(james benedict brown) on the road

Asking the right questions

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 9 December, 2006

There has been much progress with our studio work as we flew through the penultimate week of term. BMM had a day out in Wolverhampton to see the launch of a project she had been involved with earlier in the year, so in order to maintain my standing as an equally important and jet setting person, I decided to go north to Newcastle on Friday. The opportunity had arisen to shadow my tutor while he gave sixth year tutorials at the architecture school there (whose offer a place almost six years ago I spurned in favour of Sheffield).

There were some downsides to this day out. The alarm went off at a hellish 04h30 and I spent far too much of the day thinking of ways to hurt the man who designed the trains operated by Virgin between here and Newcastle. But it also meant I got a very rare opportunity to see inside another school of architecture, and to see how the students work there in a different studio system. This isn’t the place to discuss my observations, but if you ask me nicely then perhaps you can see the document I’m preparing for my Architecture and Education module. Even by lunchtime I had realised that the train fare had been worth it. In the afternoon I got the treat of sitting in on some third year final reviews. It always surprises me that simply by being an unrecognised face in an architecture crit, students can mistake you for a tutor, or at least someone who has greater architectural knowledge than them. I eventually gave in, and played up to their misconceptions. I made notes, I umm-ed, I ahh-ed, and I wondered if I could ever do this professionally.

When I first started sitting on undergraduate architecture reviews at Sheffield, I realised that I was absolutely incapable of finding anything to say. Since then I’ve managed to come up with about one useful question, which is helpful since it usually manages to break any remaining ice and connect with a student who is quite likely to be exhausted, defensive and looking for a way out of the room. I think it’s a good question to ask anyone who’s just spent ten weeks pouring all their energies into just one project.

“If you had had another week, what one thing would you have changed or done additionally?”

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