For Architecture students the final 2 – 3 weeks of First and Second year is dedicated to ‘Vertical Studio’, in which students from the first 2 years work together on a variety of studio activities, all accumulating into a final presentation at the end of the year. It comes just as all exams are completed and just before our final portfolio review, and acts as a nice, much more relaxing way to explore creativity and work with a different set of people to usual.
It begins with an official ‘launch’, where each studio leader presents their ideas for the studio. Then all the students make their choice from around 12 studio options. The options this year were as always wide ranging, from photographing train station interactions to analysing the history/technology/artistry of bricks and brickwork. Some projects even have chances to spend time abroad, last year a studio took place in China. I chose a studio entitled ‘Digital Urban Commons’ in which we were asked to design an app to improve life within cities, which would also include a physical element or change supported by the digital network. I choose this as I was interested to consider how contemporary problems may be tackled in a more modern way than previously possible, using technology and network links to extend out and improve the real physical world as opposed to shutting it out.
Within the studio we were split into smaller groups of around 3-4 and asked to work closely together to develop our proposed app design. My group developed ideas of making cities more self-sufficient for their own farmed produce and creating a community that may grow fruit and vegetables within their own homes and cause this to spill out into the city, taking over areas such as the centre of roundabouts to become gardens for feeding the city, needing less imports and allowing healthy foods to be more easily accessible for all. Other groups’ ideas included a more futuristic and efficient waste collection system and the creation of hubs for sharing books and ideas through the link of lots of diverse people over the internet.
The final presentation is a chance to celebrate everyone’s efforts and see what has been achieved. The vast assortment of studios on offer is made very clear, as a presentation on working with the public in Grange Town is made alongside a presentation on imagining the limits of civilisation, interrogating human physiology and how this may be effected by surroundings.
Vertical studio is a very special part of the degree as it makes students think a bit differently and worry less about what grade will be awarded, allowing ideas to be more ambitious and people to be more inclined to step outside of their comfort zone. It is also quite nice to have something a little less high stakes to do at the end of the year! And shows how you can keep educating yourself on design but at a lesser pace to usual, which may come in handy over the coming long, long summer.