Alliteration aside, Poland and Plymouth are worlds apart, making the collaboration between students on the Master of Architecture course at the University of Plymouth and those from Gdańsk Technical University rather intriguing.
Back in October, Plymouth students went on a 10 day field trip to Gdańsk, and worked with students and staff from Gdańsk Technical University. The Radical Architecture exhibition which opens in London this evening will display the results of this collaboration, exploring the consequences of the construction of new major transport route, connecting airport and the port in Gdansk, Poland.
It’s hoped that the exhibition will spark debate and discussion about the active role of architecture in social and political changes, as well as having opened students’ eyes to new and different working methods.
Bob Brown, Head of Architecture and Master of Architecture Design Studio at University of Plymouth, says, ‘It’s very good for learning development to be put in a terra incognita.
‘Some of the ways of working and existing ideas [students] have are challenged in a different cultural context – they can engage with new things and re-examine existing pre-conceptions.’
On the trip, students became involved in a project in Gdańsk to build a roadway, which is finally going ahead after 30 years in the pipeline. Plymouth students worked with those from Gdańsk Technical University, undertaking workshops and discussions which highlighted the two countries’ very different working practices.
Brown explains, ‘The nature of our project work is approached in an open ended way, where we literally show up on the site not knowing what the students might do. In Poland, students are told “this is the project, this is the site” – with ours, we just look at a length of road and say, “where do I start?”
‘It really forces our students to act quite critically to make decisions on things that have no clear and easy answer. They have to carry out investigations about the site that are grounded in a lot of theory and engage with the political issues in Gdańsk.’
He adds, ‘[Trips like this] open up a willingness to reconsider received paradigms or models. Going to other countries, they’re finding that the way they’re working doesn’t always apply – they look at things and call into question the way they’re working.’
Radical Architecture? Gdańsk / Plymouth 2011 runs from 13 – 18 June at Miule End Art Pavilion, London E9. The Debate Is Radical Architecture Possible? takes place at 4pm on 13 June.