Over the course of two days, UCD School of Architecture welcomed internationally acclaimed architect duo Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats during their brief stay in Dublin on 21 and 22 February. The two Associate Professors (ETSAB, Barcelona) began their visit with a lecture to both UCD architecture students and the wider public, followed by a one-day intensive workshop, entitled Paper Memories, with final year thesis groups in Richview.
Covering a generous span of work – from their social and public projects in Barcelona, to their two major installations at last year’s Venice Biennale – their lecture, addressed to a full audience, was a lively and charged insight into both their studio and academic projects. While it had the makings of a typical public talk – the introductions, the scene-setting, the run-through of a selection of projects – it profited from the playful fervor for which their architecture has become known. Making use of stop motion animations, demonstrating their unique relationship with offbeat scenographic techniques, and exhibiting a visible energy with which they spoke about their experiences in practice, the lecture proved charming; further evidenced in how interested attendees engaged during the follow-up Q&A.
With discussion weighted towards their public theatre project, Sala Beckett – located centrally, just off Barcelona’s main avenue Avinguda Diagonal – the two guest architects explored the sprightly yet diligent process of converting the dilapidated former social club into an institution for players, guests and other artists; in addition to the process of negotiating the brief to become a kind of spatial performance in itself. It was through the lens of this project that the keen liveliness that permeates their wider portfolio could be seen, as too were the values the studio quite clearly holds dear: honest-to-goodness analogue drawing, the stimulating qualities of experimentation, and the unique importance of the hand. If the lecture was to inform students about what to expect the next day, we were in for a wry diversion from the conventional avenues which we’d normally explore.
And so, the workshop that followed throughout Friday was just that: a break from traditional means of developing projects. Energetic, hands-on, and by their own remark, intense, we got a feel for the vivacity and motion that drives their own work.
As per the brief, students brought along photographs of memories, of experiences, and of the sites in which our projects were based. We were then tasked with creating scenographic models along the lines of those that had been presented the evening prior: multi-layered, somewhat surreal, but grounded in a distinct consideration for intent and purpose.
The flair with which the visiting pair spoke and taught set the tone for the day, with students creating eccentric and unorthodox scenographic scenarios with no less care and attention than would be applied to the more traditional ways of representing work. But this wasn’t eccentricity for eccentricity’s sake. This was a deep, industrious, and more often than not, unconscious dive into the possibilities our projects could explore at this not-quite-nascent yet not-quite-fixed point. What the afternoon had become was a provoked investigation, an opportunity to promote perhaps some of the lesser known elements of our work that had, until then, been sub-textual or simply unlocked.
Initially anticipated as a once-off, it would be no surprise to find the values of the workshop persisting for the remainder of the semester and perhaps beyond; in fact, this was continually encouraged by both Eva and Ricardo at the close of day.
In summatting the workshop on Friday evening, after precise and directed discussion about each final piece, both tutors affirmed the worth in working in such a direct and instinctive way. Vouching for the importance of a hands-on, home-made, intuitive methodology with the most basic of materials, they concluded that there was great purchase to be gained from willful trial and error, and based on the reception and output of the students, their appreciation for serious fun was not lost on us.
About the UCD Masters in Architecture Lecture and Masterclass Series
The UCD Masters in Architecture Lecture and Masterclass Series was established in 2019.
The aim of the series is to enrich and expand the learning experience of final year students at UCD Architecture through participating in a masterclass led by an architect, working and showing leadership in both practice and university settings.
A further aim is to better share and reveal aspects of how such architects frame their practice through teaching and vice versa, using a public lecture at UCD as a means to expand our collective understanding of the ways and means by which architects are educated today.
The series is initiated by Emmett Scanlon at UCD Architecture, is supported by the Dublin Port Company under the Port Perspectives Programme, and is presented in association with the Architectural Association of Ireland.
The next in the series is O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects and their public lecture is on 28 March at 7.30pm. Tickets are free and are available from 1 March on eventbrite.