Thursday, March 4, 2010

Positive attitudes

Michel Rojkind's Emerging Voices lecture tonight was uplifting. I can't say every single project he showed was fantastic. But it was the passion and the energy at the lecture that were refreshing. I saw again in the young generation of architects a cheerful and positive way of thinking, as I saw before in Bjake Ingels and Minsuk Cho. I started to think, what exactly are those positive attitudes that inspired me? Here, to list a few:

1. Up for the challenge.
One of the many interesting stories Michel told at the lecture was about the Nestlé Chocolate Museum. Nestlé called him one day and said, there was good news and bad news. Good news was they got the project. Bad news was, they had to get it done in two and a half months. Michel was all excited - "Yeah, no problem! We will call up all our friends and deliver the drawings in two and a half months!" Then the client said, no, two and a half months to finish construction. Crap! Better run away... But Michel was up for the challenge. They worked three 8-hour shifts (not two 12-hour ones) and made a lot of decisions on site. The building opened 2.5 months later.

Talking about Mexico, he said, "Some people complain about where they are from, whining about how fancy things can never be realized in their hometowns. But I love working in Mexico." Michel likes to experiment with digital design, but also wants to get things built locally. Construction techniques may be limited, but he went out to find local manufacturers who can do the job. For example, he hired auto repair workers to do the metal work for the PR34 house.

2. Never say "No" right away.
Here is another story about Nestlé. The client called again and said, "Hey, we are going to build another new facility. Are you interested? But you may not like it this time because you have to build arches. It's in a heritage site." "No no no, we love arches!" In fact, he doesn't. But he managed to pick up something undesirable, reinterpret, and perversely turn it into gold. Pseudoclassic arches became a series of intersected spherical excavations we see in Nestlé Application Group Querétaro.

3. Embrace collaboration.
Maybe it's the spirit of the tight-knit Mexican society, Michel believes in collaboration. Architecture is not a one-man show. "Everybody is working with everybody." You need consultants for your own projects since you can't possibly know every advanced aspect of building construction. And you would team up with other architects for design efforts as well, like Michel did in the Museo Tamayo competition with Bjarke Ingels.

4. Learn from mistakes.
Sometimes improper collaboration could be a disaster. Michel was invited by Ma Yansong and participated in the Huaxi project. It was an amazing collection of young architects. "We all wanted to do something together. But I don't know if we did it the right way." He admitted the result was not very appealing. But the good news is, since he realized that, he would learn from it. Constant denial of failures only leads to a blind self-indulgence. Every baby falls when he/she learns how to walk.

5. Think young.
Michel said, "I still feel like a boy and keep asking why about many things." To satisfy the curiosity and the desire to keep thinking, he and three other friends from different disciplines came together and formed AGENT, a "strategic intelligence embassy." To give an example, he showed their first project: CTRUS - the first transparent soccer ball. It has GPS/RFID and mechanical sensors, so it can locate itself and record kick force and travel speed. It changes color at critical situations such as goal, offside and out of bounds. Make sure you watch the video - it's cool!

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