Keep it Brief
Keep it Brief
Here it is. The studio brief. Your tutor just emailed you a copy. Are you ready? Make those new folders, download those readings, search for those .dwg files. The semester is about to begin…
Embarking on a new studio project means awaiting the arrival of a freshly PDF’d Brief to your inbox. Its emergence is the proverbial horn blowing and the starting gates flying open. On delivery, some are ready to make a dash for it, others slowly peek out from behind the fading cover of the vacation period, weary of the effort that lies ahead. Detritus of previous semester’s briefs still crumpled, discarded on their desks.
An ever-present text in Architecture school, the Brief serves as an enigmatic preamble to the next few months of your life. It will organize your thoughts with its words and your time with its deadlines. Its accepted format is rarely deviated from. An elusive title – grandiloquent, sexy, probably includes the phrase “re-inventing”, definitely includes a colon. Some text (of varying lengths) that describes an overwhelmingly expansive set of issues and somewhere – somewhere – buried amongst this might just be a clue as to what is expected of you. Will you be designing an actual building? This question will follow you for many weeks ahead. Dates, deliverables, readings, references, some studios are presented with an entire book-length document. Sometimes, the Brief is simply one lonely paragraph. Leading to an initial few weeks of attempted interpretation, the exchanging of bewildered text messages and exasperated glances between desk-mates. Other Briefs unfurl the entire semester on one sheet of 8.5 by 11, every hour accounted for, all outputs unnervingly listed.
The Brief is a constant companion. Lost? Re-read it. Lost? Maybe it’s better to ignore it. Anyway, what exactly did your tutor mean by “the intersection of self-conscious creation and interconnected being”. How to draw that in plan?
We might read the fashion of the Brief to infer something of its writer’s personality. Is it a print-out of a Word document? Jumbled images and text mis-aligned? Google Earth screenshot? Most likely a long-tenured professor who never learnt another software, Brief hastily finalized the morning of the studio lottery. Is it a sleek, over-designed document, type-set in a weird font? Clearly only possible on InDesign. Someone is trying to make an effort. They also probably believe they are as much a graphic designer as an architect. (Architects should get over this delusion.) Or is it a Google Doc? This represents pure chaos. Buckle down, you’re in for a ride.
Taking a cross-section of studio Briefs – their form, content, organization – could elicit a close reading of the wider preoccupations of Architecture. A meaningful disciplinary indicator? The fictitious projects delineated through the Brief are not neutral inventions.
To write a recurring column for Paprika! Vol 8 that confronts the modes, methods and medium of Architecture as a discipline. The text should rifle through some of the many unquestioned formats of architectural education, and poke at them with a critical, yet tender, curiosity.
First deliverable due on 17/02/23. No extensions.