Week Four:

So the end of this week marked my first month milestone working at Philip Watts Design and brought me a week closer to my big move to Waterloo, it also meant the end of what has been a very stressful week for the team.

Recently we’ve been working on a very exciting project for Pizza Pilgrims, a young and fresh pizza restaurant created by two frustrated city boys who really just wanted to make pizza. It started with an ape at the top of Italy and it ended in the best damn pizza in London. This story and some of the recipies they learned on their travels in their book.

This project, while extremely fun and playful in nature, was on a tight schedule and meant all hands on deck so for the latter part of the week I put my Greggs notes to one side and dove into the world of ‘how Philip Watts Design actually draws’. A pile of alien mark ups landed on my desk along with a midfield of unrecognised CAD layers and specific saving formats. My skills were also put to use creating 2D CAD drawings of arcade machines, vintage TV’s and themed pendant lights to later input into exceptionally detailed section drawings. It was both fun and nerve wracking to jump into the project, even if I did just stand on the periphery, my input ultimately a drop in the ocean of the fantastic design the team had already created.

 

Week Three

This is the first week that I’ve managed to read during my commute. Before now I found watching people getting on with their day far too compelling, not that the novelty of London has worn off in any way. I still get excited when there’s a seat free right at the front of the bus. London on the big screen.

Although in spite her beauty London can also be a cruel mistress for so many reasons, in part because she is an expensive companion but also because she is confusing. Due to having lived in a small town my whole life and also because I have no particular aversion to walking, I have never really had a need to catch buses before, so this was something of a learning curve for me when I first began my commute. Fortunately, I sailed through the first two weeks with ease, jumping on and of buses almost like a local. Becoming quite proficient in fact. Until Monday… The plan was simple, jump off the bus at a small parade of shops – around a quarter of the way through the 45 from Kings Cross’s journey and half way through mine to Blackfriars – to grab some bits from the CO-OP. Then, of course, jump back on the bus and continue on to work. The first part went off without a hitch. Blueberry muffins and pasta pot stowed away in my bag I reappeared on the bustling street, sunglasses on, and after some time of carefully taking in my surroundings, I realised that I had no idea which direction I had entered the shop from, which is situated on the corner of the ever-busying roads. I thought I was saved when I saw the beloved 45 at a red light, about to head towards a bus stop I could easily make if I walked briskly. Positively smug I jumped on the bus when it stopped in front of me, headphones blaring I took my seat. As always I watched the world go by from my bumpy throne, taking in the things I recognised and the things I didn’t. 20 minutes later I found myself sat outside King’s Cross station, where my journey had begun.

The rest of the week was considerably more successful. I got my first legitimate drawing pack. Gone are the days of tinkering with my Greggs Training file. Time now to apply what I have learned the last two weeks to a live project.

However, although things have gotten more serious this week there still hasn’t been a day go by without a small London treat, like free frozen yogurt from SNOG if you order via Uber Eats or a free bottle of Honest T if you take a photo with their floral installation (that picture is never to be seen). This week was no exception, this week I got the insane opportunity to see London in a way not many people do, from the very top of the OXO Tower Wharf. For a dizzying half hour, I got to peer at London through a birds eye.

 

Also this week I was given my very own set of keys to the office which means that during the half an hour before anyone else gets there I can let myself in and, in this instance, take photos.

London Showroom

STUDIO

Studio is arguably the most important module of my course as it teaches us how how to create and present innovative design concepts, which will eventually be the basis of most of our careers. Studio should also be the most enjoyable module, however again due to being unfortunate enough to get a lecturer that has no place in a primary school let alone university studio had become one of the most frustrating modules yet. Luckily our brief this semester was an exciting one, to redesign the foyer and walkway of the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre. The building consists of:

One dark and smelly walkway which runs through the building, linking the Stevenage train staton to the town.

And the centre itself which has multiple functions. It’s foremost being the theatre although it also boasts a large restaurant area, cafe, gym, multiple sports halls, conference rooms and offices.

There was no doubt in anyones mind that the building is ugly, badly designed, poorly laid out and, absolutely bursting with opportunities. The site, although dingy and drab inside actually had access to a lot of natural light in the form of large curved windows.

This, and the beautiful cement structures (visible through the windows) which support the walkway were the aspects of the building that immediately stuck out to me and later were the primary influence in my design.

We were lucky enough to have a guided tour of the building by the building owner Paul who was very specific about the aspects of the space he wanted preserved and which ones he wanted intervened. From the site visit the main interventions I wanted to implement were:

  • Opening up the space, making it more open plan, and allowing the views to be more visible
  • To add an additional entrance to the building, possibly focused around disabled access (something the building is currently lacking)
  • Modernise the space
  • Combine the walkway and building so they’re not such separate elements

 

I’ll do another post soon detailing how I went about these interventions, but first, I think it’s about time I showed you guys my new house…

 

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The First of the Second

I have always loved to learn and theres no better feeling that gaining knowledge in a subject that truly interests you. So naturally, I was awake bright and breezy ready for my first lecture of second year. Bag packed the night before in excited trepidation. Now, we have all laughed at the new year 7’s with their man sized bags that are undoubtably bursting with useful as well as what they’ll soon realise is surplus school equipment. However, there comes a point where having a bag full of stationary is cool and you’re the class idiot for not having a pen. After all, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. With this in mind when I received an email from my lead tutor this year, Paul, with an attachment for us to read I printed it straight off and began to devour it.

Our first lecture back, like most peoples, was a formality spent covering module information. Taking a quick note of all the boring but necessary information like how many credits each module is worth, the final hand in date and the distribution of work between coursework and exams.

My next semester looks a little like this:

In Design Studio: Close Up – taught by Felipe Lanuza – we will be redesigning the foyer of the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage, inspired by the innovative theory of Garden Cities.

Below are my notes from the first studio lecture. We looked at previous plans for Garden Cities, using the images as a stimulus to imagine the interior.

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Final sketchbook page

I was inspired by the green areas visible in the image, immediately envisaging a fresh modern square accommodation block surrounding a circular green space and fountain. Taking heed of the geometric shapes in the image, specifically the grid windows in the top left hand corner, I sketched a rough modular design. Also thinking along the lines of a minimal, yet interchangeable layout. A space you could make your own with customisable storage and kitchen units, for example,  which can be updated and moved around. The premise of being able to update the design was also at the forefront of my concept.

The modern world is constantly coming up with new gadgets and clever design ideas, a space that could be upgraded to accommodate these new innovations would in itself be somewhat innovative.

 

Final Crit

As mentioned before crits are incredibly nerve wracking, but nothing prepared me for the dry throat panic of THE FINAL CRIT. The this is it, nothing more you can do, no pressure but what you say in the next 20 minutes affects your grade crit. I think I speak for the entire class when I say I was holding my pen with white knuckles as I quickly scribbled a few last-minute notes on what to say, anticipating a mental block.
Learning how to present your ideas is crucial; as someone who doesn’t relish the idea of public speaking, I thought it best to plan out my presentation. Unfortunately, what I didn’t anticipate was that in a moment of pure fear, I forgot how to read. I was left standing blankly, note pad held limply in my hand as I stared at my lecturers and peers as if they’d all just fallen from a tree.

 

Fortunately, as I said in the previous post, the support of your classmates can be the difference between sink or swim. One look of ‘what the fuck are you doing’ from the back of the class was enough to jump start me into life. I rambled for what felt like years about Permindar’s work and how that, in turn, influenced my design. I tripped over words, the jot stuck in my teeth and tittle rolling around in my mouth, and eventually spat out what I can only hope was a coherent sentence. I had already thought about the layout of my work and had it on the wall in what I felt was a methodical way so that the presentation flowed nicely. Or, as nicely as it could when a prickly heat is rapidly taking over your body, encouraging you to talk as quickly as possible to get out of there. Presenting is something that, although unpleasant, gets easier. And fortunately with fear comes adrenalin.

When I slumped down into my chair after the presentation I was red-faced, embarrassed, and frantically chocking back a lump in my throat, but I was pumped. Pumped because although I wanted to cry, I didn’t. And because I had presented my work- work that I was proud of. And most of all, because I was now officially done with first year.

 

Let summer ensue.

Group Model Making

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The only thing worse than model making is group model making. FACT

As part of our assignment, we had to produce a group model of 24 Travellers Rest in 1:50 scale using the existing floor plans. Despite my initial reservations this task really helped to familiarise myself with the layout of the property, I found being able to physically see the different floors extremely helpful. And although our model wasn’t exactly the neatest or by far the most accurate it still proved useful when later redesigning the spaces. Perhaps in the future when lecturers suggest ‘spending a few hours making conceptual test models help visualise your space’ I shouldn’t be so quick to reply with a look of disgust and inwardly cry laugh ‘you think I have time for that’. If I’ve learned one thing this year it’s to give time to things, if you want your projects to be as good as they can be – and as good as they look while you’re laying them out in your head at three in the morning when you should be sleeping – then you need to put the time in. If building concept models help you then it’s worth the extra time.

It’s undeniable that this project was made at least a million times harder by being a group project and yes, we all groan at the thought of group tasks but they do have their positives:

  1. Group tasks also allow you to form alliances in your class, people who can lend you the odd scrap of white card and have a spare cutting knife blade when you inevitably wear out yet another one.
  2. Also, so says the legend Bill Nye the Science guy ‘everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t‘. You can almost guarantee that half your class will also still be online at four in the morning approaching deadlines, so there’s alway someone to call on when your sleep deprived brain just can’t remember which brand of UHU glue it is that melts blue foam.
  3. Crits are difficult and stressful and when you’ve just had all your hopes and dreams (AKA your concept) shattered by your lecturer during a crit a friend helps. Even a look of mutual hatred for your lecturer is a glimmer of support when you’re standing in front of your work questioning every decision you’ve made
  4. Get yourself a checker. Someone you trust, whose work is of a similar standard to yours to check your work. Someone who hasn’t been staring at the same screen for countless hours will be able to see a lot more clearly the mistakes and imperfections in your work. Also, they’re much more detached from the work so will give an honest critique which although harsh and sometimes hard to take from a peer, is helpful.

Although it seems all group tasks are good for is testing how long you can bite your tongue for, they can be helpful if you’re open to them!