HOW TODAY’S ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS WILL RADICALLY CHANGE THE WAY WE PLAY, LEARN, WORK AND LIVE.
Post-Millennials. We are interested in the phenomena of Millennials: recognising that children in recent decades have grown up in a fast-paced, information-rich world where technology (whether we like it or not) underpins many of the activities we undertake, from communication through to advertising, shopping and travelling. Citizens born between 1982 to 1996 (Millennials) and later generations are predicted to radically reform education and working systems, not only with a massive resource of online courses and working relations, but with a more qualitative aspiration: searching for educational and working systems which fulfil their potential. The implication of how this impacts the way we enjoy life (living, playing, socialising as opposed to work) is underexplored, possibly because it promises less financial benefit. This is a major political, cultural and anthropological interest for us and this year’s departure point for Unit 22.
Interactivity. We are interested in understanding the role technology has to play in today’s society and how it is shaping the built landscape. We believe we cannot ignore the changing world; we have to accept that the landscape is evolving and technology has become a method for young people to make sense of the world in which we live. One of the main effects of interactivity is how it challenges “the one size fits all” perception. The post-millennial generation no longer listens to an entire CD, they build their own playlist. Shifting from the “sage on the stage thinking” to the “guide on the side” logic will greatly affect how we play, how we learn and how we work, and we expect students to explore this in their designs.
Sharing and Co-using. Until recent years, important decisions at work were taken by experts or leaders of organisations. Today, there is a pipeline of information available to everyone. The skills for making decisions have become dynamic. Co-working is far more than a way to reduce the expenses of renting an office: it is the spatial translation of how decision making has become distributed. Millennials are the first generation which no longer require an authority figure to access information – they may enjoy external stimuli 24/7, be in social contact at all times, and learn more from a portable device than from a seminar. While different companies around the world are exploring the impact this has on working spaces, there is little research on how living spaces are being transformed. Co-living can now mean more than simply saving expenses and instead become a drive to distribute and undertake everyday activity whilst stimulating social contact. We believe each of these changes can have major implications for architecture and urban design.
Programme, Exercises and Calendar.
Weeks One and Two: defining individual strategy.
In this period, each student will build their own architectural brief consisting of three exercises for the year, developing a diagrammatic design for each exercise. This includes choosing a site to work in. Unit 22 encourages and allows students to work in places which have a special interest for them and for their future careers. In these first two weeks we will ask students to decide not only the location of the three exercises but to draft the programme, scale and design strategy for their year ahead. The purpose of this is not so much to establish a rigid contract with the student, we assume initial intentions will evolve, but to encourage their independence from tutors and university, allowing them to build an intentional agenda. We also want to improve time management and reduce anxiety allowing the students to negotiate with tutors in advance, to be clearer about their tasks and to link terms with more continuity. The choice of the site must be strategic and should consider:
- The educational system of the country
- The opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures
- Previous existing experiences for similar programmes
- Existing networks, institutions and stakeholders which will benefit from the student’s own project
We suggest planning the three exercises in the same site and in close proximity, understanding each exercise as an extension of the previous.
Term 1. Playground: (Co-playing) and/or (Inter-playing).
Companies, institutions and designers which introduce technology to playgrounds usually find it difficult to gain the trust of schools, parents and politicians as:
- This is a new idea and little research has been done on what is a good incorporation of technology in a playground
- Many are protective and sentimental about the notion of play and it must refer to well-established experiences – often guided by our own nostalgia
- Technology is often linked to the negative: over-use of mobile phones and smart technologies
We would like to demonstrate that the acceptance of moving with change will not damage childhood experience, but actually enhance it and furthermore capture and engage a much wider demographic. We have the opportunity to address real issues such as sedentary behaviours and inactivity which are currently major concerns for our society.
After the strategic introduction, students will build an interactive model of a playground for Millennials in scale 1/15 including interactive routines and co-using logic.
Term 2. Vocational School: (Co-learning) or (Inter-learning).
Students will be asked to expand the programme of the playground introducing a vocational school according to her or his individual strategy and the unit topics. Students will be expected to design not only the architecture in terms of physical building but also the activity, creating an attractive and well-rooted educational model. Students will be invited to learn about existing experiences such as:
- Vocational schools in different parts of the world (Finland, Canada, Australia, Japan, Colombia)
- Summer Schools held by different universities, including UCL, allowing young students to test out entry into their programme for one month
- Tinkering schools, labs and clubs.
Term 3. Affections on Life and Work: (Co-living, Co-working) or (Inter-living, Inter-working).
Students will be invited to expand the programme of the previous playing and learning complex to include co-working or co-living spaces. The methodology of the year will combine user-centered design techniques, explored by authors like Eric Von Hippel, with brand-centered design techniques, explored by authors like Roberto Verganti. We won’t define the working or living spaces through their volume and geometry, but instead through designing the tables, chairs, lamps, doors and all sorts of interfaces which the various users of our architecture will ultimately employ. This will allow us to:
- Use design as a mediation between the user and the institution
- Allow our design perceptions and intuitions to become more empathic with our user
- Alter traditional time conceptions applied to architectural design – from that imbibed in the average functional definition of rooms (in which time begins and ends when we find a wall), to a continuous experience in which we are conscious the lives of our users also occurs in public space (from the area which surrounds our architecture, to their journey home)
For Unit 22, it is a fundamental aspect of pedagogy to link students with stakeholders beyond our everyday environments. We believe design must respond to the agenda of third parties and not merely to personal inclinations of the designer or academic inertias. For this reason this year we present a series of external stakeholders and we will ask the students to understand their interests and engage with them while tutors will facilitate interaction. These stakeholders are:
Jupiterplay: a company leading the British playground industry through interactive play products in which technology is the vehicle for facilitating active play, intergenerational engagement and for more serious sporting teams and individuals. With this collaboration we aim to fabricate a playground prototype intervention, receiving advice from their group of experts.
Kingston upon Thames and Alexandra Palace and Park: locations within London whose managers are interested in receiving design suggestions from our Unit. Students can choose between working in Kingston upon Thames and Alexandra Palace and Park – or another international site of their choosing.