Superstudio is a two-day national student competition of which students are asked to respond to the brief released nationwide at 9am on Saturday and to submit presentation by 5pm on Sunday. Unlike studio projects at universities, this competition allows students to come up with any form of design – could be speculative, narrative-based or realistic, etc. This year’s Superstudio was held at Monash University on 22-23 September and the theme was Breathing Space.
The brief asked students to design ’a new typology that supports student life, and emphasises student wellbeing’. The two-page brief provided enough space for individual teams to take it to any design directions.
My team started unpacking the brief by discussing our personal experiences with consciousness. As the brief mentioned about being aware of breath, could we be conscious of space we occupy? I was reminded of the idea of active observation of the space; while I spend a large amount of time on campus, how many times did I notice the shape of window overhangs of Babel building? How often have I looked up the MSD building to see the different density of perforation on the shading? The lack of full attention to the surroundings may be caused by the internalised thoughts, music through earphones or/and staring at phones. Is it a healthy thing? Can we bridge one’s inner world and the outer world by the shift of attention from inside to outside of the mind?
After the discussion, we decided to focus on the design that aims to remind students to be more aware of their environment, which contributes to the improvement of the mental and physiological well-being of the students.
Here is the final presentation script:
We inhabit space all the time. Whether it is inside a building or out under the sky, we occupy space. But how often are we aware of the surroundings?
From the idea of breathing, we explored the notion of awareness in the space.
As university students, our everyday life consists of moving from one place to the other. We walk from a lecture theatre to a design studio, a tutorial class to a library. Also, as we spend a long time on the campus, we start to pay less attention to the surroundings. We found a great potential in the space we occupy on the way to the next class, and the time until the next class.
We started the design process by thinking about how we can remind students to be more aware of the space they occupy. Not the moment they rest, but the space for individuals and collective that awakens them to have a new perspective. We explored the idea of having private spaces within a large public space. We began with partitions that produce fluid circulation as well as nooks for privacy. We developed it to the strip form that has vertical and horizontal surfaces.
The strip is made of materials with different degrees of transparency and tactile qualities, such as bubble wrap, frosted glass, transparent corflute and mesh. These materials provide a sense of visual connectivity between spaces while portraying the other sides as altered images due to their materiality.
We employ wind as a means that keeps the pavilion an ever-changing form; Winds is visualised through the movement of physical elements. Winds move individual suspended metallic strips, which gives a sense of movement, air and lightness, and create a rhythm in the space.
This is a typology that can be applied in any in-between spaces and can be expanded for different scales.
On Caulfield campus, we selected two areas and analysed their circulation paths to design the adaptation of the typology.
And these are two examples of adapting the typology in two different areas (refer to the slide).
This in-between space offers different spatial perceptions depending on the weather, the winds and points of view. Whether for walking to the next class, reading books, having a cup of coffee or chilling out after the intense design presentation, this design intervention helps students become more aware of the space they occupy.
Just like last year, I worked with two students who I never have had met before: one unimelb Master student and Monash student who completed Bachelor degree last year. What I like about Superstudio is the opportunity to meet people who have different perspectives and design approaches. Of course, that means I need to be more patient and respectful of other people’s ideas to be able to find the intersections of the individuals’ ideas. We had a heated debate and some conflicts of strong concepts, so I was relieved to be able to complete and submit work on time.
What was different from last year, is that I knew more people involved in the competition; there were many friends from unimelb who I knew and a number of SONA reps who I admire and enjoy talking with. I also caught up with a friend from Ask an Architect event who presented such a unique and outstanding work and made new friends who I’d love to stay in touch. It is the experience of appreciating other students’ presentations produced from the single brief and taking most out of the opportunity.