IT’S JUST OVER three months since we left our Marylebone studios and Fabrication Laboratory and began to work from home. What our School’s students have done since then has been extraordinary, and OPEN2020 is testament to their endeavour and creative achievement. In any year, the final months of putting a portfolio together for submission are gruelling, but it is usually a collegiate experience, undertaken with the immediate social and intellectual support of student peers. This year, our students did it virtually alone. Our staff have been equally remarkable, moving an entire school online in a matter of weeks, and shaping an engaging online educational environment of tutorials, seminars, reviews and lectures that have kept our community of learning alive.
Despite the closure of our Marylebone campus, the School was determined to put OPEN on to celebrate all this, and, in particular, give our graduating students a suitable finale to their studies. Usually, OPEN has been a collective effort, with students and staff transforming our studios into an exhibition, and with each year building on past shows. This year for our first Virtual-OPEN we had to start from scratch, and the show is the achievement of David Scott, François Girardin, Florian Koenig and the Fabrication Lab team who designed and built the platform and the exhibition, and who have enabled our students’ conceptions and display of exhibition material. Many thanks to you, as well as to Daniel Scroggins who coordinated OPEN’s organisation, and to Clare Hamman who has collated, edited and designed our Catalogue and made the OPEN film with the stoic assistance of Elliot Smith – all remotely.
The last few months have been remarkably difficult, but they have also been revelatory in considering our future. Firstly, it is possible to cope and thrive with ‘normal’ suspended. As a School we have experienced an evolutionary jump in our digital capabilities and have had to helpfully (if exhaustingly) rethink our pedagogies, while this Virtual-OPEN has given us a reach, and an environment, that we have never had before. More broadly, the crisis has shown it is possible to suspend assumptions, habits – and an entire economic system and its implicit judgements about social worth and environmental value. The challenge is to hold on to the things we’ve learnt. It is a time to experiment as never before, and to understand that new ways of doing things are not only possible, but critical to addressing the crises we have inflicted on ourselves and on our home – our conditions of existence. The School’s commitment to resilient and strategic design, ethical and crossdisciplinary practice, inclusive and environmentally responsive place-making, low-carbon and innovative building, and rigorous research and testing, have never been more important, and we will continue to develop these in our architectural work with ever greater intensity and generosity in the coming decade. The projects in OPEN2020 point a way.
Please enjoy the show.
Head of the School of Architecture + Cities