Why build, Part II / by Jedidiah

Drawing, modelling, and babbling on endlessly about their ideas are some things that architects do.  However, one of the things that they used to do is building and it is this aspect of architecture that is severely neglected in the education and profession today.  I might elaborate on that statement in a later post but for now I will just say that I would like to incorporate the act of making and building into my thesis in a very direct way by attempting to actually build a piece of my project.  This means testing my ideas at full-scale in Copenhagen and then building the thing in Malta at the Marsa Open Centre. I decided that the thing that I would build would be one of the fragments I mentioned in Part I.  This was not at all a completely arbitrary decision.  Each of these fragments could be a starting point for the future development of the Marsa Open Centre.  One of these small fragments could embody the ideas and spirit of my larger vision and inspire that vision to eventually happen.

Of course, I could choose to design the fragment as a completely hypothetical project it as I will do with a larger scheme for the Marsa Open Centre.  Designing for projects that will never be built is what we are encouraged to do throughout architecture school.  However, this way of working without restrictions and ignoring the realities that come with designing a project that might actually be constructed seem to be ways of avoiding accountability and responsibility.  Working at 1:1 also gives you an understanding of the space you are creating and the effect it will have on the people it is for.  I felt that if I worked as if I was designing a piece of the Marsa Open Centre that could actually be built it would also help me to ground my project firmly in reality - a stated goal of my thesis.  Designing a small project that could be built with the assistance of people at the Centre and from the Maltese community would also embody the goals of my thesis in miniature.

Finally, it seemed that for my project, due to its highly social orientation, the best way to actually test my ideas and at the same time have a positive impact on the lives of the migrants at the Centre would be to build something for them and with them.  I settled on a new entrance courtyard and one-room library as the fragments that I would design to be built.  This decision was partly based on the fact that an NGO called Get Up Stand Up that I spoke to in Malta mentioned that they had funding to build such a library at the Centre.  The courtyard, situated just outside, would connect the library to the entrance of the Centre and to the outside world.

Since this initial choice of "fragments" I have been informed by Get Up Stand Up that architecture students in Malta will be designing the library space.  I will continue to design my own proposal for a library as well but my focus for a project that will potentially be constructed will be the courtyard.  At this point I have begun to model some very early ideas for the courtyard and library and I have submitted a proposal to the head of the Centre.