Monthly Archives: July 2012

Risks and rewards… Audacity pays off.

Here’s an extract from my final submission for PP1: Brief Writing. This subject culminates with the preparation of a 16-20 page document [“the brief”] in which you assemble all the background information on your proposed final project: site analysis (demographics, culture, neighbourhood, history, topography, climate, microclimate etc), precedent selection and analysis, programmatic requirements, statutory and regulatory requirements, design research question, client requirements, financial planning and some other bits and pieces. The brief forms the basis of the project report for external markers and your second semester tutor. In addition to this, I decided to say what I really thought in a cheeky introduction… I very nearly chickened out, but thought ‘f*ck it, you only live once and I think it works’. Turns out it was the most successful part of the whole submission! I’ve reproduced it below.

foreward/disclaimer: an audacious proposal


A final year project is traditionally treated as an opportunity not only to display professional skills acquired over several years of painstaking effort, but as a chance to push the boundaries of what architecture is and what it can be. It also offers the chance to nail your colours to the mast, to make a statement about what you value within architecture and what interests you.

With so much expectation, a great deal of thought and superstition influences the careful selection of site (it should be near water), program (it needs to have a social conscience) and research question (“can a dead male European theorist inform the spatiality of a maternal health building in Tanzania?”).

For the career minded students with one eye on their portfolio, the temptation to choose a project that aligns with the interests of a desired employer or their intended career trajectory is often irresistible. Too often this results in shiny renderings of indifferent projects stuffed with good intentions executed in a demonstration of tolerable competence.

This is not one of those projects. This project is fun.

The Angel St Derby Centre is utterly frivolous. A career as a professional roller derby venue architect does not beckon. The project is improbable, but not impossible. In all likelihood, the Angel St Derby Centre will never be funded, never be built and never be the subject of a monograph. Taking a cue from roller derby, this project is chutzpah sprayed in giant letters across cheap plywood scaffolding, assembled with love and gaffer tape rather than good sense. It’s an oasis of exuberant, flippant humour, amid a sea of ponderous propositions.

But as anyone who has watched derby knows, fun is serious business. Having a ludicrously farcical idea, the only way to execute it is with utter solemnity.

The Angel St Derby Centre juggles busy public space and an unconventional program (roller derby venue) on an urban brown field site with a dilapidated heritage listed building. These competing demands require a sophisticated understanding of the intersection between site, heritage and program for successful resolution.

To add further depth to the project, the design research question was framed to use the characteristics of the program to unpick and re-examine the notions of adaptive re-use.