Thursday, 28 July 2016

Workshop five - public art with Jennie Savage

On the 7th of July, the Architecture Centre hosted the fifth Shape My City session of 2016. The theme of the week was public art and we were joined by Jennie Savage, an artist who is currently collaborating with the Architecture Centre to help them celebrate their 20th birthday.

The session began with a card sort of various images to do with public art. The groups (rather small this week due to post exam holidays!) were told to arrange the cards in any way they saw fit, and then pick their favourites. Among the favourites were: some trees wrapped in wool (yarn bombing); a dining table (community shared feast), with no obvious purpose; and a large jet of water squirting above a park (man made geyser).

The focus of the session then turned to Jennie, who went on to tell us about her career as an artist. She told us how she had begun by doing a foundation year and then doing a degree at Cardiff University, but interestingly she noted that it was her part time job at a gallery that allowed her to realise her dream of becoming an artist. From there she went on to tell us about her first project, a community radio programme (Star Radio) recorded by the people of Cardiff itself, and it was this, she said, that got her onto the public art scene.

More than this, however, she said that she loved being able to see the people interact with her art, and thus showed us that the process can be just as important as the final product. Jennie also handed out some leaflets to the group entitled ‘Sounding City’, asking us to fill them out to help her complete her next project, which is going to be based upon the city of Bristol. What Jennie stressed the most, much to the amusement of the group, was that “if you want a steady income, don’t become an artist!”

The talk was followed by the main activity, which caused some extra excitement this week as we were told that our brief was actually real! Our task was to design a temporary installation for the Architecture Centre’s birthday weekend party, accompanied by an activity which both adults and children would be able to engage with. As there weren’t very many of us, we were told to come up with an individual idea, and then to discuss them in pairs.

The first outcome was a building activity, whereby people could build a small pixie-style dwelling that could then be attached to one of the large trees outside the Architecture Centre, with the aim that it would help people to access their creativity and build up rather than out, and so work in a slightly different dimension. The second idea was a large temporary castle, possibly made of cardboard, which people could play in and around, and generally have a play at being someone different. The queen of the harbour side perhaps? The third response was one involving a prebuilt structure with lots of adornments. The idea behind this response was that people could then take away and deconstruct the installation and build new things out of its parts, enabling a spread of creativity to access different parts of the city. The final outcome was a simple, geometric structure that visitors could play on and decorate as they felt. Overall, the responses all had a family friendly environment in mind, with a focus toward group creativity.

The next session will take place in September and will continue to focus on the Fun Palace inspired design task for the Architecture Centre’s 20th birthday Weekender party on 25 September.

This blog post has been written by Shape My City participant Martha Eustace.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Workshop four - architectural model making with Amalgam

This blog post has been written by Shape My City participant Martha Eustace

On the 9th of June, the Architecture Centre hosted the fourth Shape My City session of 2016. The theme for the week was architectural model-making and consequently we were joined by Phil and Anthony, two of the model makers from Amalgam, the Bristol based model making company that creates models for a variety of purposes such as advertisement and, of course, for architectural firms.

The session began with an edible model challenge, which soon got a bit messy! From a selection of materials, including waffles, ice-cream cones and cement-like icing, we were told to create an architectural model. The outcome of the challenge resulted in: one Weetabix straw house; a pink waffle gazebo; and two post and lintel style temples involving breadsticks and an abundance of biscuits!

After all of the construction remains had been cleared away Phil and Anthony stepped up and shared their own experiences of working in the model making industry. Phil, who arrived at Amalgam after doing three years of an architecture course at Bath University, told us that although the unpredictable deadlines can make his job stressful, the passion that he has for his job is able to overcome this stress. In fitting to this comment, Phil shared that he would tell his 16 year-old self to follow his passion and gut instinct. 

Anthony, who did do a model-making course at university, explained that the diversity of creative backgrounds within the company emphasised the fact that all the workers at Amalgam were drawn together by their passion and enjoyment of model making. Phil and Anthony brought some sample models with them, the general favourite of which was the fully operative desk chair complete with wheels and a spinning seat!

The talk was followed by the main activity: ‘Fill the Gap’. Our task, in pairs, was to create a model displaying what we thought could fill the gap between the Architecture Centre and the Arnolfini. The catch was trying to accommodate for the 1:50 scale of the existing model of the Architecture Centre! Under the professional eyes of Phil and Anthony we set to work, and half an hour later there were a set of diverse and imaginative responses. 

The first group produced a double-layered park, with a link from the cobbled street to a raised grassy platform. Phil said that he liked how the group had considered natural light, in the form of a skylight in the top platform. The second group had a symmetrical park, with a line of trees leading up a curved path to a focal point, in the form of a statue. 

The outcome of the third group’s work was a park, with a focus on breaking up the grey of the surrounding harbourside, but there were hints of the hard landscaping of the surroundings by the inclusion of a cobbled stone path wending it’s way around the tree in the centre of the park, which was lit up (by a disguised phone!) The final group came up with a treehouse, which it was agreed resembled a mushroom more than a tree! The treehouse aimed to include young and old alike, with swings and a spiral staircase taking centre stage in the composition. 

Phoebe, the volunteer mentor, commented that she liked the way in which the path leading up to the tree would make people walk around the entire space. Overall it was agreed that any of these ideas would be better than the empty and overgrown plot of land that sits in the space now!

The next session will take place in July and will focus on architecture and public art. 

Further information:
New Blades – the model making industry annual new talent show