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AIA UK Student Design Charrette 2021

As part of our contribution to helping out the next generation of young architects, we like to take part as mentors in the annual Student Design Charrette hosted by the UK Chapter of the AIA (the American Institute of Architects, not the sponsors emblazoned on Tottenham Hotspur jerseys). It is a juried one-day design competition for 2nd and 3rd year architecture students from accredited schools in the UK.

It feels like ages since the last time. (Just that small issue of some virus that has been going around...) But now that we are double vaccinated and the culture of considerate mask wearing has become the norm here, it was good to be back.

This year the charrette was held in the Building Centre in Central London. This year's brief was to design a temporary pavilion in the South Crescent space just outside the Building Centre to attract people back into this area after more than a year of being away due to Covid.

We had 7 teams from architecture schools from across the country come down for the day. We were assigned a team from the University of Hertfordshire, mentoring them alongside other experienced practitioners who mentored the other teams.

Our team chose to focus on kids and families who have been stuck indoors alongside workers from the local performance arts venues who have been out of work. We initially toyed around with the idea of a puppet theatre but the proposal gradually evolved to explore a less formal and more interactive interpretation of play. Instead of the rope that would be used to control puppets, we thought of using rope as a material to allow us to experience different kinds of space. Taking cues from Gaudi's catenary arch chain models we used the trees and surrounding buildings as support structures to suspend a variety of webbed spaces and experiences - pushing the limits of what could be achievable with rope. Some areas would be more open, some more clustered. Some areas would be denser, some would be more free. Some areas would be taut, some more dangly, some more bouncy. The objective being to create a looser form of performance and play (or simply just to create something socially fun and enjoyable). We ended up calling the proposal "Meshing around".

Well done to all the students, the mentors and the organisers for a great day!



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