SuperStudio, ever heard of it? It’s a nation-wide 24hr design competition ran by SONA in Australia. The brief is kept a secret until it is released nation-wide at the same time, in which the participants only have 24hrs to address and come up with a solution. SuperStudio is about ideas, they don’t look for realistic renders or a section that typically takes weeks to develop, but more about the idea behind the scheme. Last year I hosted SuperStudio at Deakin University, this year it was hosted at Monash University, so I took a half-day at work on Friday so I could shop for supplies, then jumped on the train to make my way to Caulfield.
Arriving at Monash, I was relieved to be able to drop my bags down, given that I packed a sleeping bag, blanket, Red Bull, clothing and the like. After registering for the event and grabbing a seat, WoodSolutions gave a brief talk about their website, the benefits of timber and their design competition they will be running soon. Michael Smith, a Melbourne architect from Atelier Red +Black and blogger at The Red and Black Architect, then spoke about the 24hr studio culture at university, making some rather interesting points. He asked the room of students if universities should provide 24hr access, in which 90% raised their hands. He then asked, should we be required to work all night, maybe one hand was raised. He talked about the ‘myths’ regarding architecture such as “The best designer is the one who spends the longest in the studio / at your desk” and “If you are not there overnight, you are not committed to architecture” to mention a couple. This whole time I am sitting there with the thought of ‘irony’ going through my mind, given we were about to embark on a 24hr competition which people would be staying up all-night for, but then he produced the slide [above] which he gave his observation of the competition. The key point was, in my mind, “voluntarily working for your own benefit (not for anyone else)”.
After Michael spoke, there was some general housekeeping, and what to do if we heard ‘woop woop woop’ and then it was 7pm. At 7pm, eastern standard time, the brief was released, and we finally got a glimpse of what was ahead of us for the next 24 hours. You can find the brief here [not sure how long it will be up for] but to summarise, we were to look at six selected objects, Phar Lap’s Heart, A windmill in the West by Peter Carey, Convict Love Token, Faith Bandler’s Gloves, Pie Floater and Azaria Chamberlain’s Dress. 4/6 of the objects are on display at the National Museum of Australia, and each object was significant or important, define by the events and people associated with it which have helped shape Australia’s culture. Our task was to take these objects out of the context of the museum and re-insert them in a different context, and explore the narrative that comes from this.
Everyone then broke away into their teams of three, while I waited for my teammate to arrive. I spent this time reading through the brief, and chatting to Micahel and photographer of the event, Daniel Lawson from Prop & Pose Co. Once my teammate arrived, we wanted to help even out the teams so we decided to split up and join separate teams that were also missing a member. I joined forces with two 5th years from University of Melbourne once they arrived from a supermarket shop, and made ourselves known to each other over pizza, free pizza that is! After dinner I moved my stuff to their space, and they told me their ideas.
We spent the best part of 8pm-1am talking to a couple tutors, and dissecting the brief, the objects, and talking about ideas. My two teammates had strong ideas, and quite abstract, something which I am not use to so I just sat there trying to take it all in, process and understand. Around the 10pm-mark I started to really feel the effects of the last few weeks which has consisted of bad sleeping, long hours and minimal days to fully rest, so I was exhausted and ready for bed. Not wanting to turn-in before my group mates even mentioned bed, I tried to focus and offer my thoughts, which was hard as I couldn’t brain at times. 1am rolled around and it appeared to only be a couple teams in the studio space, with many electing to go to bed, or even go off campus to continue working in the comfort of their own home. We called it a night, and I adjourned to the dedicated sleeping space SONA Monash had provided. Tip-toeing in, not wanting to wake the sleeping architecture students (which is a rare sight), I flopped into the bean bag, pull the blanket over and………..
I fell asleep quite quickly, however it wasn’t a restful sleep, waking up numerous times either to the sound of phone alarms or people walking and/or talking. 7am came and those of us remaining in the sleep-room were woken up with the request of campus security, so I sluggishly wandered back to the desk, cracked open a Red Bull and tried to gather my thoughts. Before we left the night before we gave ourselves the task of having 3 concepts that revolved around the idea for the morning, so I spent some of the morning sketching those out while waiting for my teammates to arrive. My teammates arrived, bright-eyed as they had a new idea which they were very excited about. They were more excited than a child on raspberry cordial. They were more excited than a kid on Christmas morning… They were more excited than an architecture student handing in their final submission.
Their idea? A heist! We would plan to steal the objects from the museum and redistribute to the public as a way of fully liberating these items from the context of a museum. After some crazy ideas that we could do while presenting, we started to develop the idea, with 9 hours remaining. Researching the museum, obtaining plans, looking up classic heist movies and further research into the objects, this was starting to turn into a rather strong idea with some humour to back it up if all-else failed. After some lunch, and cracking another Red Bull, we kept at it, developing blue prints and discussing which method was suited for which object.
As time ticked, we started to develop our collage images and Gumtree ad, along with writing the presentation. The last two hours, which the cruel organisers thought it’d be great to put a count down clock on the projector, was spent in a mad dash in compiling, writing, Photoshopping and working out the logistics of the presentation. Those last couple hours, especially the final hour, EVERYONE was in stress-mode, with organisers helping students, students scrambling to finish and some teams returning to campus. With 30 minutes remaining we did a quick test run of the presentation and the speech a teammate wrote, ensuring what was being said matched with the slides and vice-versus. Some minor touch ups we put the compressed 9.2mb presentation the provided Wood Solutions usb and submitted.
The competition officially ended at 7pm, and by my observations, everyone submitted before closing time. You could feel the sense of relief in the room, and see the tiredness in the faces of many students, including my own. A much welcomed [and needed] Nandos dinner was served, then we all gathered for a brief message and were introduced to our judges. Due to an amazing response of students this year, the studio was split in two, and the teams and judges were split in half. We were second-last in our pool, so we spent the time watching a couple presentations, printing our speech and working out who would be saying what.
Group 34 was called up, and we gave our dramatic presentation, complete with live drawing on the whiteboard. While a serious idea was presented at the started, we then injected the humour and drama in our heist plan and ended with some strong points. A juror asked the question, “If you were proceed to the next stage, how would you get your idea across as the live presentation seems critical?” [paraphrased]. It was a tough question but we weren’t thinking too much about that. We sat back down, relieved that it was over, and the final group presented. Afterwards the jurors went off to discuss among themselves, and choose 4 winners.
The four winners [determined by the number of architecture schools in the state] will have 10 days to further refine their idea to submit for the second stage. The major prize of this second stage is return flights and a ticket to the Venice Biennale, for free, for all three team members. A huge prize for the national winners! Locally, the prizes up for grabs for each place were some amazing architecture books and monograms including ARM, Shop Architects, BIG and Glenn Murcutt to name a couple.
The jurors returned, and the coordinator for SuperStudio, Nick Silagy [his Instagram is here] gave his closing with thanking everybody who entered and assisted with SuperStudio, with over 100 people involved. Justine Clark, a juror and from Parlour, announced the winners, with a juror summing up why their project was chosen. Surprisingly our project, ‘The Heist’ came second, so we have the task of refining it for the next stage. Peter Malatt, Victorian AIA President and director at Six Degrees Architects, gave a few words, and to close the event, Prop & Pose Co. [Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, website and will be sharing their photos of the event when available] took a group photo, and that was it. We had a quick “team meeting” to discuss what days we are available to refine our project, then decided let’s worry about that after some rest!
Having a quick chat to Justine about Parlour, I tidied up my space in the studio, packed my bags and made my way to the train station. I caught the 12:10am train from Southern Cross, arriving in Geelong at 1:10am (with a bit of a nap on the way). Crashing in my bed, I ensured all alarms on my phone were switched off as I was looking forward to some shut eye. And that was SuperStudio 2015, it was intense but highly rewarding, these events really push you in generating ideas but also your own personal ability where you start of having a blank sheet of paper with no idea what was ahead. 24 hours later you have a presentation with images, plans, sections, videos, models, whatever it may be, with a strong architectural idea. Everyone who entered would have a great project to put in their portfolio, and valuable experience in working in a team environment with a short deadline. It was encouraging to not see many students stay up all-night, reinforcing the idea that you don’t need to be up for crazy hours to do a project.
All-in-all, a great 24 hours, and congratulations to the finalists (from around the country!)! Not just the finalists, but every student who entered as it is an intense competition and completing it is a great accomplishment on its own. Thank you to the tutors and jurors who gave up their Friday nights, Saturdays and Saturday nights, us students thank you and admire your commitment to the architectural industry. A thank you to the sponsors for the prizes and food, but a big congratulations and thank you to each state coordinator and EVERYONE who assisted in organising each state SuperStudio. These events aren’t organised by one person, and as a previous state coordinator, even the simple act [in your mind] of moving chairs around or going down to the supermarket to get soft drink, is a major help! Lastly, big thank you to SONA and the Australian Institute of Architects!
Be sure to check out #SuperStudio, #SuperStudio2015 and #SONAMindTheGap on social media (Instagram, Facebook + Twitter) to see what was photographed, posted and tweeted. And hope to see you all at #SuperStudio2016! [yes I’m starting this hashtag already!]