Architecture as a Global System
But to begin with, my book launch has been cancelled due to Covid-19, so here is a blog instead. Thank you all for your heartfelt good wishes. No point having a book launch if you can’t have a banger of an after-party
It was going to be an awesome architecture book launch, with all of my low-friends scavenger friends mixing with the grandees; I think we will reconvene in November to celebrate the publication of the book’s first anniversary. You can order the book with a discount with via this NBI_EM_Raisbeck_Architecture_as_a_global_system_DNB230120.
A few people have read the book and tell me its an enjoyable read. I guess if it was a canonical ‘theory” book, you would have to suffer as you read it. I still have some colleagues who think I have written a practice management book. Now that I am isolated in my Covid-19 hermitage, from next week I will be running a book-reading discussion about the book on Zoom for those interested. It will be fun.
How the fuck do you run a studio on ZOOM?
So lots of people have been asking, and I guess it is a thing all over the world in the architecture schools: How the fuck do you run a studio on ZOOM?
Firstly, for many design studio teachers, it’s going to be a work in progress. In the global system of architecture, architects who have focused on being design teachers, rather than being pompous wannabe alpha-privileged warlord architects have been undervalued.
Elite architecture schools don’t invite great design teachers to give glittering public lectures. But hey, it is now time for the great design teachers to kick ass.
As any good architectural design teacher will know: being a great designer or getting excellent marks in the final year or getting lots of A-list publicity for your designs doesn’t necessarily mean you can teach design.
Can you imagine sitting in a design studio with some of those male Pritzker types, or even sitting in a ZOOM design studio in a soup of a Murcutt monologue? Apologies, for all you Glen and Bjarke and Remmie lovers, but many architects now live in ambiguous and challenging times, so maybe for our own professional survival it’s time to call out the BS. One way to start is to value unsung great design teachers more than what we previously have. Imagine listening to the rational and poetic spinnage for 6 hours on zoom.
Zoom as a Disruptive Medium
Conversely, if you are already a great studio teacher, jumping into a new medium isn’t necessarily going to mean you are going to be great in the Zoom room. I suspect. Zoom is unforgiving for some teaching techniques and tactics. For example, I think I need to stop shouting on Zoom. That is probably the first thing to bear in mind.
Face to Face studio teaching is now, at least for the interim, dead. Not recognising that in the process of digital and disruptive transformation, you cannot simply cut and paste your Face to Face methods across to the Zoom studio makes you the same as the elite Warlords who have done so much to destroy our discipline.
OK, here are some ideas, and it’s still all work in progress, to help you make the shift to Zoom Hyperspace.
1. IT Infrastructure Health Check
All of you IT excusers who mutter the mantra “I am not so good with IT” All I can say is time to clean up your desktop and start figuring out how to use standard IT applications. This is no time to make excuses.
But you need to have good internet access and good bandwidth, or you will be done for. You need a laptop (preferably) or a functional PC workstation that actually works. So you need to do a quick health check on your primary device. Do you have enough storage, etc.?
Do you have RAM (look it up if you don’t know what this is) on your laptop to use visualisation software? How will you transfer large files?
Likewise, is your phone up to date etc. Have you got your passwords and authentification under control? Do you back up? Do you have your security and virus protection act together? Do you have two-step authentification on your phone?
Are you using or running I-cloud?
Does your workplace or uni have a VPN or an Intranet, do you even know what a VPN is?
All of the above questions may seem simple, but you can’t spend your life mucking around cluelessly with poor computing technique in your Zoom studio.
2. IT applications
You need to make sure you are running the latest version of various apps. Outlook and Zoom, for example. Are your Adobe and AutoDesk apps up to date.
You need to know how to use and switch between the basics: DropBox; Google Drive etc. Again, how will transfer large files. Can you get to and see these things via your phone as well?
3. Communication Apps.
Now, this is the real key, you need to be able to communicate with your students by several channels. A lot of them will already be online using these apps.
Therefore, as well as Zoom studio meetings, you probably need a few other channels of communication with your students. I would set up some sort of group and will this be via text apps like WhatsApp or Signal (ER’s app of choice). There are others. You could use Slack or Yammer.
Check out what your workplace or University prefers to use.
Do you have an Insta page for the studio and a Facebook group page as well? Can students post comments to these? Does your University or workplace have policies around good digital citizenship and culture? How will you manage comments and messages?
Does your University use Canvas or Blackboard as a teaching platform? Are there discussion boards or grouping functions you can employ. Can you use, and do you know how to use the video app Kaltura? Or any video app In my subjects at MSD, we use Kaltura, I can record a video on my laptop and get it out to the students via a Canvas announcement within about 35 minutes.
Maybe you will just use email or text as your secondary communication channel or text.
3. Face to Face on Zoom
In the zoom studios, our thinking is that you really need structure. Yes, structure, structure and structure. You can’t just rock up with your big ego and do a little Tik Tok dance for 6 hours.
How do you fill a three hour, four hours or 6 six-hour slots in zoom? Standard face to face crits is not really going to simply translate across to Zoom. You will need to keep things lively and avoid zoom fatigue.
We are thinking batching works, via students in groups or batches of students. You need to encourage the students to ask questions via zoom or via another app like Slido or Poll Everywhere. For example, a simple, word cloud in Poll Everywhere, can help you prompt great discussions. Both tools allow otherwise shy students to ask questions. Or do this via your chosen chat app.
You can’t expect students to come to the meeting and wait around for 3 hours in Zoom. You can’t see each student individually for twenty minutes that will take too long. But maybe you get them to pre-book in individual consultations with different crit panels and people. Given that everyone all over the world is at home working, or with no work, so it’s a great time to book wonderful guests in.
Architects are great at doing and surviving recessions.
Architects are great at doing and surviving recessions. This is the architectural downturn and recession where design knowledge will emerge in the collectively organised virtual world and not in the fucking BIM model or in the gallery.
Students need to be prepared to present on their laptops. You never want people dithering as the pin-up on walls, Same with Zoom. I reckon to give them a minute to be ready. Kick them out of the room if they dither.
As always, the tone is essential, don’t talk down to the students. Don’t subject them to pompous monologues. Don’t harangue them (my natural tendency). If there is a silence as you wait for them to respond then be confident enough to remain. Questions and interaction in this media are so important.
I think keep the studio flowing and have a few different zoom activities. Here is an example structure that you may like to think about. Adapt as you see fit.
4. Zoom Studio Structure
1. Use the waiting room function.
2. Don’t admit students in super late (haha).
3. Intro (what are you doing, in that meeting where are you in the overall program or design process).
4. A guest lecture or two keep these to 15- twenty minutes plus questions.
5. An exercise for your groups (even if the work is individual get them into study pairs or groups).
6. Groups report back.
7. Crits in batches (3-4 groups and a break) with strict time protocols.
5 minutes of student presentation.
A few questions from you and the other students 5 minutes
Final discussion 3-5 minutes a few primary points.
8. Last Zoom meeting comments and follow up 5-10 minutes
Follow up with individual students later between classes on the other channels, post some images up to Instagram.
Reconfiguring the culture
More in Part 2, as we all figure out how to do this. This could be a great way to rejuvenate our design culture. Oh, and if your one of those design tutors, who allows the students to put off designing for half the semester I am not sure that’s going to work in Zoom. And if all your have ever done is studios is teach your life is Makery Spacey 3-Deee Printing Lab stuff I think you will need to set all that up in your home self-isolated workshop.
This is an opportunity for a very different architectural culture to emerge.