After speaking to Ian McKnight of Hall McKnight Architects, I have decided that I seldom critique my own work objectively, a tool that McKnight credits the success of his work during his postgraduate studies to. Looking back at my projects to date, the designs seem clumsy. I seem to spend the majority of the design process justifying the first design that fits, instead of searching for alternative approaches that would improve the scheme. It is easy to become attached to an unjustified design under the pressure of a 12-week time constraint. The task is now to properly review each future design decision carefully, to guarantee the best possible outcome.
I will be writing a weekly diary about my project as a platform for this critique, with the additional use as a record of process and a starting point for the final verbal presentation. With the launch of the project on the horizon, I will attempt to objectively critique the re-(CLAIM) project in order to not make the same mistakes.
I started the project completely uninspired. Each project was to propose a change or intervention to the urban scheme of the Ormeau Road in Belfast, with the simple goal of making it a better place. But for me, Ormeau Road was fine. It was not perfect, but the people living there were happy and had everything they needed – there was no demand for change. This was the first time I had faced a project where the demand for a building was not preconceived or immediately obvious, and I was thoroughly uncommitted to finding a solution. It took an examination of Belfast at a larger scale to find direction.
Belfast is stereotypically about twenty years behind the more forward-thinking capitals. Whilst Copenhagen is famously already a cycle-friendly city, with only 29% of households actually owning a car, they are currently implementing cycle highways where commuting from distance would become possible by bicycle. In comparison, Belfast is still struggling to implement a successful public bike system, an accomplishment Copenhagen achieved in 1995. Copenhagen is currently working towards a 100% carbon-neutral target for 2025, but based on the track record, how long will it take for Belfast to even plan for a similar change?
Locals and tourists alike enjoy the rare tranquility of the Prinzesseningarten in Kreuzberg, Berlin
I initially intended to design another layer for the city: to take the existing and improve upon it. Urban agriculture is not something that Belfast is likely to pursue as, with thriving farms in the surrounding boroughs, the benefit for the economy is minimal. However, it is evident in the success of similar projects (for example, the Prinzesseningarten in Berlin) that it provides much more than economic value. An urban farm in the centre of Belfast would bring community, tourism and promote sustainable living.
The project, however, mutated into something very different from the original vision. Inspired by the Luchtsingel in Rotterdam, I attempted to form a link through the site using an elevated walkway. Originally intending to provide a medium to project the initial concept upon, this decision actually confused the direction of the project and distracted it from its initial intention. An attempt to make the project more architectural, resulted in the loss of character and purpose in the project, the absence of which originally caused my indifference at the beginning of the project.
The Luchtsingel, a crowd-funded bridge, attempts to merge commuting with community.
Productivity was another issue in design in this project. I will often blame it on perfectionism, but really it is my drifting mind. After studying architecture for two and a half years, I am yet to fully understand the design process. I can gradually build a design, but it has to be allowed to progress naturally. It is important to break down the fear of the blank page and build momentum in design, as opposed to the usual delicate approach. What is important for me, going into the next project, is that completion is achieved first, before perfection.
To conclude this post-project self-critique, I wanted to summarise the new ideas I will be bringing to my final project of undergraduate. Firstly, (as always) I intend to improve my productivity. This will be achieved through careful scheduling and a smarter approach to personal deadlines throughout the duration of the project. Secondly, the quantity of design will increase heavily. I spend far too much time in the concept stage and need to quicken the move to design. I intend to produce pages upon pages of mediocre hand drawn drawings before finding any clarity in design. But that is perfectly acceptable and will actually be productive. I have always had a fear of being wrong, but in order to make an omelette, one must crack some eggs.
Image: Seshu Photography