Team 2 Reflections by A.L. Hu, Braham Berg, & Brie Smith
Entering the AIA Convention, the Hackathon was shrouded in mystery and we all went into the session not knowing how things would turnout, but hoping for the best. At its core, the Hackathon is a condensed iteration of the entire design-architectural process. Except, whereas designers have weeks, months, even years to develop their ideas, Hackathon participants have only a few hours. It culminates in a short pitch. Any storytelling tool is fair game.
Rem Koolhaas mentioned in his keynote that architecture moves too slowly to be able to adapt to rapidly changing day-to-day of our World. As a timely and relevant alternative, the Hackathon integrates design and entrepreneurship savvy. In this framework, we, as designers, were encouraged to challenge ourselves in expediting a “design” process we’ve become accustomed to extending (ex. late nights and working on weekends). Through this experience, in the short interval we had to ideate and develop our concept, each group proposed feasible, innovative, alternative solutions, ranging from a work place management – social network (FIM), to an interactive public engagement metric gauge (AGORA), to an educational virtual platform exposing children to the architectural practice, process, and monuments (WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SANDIEGO BUILDING?)
THE "EGG" ICE BREAKER
THE PROMPT – OUR TEAM
Our general task was to design an open-ended product that addressed a defined problem, expressed in a statement, “within the architecture field, related to the architecture field, and outside of the architecture field.”
We had a diverse team spanning nationwide, consisting of AL Hu, a graduate student at Columbia University GSAPP (New York, NY); Brie Smith, a professor at Arizona State University and practitioner with a focus on participatory design (Phoenix, AZ); Sylvia Kwan, Principal of Henmi Kwan and former “Survivor” TV show contestant (San Francisco, CA); and Despina Stratigakos, an architectural historian and professor at SUNY Buffalo (Buffalo, NY). I’m a student at the Tulane University School of Architecture (New Orleans, LA) interested in the intersection of architecture, real estate development, and social entrepreneurship.
DEFINING THE PROBLEM + PROCESS
Our team’s general consensus was to address an issue outside of the profession. Our central themes we hoped to address centered on 1.) perception and 2.) education. In our discussion, we agreed that the public lacks a clear understanding of the architectural profession. The few media portrayals, such as Howard Rourke, do not accurately portray the tasks and responsibilities architects have. On the flip side, some professionals and students channel their inner Rourke-complexities, which does little to de-mystify our profession to the public.
We believe that introducing architecture earlier on in pre-educational, primary and secondary school curriculum was vastly important, and thus could result in a greater awareness and authenticity of architectural practice to a larger populace, particularly targeting young girls.
The Hackathon had a challenging timeline for deliverable tasks. Our group struggled with creating a definitive problem statement because we set out trying to solve two large issues. We worked backwards – sharing extended personal stories to the issues we deemed important to address.
In typical architecture school fashion, our product, vision, and pitch came together in the end. We delivered a coherent pitch, based on personal experience and stories we shared throughout the process. We paired our pitch with a series of quick graphics illustrating the platform adaptation.
We pitched a game called “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Building?”, a dynamic and fun way to foster appreciation and awareness for the history and process of architecture in children and teenagers. Through role playing, solving puzzles, and taking on construction projects, game players develop their knowledge of the valuable role architects play in constructing the built environment, especially in the context of climate change. “Where in the World” seeks to change the next generation’s perception of architects and to empower children to pursue architecture as a career.
During our pitch, we stressed the importance of expanding the scope and reach of architectural education to include non-architects. After all, everyone is a student of architecture and space in one way or another as all we navigate in three dimensions and seek shelter in buildings.
And perhaps the education of architects needs to be broadened as well. As a current student who is deeply entrenched in academia and a young practitioner who is keenly aware of many of the profession’s shortcomings, I believe “hacking” and pitching are important skills that expand the scope and reach of architects. Connecting with others on a personal level through storytelling boosts our designs and ideas from mere aesthetics and logistics to a compelling idea that’s part of a larger narrative. The way that we frame our ideas is as important as the idea itself, and that framework is something that should be part of the design process. As architects, we are constantly pitching ourselves and our work for interpretation and valuation by clients and society at large. To change the way we are perceived, we need to think outside of the box and re-design the narrative of our profession--the change begins with us.
EQxD Hackathon 2016 Recap - Blog Series
(Catch up here if you missed these earlier posts)