Shape My City 2016 : Session 1

 This blog post is written by Isobel Plent, the Architecture Centre's Creative Intern.

On the 10 March the new participants of this year's Shape My City youth programme were welcomed to the Architecture Centre for their first session.

They were joined by Sally Daniels, Architect, lecturer at the University of West of England and one half of the architectural field research practice ‘Tangentfield’, as well as four of her UWE students. The focus for the first session was to explain to the young people the general structure of the Shape My City programme as well as make clear the potential for it to be sculpted to fit their needs and interests.

To begin with all were asked to write down what they hoped to get out of  taking part in 'Shape My City' , as well as what they felt made a good 'place' (in three words). The following represents a snapshot of the answers given: 'safe for everyone', 'support', 'community', 'timeless', 'beautiful', 'exciting', 'evolving', 'sociable' and 'fit for purpose'.


Next up was a talk from Sally on her study and career as an architect. She explained how initially she had been interested in landscape architecture, but had decided to study architecture in order to keep all her options open. Her love of sailing and the sea drew her to Portsmouth University. During her studies she carried out work for the City Council, helping to design a school and witnessed first hand how the creation of a well designed building positively impact on the behaviour and well-being of people (the school students)

Sally explained that even after the success of this project, she felt unsure about continuing with her course and decided to leave it in the hands of fate. A coin toss between ‘theatre design’ and ‘architecture’ chose the latter. Sally explained that during her Postgraduate Studies she strove to configure her own definition of architecture from which her own ideas could form and mature.

In the early years after graduating she spent some time teaching and doing both timber frame construction and animation. Eight years ago she founded her company ‘Tangentfield’, which carries out mainly domestic or small scale community projects. Sally is also a core member of Hands-On Bristol, a collaboration between the School of Architecture and Planning, UWE and the Bristol community, that seeks to use the power of collaboration in live projects, as a device for learning. The 2015 Shape My City #livebuild was one such project.

When asked what advice Sally would give her sixteen year old self, she said “see it through, but be responsible and take control of your own path”. It seemed like sound advice to give the students and her talk served particularly to emphasise the extent to which ones career path can continue to evolve and change way after you graduate. 

The UWE students all agreed that the broad nature of architecture allowed for further study into related fields such as theatre design and graphics.  All of the students stated that the sociable and collaborative nature of their degree meant that they were able to form strong relationships with each other and their tutors, that impacted their work and confidence for the better. They felt it important to state that they often had to work long and unsociable hours to complete their work. However, it was clear that for them this was outweighed by all the benefits they felt.

Finally, it was on to the design task for the evening. Sally explained that a large part of an architect’s work is liaising with the client in order to fully understand what they want and to help them to realise their vision for the build. Often an architect is given a brief which states who the build is for (people), why it is being built (need), where it will be built (place) and the theme of the build (context). On four separate pieces of paper everyone present wrote a specification for each of the four elements and put their responses in four separate boxes. The group was divided into 3 teams who then picked out each of the four specifications to create a completely random (and totally bizarre) design brief. 

Group 1 were tasked with creating a structure for young adults and swimmers that acted as a rain
shelter as well as ‘a place for working that would motivate people to work well’. The location for construction was to be a beach and the theme they had to work with was ‘a device for creatively bringing together all the separate components’. They were inventive in incorporating all elements of the brief into the design. Their beach came fitted with a shower with a view out onto the ocean and shaded area in which to recline away from the heat and the rain. A canal linked the land and the ocean while harnessing it’s power. The structure was topped with a large red sculpture, designed to encourage and motivate the swimmers. All in all a well thought out and well realised design!

Group 2 had the challenging task of creating a structure that would house both Darth Vader and an astronaut, that was suspended in the air with lots of open space and that reflected the theme… ‘pink fluff’. All things considered the group responded remarkably inventively and created a structure made up of three towers interconnected by walkways, from which hung glittering balls of pink fluff. The group stressed that their design was best viewed by night as the tallest tower (made up of four stacked paper cups) emitted an eerie white glow. 

It was in this state that the group presented their build, which received an enthusiastic response from the group as a whole.

Group 3 were to design and build a structure that would be suitable for both David Cameron and aliens to inhabit. It would need to be ‘a space to practice’, incorporating the theme of food and be situated on the beach. This group were lucky to have been given the ‘City Ideas studio’ Transport play mat on which to build their structure, which featured a beach and road running parallel. Their structure faced the beach and was connected by a bridge that led to a ‘Brutalist-esque’ building that was to be the entrance leading to the assault course and allotment within. The grouped merged all the divergent specifications of the brief to great effect and created a memorable structure.

There was a genuine interest and enthusiasm from both the Shape My City participants and the UWE students which resulted in an array of carefully considered structures. A wonderful start to the 2016 Shape My City programme.