Architecture: Sweeten the pill with a little dose of pop
The young seem less interested in buildings. Student numbers on architectural courses are falling. So how do we catch the MTV generation?
Monday 20 September 1999
The project, which opened yesterday at the start of London Open House, revolves around the disc jockey Robin Allinson's compilation of five tracks to match five modern locations. It brought a group of 16-to 18-year- olds to the five buildings and asked them to listen to a tape of Allinson's compilation. They were urged to see, hear and feel both the architecture and the energy and rhythm of each place.
The teenagers were also asked to match one of the five Sound Space tracks to each of the locations and give reasons for their choices. The winner receives a night out with the disc jockey Paul Oakenfold, who says that Sound Space is "a brilliant way to get into music and architecture".
Such initiatives are important. This year's entry numbers for architectural courses are way down, fewer students graduate each year, and visual appreciation of modern buildings is not even on the curriculum. The design consultants Imagination sponsored Sound Space, not simply to boost Ucas listings but to get lively youngsters interested in static buildings and see them as hothouses for ideas. It stumped up pounds 20,000 to promote the event as part of London Open House. Participants received the free tape and special coaches were laid on to take them to each of the separate locations. It is hoped that the day will inspire the students to participate in a second stage, dubbed Packaging Space.
The five locations were: Imagination building, by Ron Heron; Channel 4's headquarters and his home, by Richard Rogers; The Ark office block, by Ralph Erskine; and Richard Paxton's and Heidi Locher's house in Clerkenwell. Precipitous walkways by Ron Heron, under the glass atrium of the Imagination office, rang to the beat of Brandy and Coke's dance hit "Sitting on Top of the World". Channel 4's headquarters, by Richard Rogers, was matched with the robotic beat of "Original Control" by Meat Beat Manifesto, and the bulbous brown-glass Ark - which noses over the Hammersmith flyover and has hardly any straight walls - was matched with LTJ Bukem's constantly changing tempo.
But this musical introduction to architecture is not supposed to be like listening to Peter and the Wolf at primary school. As with so many things aimed at the MTV generation, Sound Space, just like using the Internet, is an essentially solitary experience - participants are insulated by their headphones.
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