(james benedict brown) on the road

Agh, it’s December

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 1 December, 2006

There is a small pub just at the foot of the University of Sheffield Arts Tower. It used to be a gloriously grotty and smokey hole, but has recently been dragged kicking and screaming through a lengthy refurbishment. As a result it now has all the ‘atmosphere’ of a Wetherspoon chain pub. Nonetheless, its location is handy, the cigarette smoke is already beginning to embue the ghastly new carpets and fabric with stale stink, and the lunchtime grub is decent enough. If you sit facing out of the window, it’s a passable lunchtime dive.

And if you do sit looking out of the window, your entire field of vision is filled with the Arts Tower. The pub is set back just enough for the width of the building to be visible, but the full height to be cut off by the top of the window. My dining companion chose not to look at the building we had just escaped from, while I ate under its watchful gaze. Like the monolith in 2001: A Space Oddity, the Arts Tower is can be positively ominous yet strangely benign. And like the monolith, we all seem to be drawn to it.

The morning had been well spent in the second of two seminars organised as part of Reflections on Architectural Education (ARC571 to us who have been inducted). This fascinating course is offered as an optional module in the fifth year at Sheffield, although I think it should be compulsory. Architecture is taught differently at Sheffield, especially in the lower school, where traditional teaching practices have been replaced by a more progressive approach. For example, one-on-one tutorials and ‘crits’ (design reviews) are definitely out, even though some universities insist that they are at the very heart of architectural education. My first year at Sheffield (2001/2) was one of the first years in which these changes had been implemented, so ARC571 is now becoming more and more relevant to see how students who were raised with student-led group tutorials and a more feminised teaching environment are coping with both real life work and the Masters programme. I might not be a feminist, but I’ve been taught in a feminist environment, and in a male dominated and largely patriachal profession, that’s something that I am beginning to appreciate more and more each day.

But it’s now the first of December (a pinch and a punch to any readers out there if it’s still before midday where you are). And that means there’s only two weeks left of term. Or in the words of my dining companion: “It’s time to get some work done, matey.” I shall have to reflect on my practice a little less indulgently and a little more practically.

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