Architecture School: Part 4 — Spaces in between
This article is part of a series discussing and reminiscing my years in Architecture academia. These stories are substantially extracted from facts but are also filtered with my perspective and opinion. Therefore, not everyone that went through the same process will echo my sentiments. Still, similarities will undoubtedly arise, for there is a kinship among participants who go through the same gauntlet.
Space, in a formal sense, defined as a continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied. Another definition would be the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move.
Not to get too heady in definitions, the spaces in between, in this instance, are delineated by occupying masses that in turn define boundaries, thresholds and pathways.
The second year of Interior Architecture (as my back-up plan), technically, is going well. From a degree, that should encompass, in a general manner, the design of the built environment (Architecture) to something that purely focuses on interior quality, Interior Architecture.
To say the least, it is grasping my attention. The conceptual ideas are striking and something, that I have never actually looked into.
But there is always something missing. There is that itch that I need to scratch. Heading to the end of my second year in design school, I find myself looking for other perspectives. First-hand other perspectives.
Foreign exchanges are a typical program for any higher education institution. It is a partnership more than anything and establishes, in my view, the international credibility of a school’s faculty.
Victoria University of Wellington has several partnership programs across the globe. For the purpose of this article, the Interior Architecture school offers RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and FH (Fachhochschule), Mainz, in Germany. Going through the distributed information from the school, both propose a suitable fit for me to scratch that itch.
RISD can be found in Providence, Rhode Island on the East coast of the USA. It is south of Massachussettes, and East of Connecticut if you glance in Google Maps. The school has an impressive array of alumni; actors, illustrators, and even an ex-president.
To say the least; I know RISD already. Its reputation precedes itself.
On the other hand, FH Mainz I have to look up. Located in Mainz, a city in Germany settled on the Rhine river, its immediate neighbours are: Wiesbaden on the North, Hochheim am Main and Frankfurt towards the East, Bingen towards the West, and Mannheim to the South. Mannheim is a bit further down south of the Mainz but I believe it is more notable than any place near it.
This seems to be another predictable choice. But alas, I went with the odd one. The unknown. For some reason, I seem to have a tendency to have a slight veer from the so-called path that a lot of people have already taken.
So I went with FH Mainz in Germany. The country that gave the design world the Bauhaus and Mies van der Rohe. I think this isn’t the worst choice, to be honest. Aside from Germany, I also have access to the rest of Europe due to the EU and Schengen area condition that the country is a part of.
I enrolled for the Winter semester, 6–7 months depending on the courses I take. On top of that, I have 2 1-week every three months which I fully intend to use to travel around Europe. Or at the very least 2–3 countries. This is also the first time for me, a person that was raised in a tropical climate (i.e the Philippines) to live, study and travel in a proper winter scenario which is a challenge.
Not to mention learning a third language. Or at the very least passing by and being to ordering from a bar, cafe or restaurant. And not misreading product labels in a grocery aisle.
Fachhochschule translates into the university of applied science from German. As such, the focus of the university is in the applied sciences: physiques, engineering, chemistry. The Architecture curriculum is bunched up with the Engineering and Technology faculty, so that tells you a bit of the mentality of the school.
The exchange is between the Interior Architecture departments of both Universities. In this sense, the Interior Architecture school at FH Mainz is bunched up with the Design and Arts faculty.
NOTE: I attended FH Mainz in the winter semester of 2010, and this organisation of the schools, curriculum and courses may have changed as of writing this article.
The approach for this school, though design-oriented, is more focused on the execution. The reputation of the school was to propose ideas that were workable and can be applied to an actual construction project if it was granted tomorrow.
This was great! I thought and I started designing and the gap was revealed to me.
More than anything, I tend to lean heavily on the learnings and ideas I have accumulated from Victoria University (in Wellington). That works toward a vision of an idea and the narrative that is paired with it.
There were two projects for that semester, but for this article, we will be talking about the one I was interested in titled “Die Komfortzone”. The brief was for a “business lounge” design in the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof for premium passengers of the Deutsche Bahn and the narrative concept that I came up with is the “cathedral of progress”. This came from the research into the history of the project (see here).
The overall design (see sample above) is a recreation of selected pieces taken from the steel structure of the train station (see below). They were re-interpreted to also communicate the “brand identity” of the Deutsche Bahn.
I was very happy with the result. I think I can talk about this project for a while, but I will have to do that in a different post. The grade was agreeable too. The difficulty, on the other hand, is the excess in the work that was produced. To answer the previous question if this proposal can be built tomorrow? No. That is the simplest answer.
This was the gap that I was looking to close. The gap between fantasy and reality. It is fine to have a great idea. Being part of academia as a student, I have a seen, read and heard a lot of ideas. Most of those ideas are good too. But at the end of the day, with the singular goal of education for myself, I am to be ready for the reality of the world.
In between the two projects, were German lessons on Thursday night with Frau Wagner, weekends in a different part of Germany or another country altogether. Or weekend bar hops with the locals and the other exchange students. The experience of being part of this can also be expanded in another article.
For now, it is January 2011 and my visa is about to expire and the return flight is booked to be in two weeks. I have gained a new perspective, not only in design thinking but also in a cultural sense.
I am going home.