Can a stress-measuring device improve our understanding of the urban environment? Can the architecture of small forms activate urban spaces? Strelka graduates speak about their participation in the “Sochi Peshkom” (English: ´Sochi on foot´) project and new approaches to urban research.
Taya Osipova, project manager
The summer school was the main event of the project. It lasted the whole of July and each week had its own particular theme. Students were introduced to the understanding of the city as a process; they learnt how to initiate different processes in the city and how to create the spaces needed for this, and they came to grips with issues involving the activation of urban spaces. We chose a particular area in the city and negotiated its use with the landowner. A Nineteenth Century fortress once stood there, from which the city then grew. Nowadays, there’s only one dilapidated wall left, citizens pass it by every day and are completely unaware of its importance in the city’s history. There is an “Anchor and Cannon” monument nearby to commemorate the founding of Sochi.
In the first two weeks, the students carried out a site analysis and came up with a development strategy. During the next fortnight, they created a public space: a stage in the shape of the old fort which they used as a space to exhibit pictures of old Sochi and student projects. The summer school participants also used some stairs nearby and wrote important dates in the city history there.
Studying at Strelka helped me a lot in these projects. Before, I wouldn’t have had the courage to engage in this kind of thing.
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Arthur Shakhbazyan, tutor
I participated in the summer school as a tutor and joint-leader of the last two-week programme that was focused more on practice. The goal was to create a physical object that would represent our strategy. The idea was to create a little public space, reminding people of the city’s history.
Our experiment went well and resulted in a practical outcome. The methods that we used were quite new to the summer school participants. First of all, it involved fieldwork, interviews with locals, project-based learning and strategy development. It prompted a change in the students’ approach to project development, and that was its main result. They came to understand the importance of having a social knowledge base, and what exactly is implied by phase planning. I am confident that this will have played a role in increasing their professional skills.
Victor Karovsky, tutor
I came for the last two weeks (when the analytical part of the school was over) to supervise the construction process. We had two objects to implement: the stairway and the wooden stage in the shape of the fort – all with the purpose to attract citizens´attention to this symbolically important site - the place where the city was born.
Once the summer school participants had painted the stairs, many passers by did indeed stop to have a look and read the dates.
We didn’t hire anyone and constructed everything by ourselves. The students learnt a great deal in the process, exchanging skills with each other.
I’ve learnt a lot at Strelka. It´s hard to fully appreciate the skills you pick up while learning, but later on they begin to appear automatically in your work and it is then that you start to recognize their value. That is what I call real learning.
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Gulnaz Aksenova, tutor
I conducted two workshops at “Sochi - Peshkom”.
The first one was based on research I did at Strelka. Together with Arthur we built a device that could measure stress levels. I divided the participants into small groups, each one provided with such a device. I then sent them out to have a walk around and write down everything that happened to them. When we create maps and analyse the urban environment, we usually take into account the static objects: trees and pathways, but we lose sight of a complex of other external factors - the smells, feelings and many other things that our bodies react to. I asked the students to experiment while walking around in Sochi so they would understand which elements of the urban environment have an influence on them. Students made maps marking the sites where their stress levels increased and where it decreased. The main goal of the workshop was to engage the students into the process of understanding the city, the people around them and, of course, themselves. It was great, their eyes gleamed!
The second workshop was called “Augmented Reality for Architectural Visualization”. The recent appearance of the new “augmented reality” technology has great potential as a tool for architectural models visualization. We can work with this technology in the studio and look through the video camera, put the image into the program and see it as a 3D model.
When students returned from their walks, we discussed together what they had discovered and if they had learnt something new. I can say that I’ve used several techniques taken from the Strelka education programme. These were my first two workshops and Strelka gave me confidence and experience. I got a lot of feedback from students. It was something new to them, a kind of broadening of their worldview.