Week 8 | The Knives Are Out! 01.03.10

March 1, 2010

“The only rule was that they handed back the booze before we passed around the scalpels…”

You call that a knife?

Who said cutting-edge architecture is not dangerous? 

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On Tuesday evening, the knives were out at the gala event we hosted as part of the ‘V&A Connects’ programme – in a good way, and later in the week we ran our first schools’ workshop. Yep, you guessed it, more knives. But before all that, we had our interview with ABC Australia to get through.

Fortunately, we managed to avoid any reference to Crocodile Dundee’s infamous tool and we promptly skipped through our radio debut Down Under without embarrassing ourselves, at home or away. The interview goes out soon and we hope to provide you with a link via this blog.

Turning our talents to teaching whilst learning a little about alliteration

After watching those ‘turn your talents to teaching’ adverts on the telly, we were looking forward to inspiring the next generation of creative artists at our first schools’ session. We thought we were prepared. We have lectured at universities across the country and we currently run an interior architecture course at London Met. It must be a similar experience, right? There’s only a few years difference between a Year 9 pupil and a first year degree student. Plus, our Year 9 pupils turned up in grammar school blazers and ties fastened in the correct fashion, big tail showing and all. They even paid attention in class. Kids get such a bad rap these days, but our lot were exceptionally polite (we can get used to being called ‘Sir’).


But forget creased lapels, kippers ties and yes Sir, no Sir, three bags full Sir. Nothing prepared us for the anxiety of overseeing a classroom of teenagers wielding scalpels; a terrifying experience they don’t show you on those misleading TV adverts. The nervous tension of teaching is not worth 35K. In fact, the stress of our first schools’ workshop has helped us to see our white-haired, white-knuckled former schoolteachers in a completely different light. So apologies to Robocop, Dai Scratch, Karel Poborsky et al, we meant you no harm, and we might need to have ‘lasts’ on that Just for Men!

Perhaps we brought it on ourselves. Well behaved or otherwise, we did gather together an army of school kids and armed them to the teeth. What did we expect it to be like?

Next time, we’re going to ask the kids to cut up Play-Doh with a plastic knife and pass it off as a health & safety requirement.

Trust an architect to bring a knife to a design fight

The cream of the London design scene gathered at the V&A on Tuesday evening to take part in the workshop we co-hosted with RIBA. The workshop, entitled ‘Office Futures’, was the second in a series of events for creative practitioners and professionals to discuss and debate the topical issues in their respective industries, a programme the V&A is calling ‘V&A Connects’.


As you should know by now, we believe that the future of the office is in the home but the home is not currently designed to be an office. The typical dwelling is full of distractions, such as the Internet and a lack of supervision, so with that in mind, our aptly named workshop invited participants to design the dual-purpose home of the future.


But first we needed to secure the attentions of our creative professionals. To this end, we broke the lock off the V&A liquor cabinet and handed out the booze at six o’clock. To break the ice into even smaller cubes, we showed a series of irreverent films clips that highlighted a few particular distractions faced by the modern day home worker.

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When the films had finished and the broken ice had melted in the whisky tumblers, we ran through a quick introduction to the workshop and split the large group into smaller groups of six or seven. To create an even contest, each group was made up of a mixture of architects, interior designers, furniture designers, graphic designers, non-denominational designers, university course leaders, academics, and a sprinkling of one or two students from studio 10 at London Met.

The groups were assigned a table, a box of arts & crafts supplies, a cardboard model of a typical home, and a list of characters with various home-working scenarios, such as Richard and Mary, a married couple in their mid-thirties who run a textile design business from the spare room of their three-bedroom house. The workshop brief asked each group to covert the traditional home – represented by the doll’s house-sized model – into a dual-purpose work/live space that addressed the scenario of their chosen characters.

We encouraged the participants to be bold. Rooms and roofs could be hacked to pieces and extensions could be attached to the existing structure. The only rule was that they handed back the booze before we passed around the scalpels and the Stanley knives, and even that rule was circumvented by some Capone-style bootlegging. But who are we to stand in the way of such creativity?

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The designers – carrying a glass of wine in one hand and a scalpel in the other – took a knife to the doll’s house like drunken rural doctors and midway through the workshop the room looked like a giant Art Attack; the perfect moment for various members of the V&A and RIBA to drop in to witness the carnage.


As the workshop drew to a close, more guests arrived for the ‘after-shop’ drinks and the group presentations of the grand designs. We might be accused of being biased, but the presentation highlight had to be aberrant’s very own Petr Esporito delivering his used car salesman shtick.


A large majority of the participants continued the architectural debate at a local pub, so the evening of ‘discussion, networking and inspiration’ might just have lived up to the V&A’s billing.


Okay, so we’ve not quite earned the hyperbole of a Take That concert selling out Wembley Arena five times over, but we have been asked to repeat the Office Futures workshop next week. This Tuesday we’ll be delivering a pre-watershed version of the workshop to students from Brighton University and London Met. That means we will have to cut out the dodgy film clips and put a lock on the booze cabinet, but at least the students will get to play with plastic knives and Play-Doh.


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