I get some odd requests on this blog. Sometimes for info about Gib which isn’t too difficult to provide.
Sometimes I’m asked to write for other blogs. Although I’ll ask what they want and what their T&Cs are, I invariably end up declining. If I’m writing something for FREE, I don’t want to be told what and how to write and that my text will be edited. Take it or leave it. Yes, I know I could possibly get a few more hits because of the different or wider readership of the other blogs, but it’s unlikely. It’s about as unlikely as being Freshly Pressed, receiving 100 comments from new visitors and even 10% of them returning ever again. And do I need that many more readers or visitors?
The other requests have been from people who earn money in a particular profession and want my advice on something. Hmmmm. An unpaid consultant in fact, while they go on to reap the benefits. I’m all for bloggers being helpful and friendly, but when money comes into it, I think I should be getting a share of it, TYVM. Why am I providing time and expertise and experience for nothing?
I got a slightly different variation on that theme last week. Would I be interested in attending a presentation by some architecture students who were doing a field trip to Gib? Luckily it was on Sunday morning, so I didn’t have to leave Little Rat Snowy unsupervised and up to his usual tricks of Podenco Scene of Destruction.
The students came from Oxford Brookes University, which to oldies like me was the former Oxford Poly, and before that, it was originally founded in 1865 as the Oxford College of Art. It’s also one of the largest architecture schools in the country, and that was founded in 1927.
I did a quick looky for rankings, and found it had made the top ten on a 2014 list that came up. My old university, Liverpool, was only one place above it, in position nine. I was a bit surprised at that as I would have thought Liverpool would have been higher.
Oxford Brookes and Liverpool seem pretty comparable according to the criteria used, but lists are just lists at the end of the day and invariably subjective.
The school of architecture at Liverpool University was established in 1894. It became the first university in the UK to award a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) accredited degree in architecture.
I mixed closely with a group of architects in my hall of residence. All from down south, three of them from London. They genuinely thought everything north of Watford Gap was just a vast Coronation Street (back-to-back working-class housing with endless factories in a Lancashire TV programme, for non-Brit readers).
There were discussions about who had the best camera, Pentax or Canon, or Nikon preferably, for the monied ones. These days everyone has Canon or Nikon, before you ask.
Because we all flitted in and out of each other’s rooms, I got the chance to see lots of their work. They all had huge drawing boards set up, taking up half their bedrooms in hall, and I was impressed with the intricate and accurate drawings they produced to scale. Amazing. Some of their photos, invariably black and white, were pretty good too.
Of my four friends, two got firsts and the other two got 2:1s. Three went to work in London and one moved north. The one I’m still in touch with is also an honorary visiting professor with an honorary doctorate from our first university.
So that’s the background as to why I was interested in seeing what today’s students were looking at, from a different university, and comparing it with what I saw so many years ago. Not an equal comparison in one way, but a degree is a degree, so that is the bottom line.
An immigrant architecture
This was the title of the project that the students were studying on their field trip to Gib.
Before they came they were meant to carry out in-depth research about the geology, landscape and history of Gib. Mmmm, history :) This seemed an eminently sensible idea to have a broad remit, as being an architect isn’t just about doing pretty drawings.
The students had to choose an article from the Gib Chron about a moment in history (they had more than 200 years to choose from as the Chron dates from 1801), and then to choose a site for their project from that article, which they would also study and research before they arrived here. Second years had to choose a rural site, and third years, an urban one.
Poor dears had to work in their Christmas hols and design a postcard to reflect an event, a person, or a time in Gib’s history.
There was a good selection here, dating back to the early British days and coming right through the 20th century with Franco and the border closure, to the 21st with the current fishing dispute.
A selection of the postcards
Visit to Gib
They covered an awful lot of Gib in one and a half days, I have to say. It’s taken me years and I haven’t been to quite everything they have visited, although I have been to a few places not on the list. But still, a great attempt to show the variety of history, architecture and heritage that Gib has to offer on a very packed itinerary. They also spent a day working on their site and a day in Spain. Busy, busy, busy.
Site and models
After the postcard, the next part of the project was, on arrival in Gib, to map their chosen site using diagrams, sections and drawings as a basis for a model to be included with the presentations. The model was to use bought and found items in Gib. Note, this was not a building, but more to reflect the actual site.
Again, there was a variety of models, some literally reflecting their site, and others thinking of a more conceptual way to portray the site and the event they had chosen.
The theory was that each student would give a five minute talk and then there would be questions/comments for five minutes. Given that there were four people – plus other students – to give questions and comments, that leaves 1.25 minutes for each question/comment reply. And five minutes isn’t a long time to explain how you have arrived at your thinking to produce a postcard, a site, and a model. It goes without saying we finished later than planned given that there were around 20 students.
roughseas’ hasty exit
This was my downfall. Sitting in one place for more than four hours is not my strong point. I’m the person who fidgets and struggles through a 90 minute film. As the projects were interesting, the time went quickly. But I’m used to construction hours. Getting up at six. By half seven I have done two dog walks. Dished up three breakfasts, two cups of tea, made a packed breakfast and lunch and a flask of tea.
I have my breakfast/brunch mid-morning (by then there has been another dog walk). And say, light lunch around 1.30/2pm. (Another dog walk has happened of course too).
I needed to shovel in breakfast before nine, because I couldn’t last a morning going into lunchtime without food (Helen will understand this). My mistake was drinking coffee. I’ve not drunk coffee for some months. I like coffee, and this was decent coffee. But after arriving for 9.30 and sitting absorbing all the presentations, by 1pm I was starting to feel dizzy and nauseous. I figured it would go away. An hour later I was not feeling good at all. But only two presentations to go. I stuck it out, until the last one, mumbled apologies to the tutor next to me, and shot out before I disgraced myself in front of 20+ people. Luckily a hotel person was just outside.’Toilets’ I muttered, trying to keep my mouth shut. I didn’t dare risk a full sentence.
Sensitivity warning for those of a fragile stomach and TMI – but no pix :D
I made it into the toilet just in time to see all my breakfast and possibly last night’s supper rapidly disappear. I stood against the wall, shaking and shivering, then swilled my face and my mouth and staggered home. I spent the rest of the day and the night on the sofa, utterly useless. I managed to send apologies for leaving rather abruptly.
Cause? Two strong black coffees? Lack of food mid-morning? Eating breakfast earlier than normal? Overdosing on Quorn over the weekend because Morrisons restocked with the delicious pies? Don’t know. Either way it’s not a reflection on the event, rather on my body. As we age, they don’t seem too keen on changing routines. I didn’t eat for the rest of the day. I didn’t sleep much either last night – surely two black coffees couldn’t have caused that? And yet? When people go on the wagon for a while and then decide to drink alcohol again, they invariably end up drunk after two or three drinks. Does coffee work the same way?
If I ever did anything remotely like that again, I would have to make sure there was a mid-morning break, with sandwiches. Plain tomato or cucumber in brown bread would be fine, but I clearly can’t last so long without fuel. And not biscuits. Coffee and biscuits is an even worse combination than coffee alone.
Well, enough of Me Me Me, as my nearest virtual neighbour in Spain, Pink would say. Back to the students.
The most bizarre thing I learned from yesterday was that the father of the British nuclear programme and credited with the atomic bomb, Baron Penney, was born in Gibraltar (24 June 1909). His father was a sergeant major in the British Army Ordnance Corps and was serving overseas at the time, hence Penney’s birth here. He had little else to do with Gib but he certainly merits a post on here at some point in his own right. Interesting presentation with a good postcard and a creative model.
Another learning point for me was about the volunteering done for WW1 to help the war effort, initially through the Gib Rowing Club and working with the GibReg.
Common themes to come up were historical legends, military fortifications, the loss of visual Moorish artefacts and buildings (linked to religious buildings), the border closure under Franco, the current border disputes, smuggling, and the fishing problem. I don’t think I need to remind regular readers of any of those last few as you probably know more about them than the students did.
Other individual projects looked at the mixture of food in Gib due to immigration, markets, the cemeteries at the back of Devils’ Tower Road, sense of identity within continual change, the water catchments and filtration, movement within Gib linked to dance and the movement of troops, freedom of speech, the annual cardboard boat race, Indian culture in Gib, and the Garrison Library and subsequent civilian ones.
So there was a good selection. I liked the older topics better, because it’s too easy to concentrate on current disputes with Spain, but that’s just a comment from a historian. It strikes me as being an easy option to latch onto the latest big recent story without doing much research, and I think the older stories offered more scope. Another comment is that in their five minutes, the students didn’t have time to present the findings of their research properly, but I did wonder how thorough that had been. I’m thinking back to seminars with my professor of ancient history and I wouldn’t have got away so lightly in terms of historical accuracy and breadth/depth of coverage. Maybe that will come in their formal write-up. Do hope they cite sources.
Some students didn’t present postcards, others didn’t present models. One had worked out her site but not from an article in the Chron, she was going to find one to fit later. That wasn’t her brief, but I had to secretly admire her as it is the sort of pragmatic way of going about it that I would now choose. Thirty or more years ago, I would dutifully have designed my postcard, done my research based on my article from the Chron, and made my model, rather than starting from the end point and going backwards. A bit like when you do one of those puzzles to go through a maze, always works better to start from the end.
Some presented their projects well, others seemed hesitant. Maybe about what to show or what to say? Don’t know. A post on presentations looms for Clouds.
I didn’t know what to say either. Look for positives, and try and say other things that may or may not be relevant?
I liked the creative thinking aspect of the whole project. Not sure I would have liked it at around 20. But this wasn’t an MBA (which is where I learned creative thinking) it was an undergraduate course in architecture. I thoroughly endorse the wider perspective the tutors were trying to instill, taking into account environment, society, community, history, cultures, geography, geology, materials, design and cost. Tall order.
And don’t laugh. Why did they all look SOOOOOO young ??!! I think I’ll say yes to an OAP course next time :D Even the tutors could have been my children. At the very least :D
Incidentally, I appreciate Hugh and Catrina asking me to comment yesterday on the presentations, but I must quote a comment from one of the briefs I was sent by Hugh which briefly introduced the two of them who have a practice in London:
“We are open, have a sense of humour, ….”
They would need it. Or maybe the name of their practice is deliberate. But if the initials of my partner and I were S&M, I think I would have used our full names rather than initials. Not a name I would have recommended with my PR hat on.
And a short article about UK schools of architecture – Are there too many schools of architecture in the UK?
Links to my other new blog posts: