Sunday, February 22, 2009

Architecture Studio Dynamics

“In small settlements, everyone knows your affairs. In the city everyone does not.” Every day I walk the unfamiliar, private life of the city street into the familiar, public settlement of the architecture studio. I walk pass business men, homeless people, students, and the like, and remain completely a private stranger. This privatized, city street life that Jacobs describes, represents one community that I belong to. This represents a stark contrast to the public and open community of the architecture studio that I engage in daily. The studio is where privacy ceases to exist. Whether or not by choice, architecture students become familiar with the people around them and the conversations that they are forced to listen to or become engaged in.
Jane Jacobs discusses the notion of trust when describing relationships between customers who leave their keys with local merchants. This type of relationship exists in the studio as well. The studio is a place that only thrives when students help one another out. Borrowing and lending supplies and information is a daily routine that is common practice in the studio. A system of “what’s mine is yours” quickly develops and students begin to trust one another. This notion of trust in the studio is essential. It exists because the studio is not a private place. Clear boundaries of individual space are ambiguous and most areas become shared spaces. Individual desks become unlocked homes in an urban neighborhood. The spaces between the desks become city streets and sidewalks where interaction is normal and natural. No one is a stranger. Everyone knows each other and trust is quickly established.
Jacobs describes situations on the streets of New York where people look out for one another and invest themselves in bettering the community as a whole. Jacobs describes Bernie, a local candy store owner, as an active community member who is engaged in the lives of fellow community members on a daily basis. The relationship he develops with customers goes beyond the business aspect of his job. He is interested in doing his part to contribute to the welfare of the community. I see this same notion in the architecture studio. As students, we have the responsibility of attending class, getting work completed in time, and participating in class. There has never been a rule or obligation to help fellow classmates when a peer is struggling. However, this notion of helping one another out is a vital part of the dynamics of the studio. Classmates become invested in each other’s work. If a student is producing less then acceptable work, it brings down the rest of the class.
The architecture studio is broken into sections for the semester. The students within a section become incredibly close to one another. The majority of our time is spent with the same ten students in studio. However, the students outside of a section become individuals that we interact with frequently as well. Jacobs describes the idea of two people from the same apartment who have never spoken to one another suddenly becoming “best friends” when interacting out of the context of the apartment building. This is very similar to occurrences outside of the architecture studio. Students who may have never had a conversation in the studio will greet one another while passing on the sidewalk. Architecture is notorious for its grueling work load and frequent all-nighters. Students who share this similar experience have a common thread that unites them outside of the studio.

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