The Integral Tram Workshop part 2


Last week was the  (and final)  part of the ‘integral tram’ winter workshop of the architecture academy and Minerva school of applied sciences Groningen. The goal of this second part was to give body and depth to the tram concepts the students had developed so far. The students were still struggling with the main research question: how the tram(line) could enrich (syno) the city and the lives of the inhabitants of Groningen? Particularly how they could translate their ideas in concrete plans and how the tram(line) could be seamlessly incorporated into their ideas (i.e., how the tram -and not another transportation vehicle, the bus for instance, could contribute to the city of Groningen).

Tuesday evening was what could be called the inspiration session of this second part of the workshop. Two experts (Hans Appel & Thuur Caris) – one a computer engineer, the other an artist – explained their work they did and how they would tackle the problem of the tram. The contrast between the perspective of the two speakers seemed to inspire the students. Their enthusiasm was raised, and would hopefully still be there on thursday.

Thursday evening was the first ‘real’ 3 hour session of the second part of the workshop. After a short explanation of what the students should work towards, 3 experts were introduced: Bert Horst ( expert in urban living), Lyske van der Ham (healthy ageing expert) and Anne Nigten (expert in pop culture). The experts would listen to the presentation of each group and give feedback. The groups would then incorporate this feedback and make the necessary adjustments to their concepts. This proved to be quite hard for some students. Some seemed to have difficulties with how to transform feedback into their idea. That is, how to translate the ‘criticism’ into action points.

The 12 hour workshop session on friday was the last workshop session in which the students could make big decisions. At the end of the day they should have a well thought out concept that they would be able to present on saturday (i.e., the last day of the workshop). Now it all came down to the following question: how to frame the concept? Some groups already had a clear idea of what and how they were going to present their work, others did not. They either struggled with the incoherentness of their concept ideas, or with the complexity of distinguishing essentials from inessentials. Each group handled these problems differently. At the end of the day all group were to a large extent prepared for the final workshop day: the presentation day.

Finally the last day of the workshop arrived. This was it: the day that the students could proudly present their work to their peers. This presentation was the general rehearsal for February 14; the day the students will present their concepts to the client and project initiator. The students worked really hard to finish their presentations on time. Once again some students had trouble with their focus. That is, which part of their concept they should pay special attention to. This general rehearsal gave them the opportunity to defend their work and see it in a different light. Although most presentations were rough and unpolished,  they did give insight in what still needs to be done before the 14th.

In all, it was  an inspiring and fruitful workshop. I got a peek in how architects look at and understand the world around them. How they tackle certain problems and treasure the art of designing buildings and structures.

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