That enticing veil that distracts and mystifies — an obscure reflection of the world around us. It conjures and concocts dream scenarios and can serve as the hotbed of ideas.
When teaching, I find that the methods and processes of each student is a mystery, precisely because it is a mystery even to me! The students are let loose on a journey of mistakes — we make mistakes, we make more mistakes and the mistakes may mistakenly lead us down rabbit holes of discovery! Ironically, to the people observing from the outside, a certain naivety exists. They may think of it as a mysterious magical laboratory of ideas of some sort — a Frankenstein-ish design laboratory that tempts students into the lure of the unknown.
The truth of the matter is that in these studios my sole emphasis is on the production of mistakes! We proudly make mistakes!
I guess, somewhere along the way, the students begin to have a little naughty tittle tattle among themselves. They speak about and address it as THE “studio” — a place that feels mysterious and obscure.
Much like the students who have already been through it, it creates a myth. A myth with a powerful force. Its existence shrouded in the historical veil of the world’s most reputable academic institutions.
One of the most hallowed treasures of an academic institution is the perpetuated myth.
The Harvard Society of Fellows, Oxford Union and the Cambridge Apostles are among a few names that rings the tinker bell of awe. The studio is a sanctified realm; one reserved for the supreme echelons of academic genius that strings together some of the most brilliant minds of our times. The elitist nature of these societies and their inaccessibility to the general public forces a cheeky mythology. What happens behind the curtains of these societies is the kindling of some of the most incomprehensible theories known to mankind, and with that comes an extreme sense of curiosity as well. What do these people do behind their shrouds of secrecy; how does this place encourage works that have changed mankind forever?
Regardless of the secrets we may or may not uncover from these societies and academic institutions, the fact remains that myth narrates a wonderful playful presence in the backgrounds of academic powerhouses and will continually do so.
A common pattern seen amongst these societies are their open rebellion to conformist thoughts and ideas which is essentially an act of disagreement with popular thought processes. Within the walls of their revered chambers, disagreements are rife, and debates are a crucial part of demonstrating a legible, intelligent thought process. Which possibly makes disagreements a vital pulse of studio culture.
I love disagreements.
I celebrate them with students. The ones who disagree usually end up being the ones who destroy the predictable, and they are very often the most progressive.
And I know I’ve played my part well when they’re confident enough to arrive to the point of disagreement.
For a surprising number of academicians who unsurprisingly happen to be closet micromanagers, having a student in disagreement signifies a huge loss of control. These students threaten the fibre of their fragile egos and disrupt their comfort zones. The presence of the student becomes an uncomfortable one. “How dare you question my wisdom?”
Not in my studios. Disagreements and debates are a joyous process of our studio culture. Acceptance of differing views takes place and are in fact celebrated! The key here lies in a sense of ownership. As soon as students take ownership of a project, they begin to pour their being into the choices they’ve made whereby the student’s notions become sharper, refined, and satisfyingly bold without any hesitation nor doubt about the design decisions they’ve made.
Which brings me to a pretty loud conclusion: Allow your students to make mistakes; be rigorously experimental to the point of foolishness; and celebrate differences of opinions at all costs! A design studio that runs on that vibrant fuel will thrive on that exchange of energy!