously, we had both long been involved with still photography and had a love of documentary film.
What do you think about studio culture? Is it necessary to pull so many all-nighters?
Studio culture is something that is so unique that it can't be put into words. This is the reason we gave up our jobs and three years of our life to make a film about it. No one "gets it" unless they have gone through it. Partners, friends, roommates, parents still have no real idea while they watch you make sacrifices for your study. Film is the only means to begin to explain the experience. It is very rare to find an academic process that allows students to evolve as a collective family for five formative years of their lives on the cusp of adulthood.
It isn't the fact that you are staying up all night without rest, but the importance of an all-nighter is the time you spend exchanging ideas with one another. The studio is the key to the energy. The time spent on a project to such an extensive degree is due to one's drive to create. It's a brain chemistry thing. You shut off needs to do normal things and focus upon your idea.
Are the long hours and stress worth it?
Absolutely, it isn't worth questioning your health over, but the hours you pour into your work and the stress that you experience in studio prepares you with skills that can be applied to a number of things outside in the profession.
Has this experience provided any further insight into the architectural education beyond your own experiences as architecture students?
There are certainly varying pedagogies and nuances between schools of architecture, but the core structure of the education is essentially the same. We have grown more aware of the significance of the foundation and atmosphere that a school provides in order for students to make the most of their education. Each student definitely sets the tone for their own development, but the resources a specific institution presents that individual in regard to their ideas or agenda, is key to their growth. To add to the layers of an architectural training are the dynamics of your class. This is almost as important as the faculty from which you draw upon for criticism. There is also a notable difference in dynamics between a Bachelor of Architecture and a Masters of Architecture. We chose to focus upon the B Arch for obvious reasons of student age, ideals, experience, energy, etc. On one hand you have greater time to cultivate a design agenda, on the other you have the life experience and focus to draw from. Either way it is critical to find the place that will present to you the array of options necessary to nurture your development or the specific curriculum to hone a concept.
As I recall, the film was originally titled Architorture. What prompted the change?
Although we intend for the film to have international distribution due to the universal qualities to the design studio storyline, we felt that the term torture might still be too edgy in the states, even in this comical application. Once we began to engage some of the larger national organizations and discuss the project with potential host institutions we began to hear a range of reactions to the term. It did have some viral marketing qualities to it but in the end we decided to shift to a more progressive and creative term. We are excited with the new title which we see providing the double meaning of "studio culture" and the influence of architecture on culture. We shall see if the film and its viewers pick up on these qualities in the students' story.
September 2006 - December 2007: Pre-Production
January 2008 - May 2008: Production
June 2008 - December 2008: Post Production
January 2009 - June 2009: North American Tour
Fall 2009: Film Premiers
Spring 2010: DVD release
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Paul Petrunia is the founder and director of Archinect, a (mostly) online publication/resource founded in 1997 to establish a more connected community of architects, students, designers and fans of the designed environment. Outside of managing his growing team of writers, editors, designers and ...