This blog charts the development of a collaborative dissertation undertaken by Cillian Briody, Matthew Mullin, and David O’Mahony. UCD Architecture M.Arch II 14/15.
Our most sincere thanks go to our tutor, Stephen Mulhall. We thank him for introducing us to the wonders and frustrations of exhibition research and design. We thank him for his guidance, encouragement and support during the development of this work. He has taught us a lot about collaborative practice, methods of working and architecture + film.
We are also indebted to Professor Hugh Campbell for his continued insights, suggestions and support.
Especially, we thank our critics Donald Taylor Black, Gerry Cahill, Philip Crowe, Anne O’Leary, Matt Skinner, Logan Sisley, John Tuomey and Brian Ward, for their constructive feedback throughout the development of this project that greatly encouraged progression.
We want to express sincere gratitude to Seamus Hogan, City Assembly House Event Administrator. We thank him for his guidance, perseverance and wisdom during the development of this work and most notably during the installation phase in the exhibition space.
We are also indebted to Kevin O’Brien and Ed White for their production help in the final stages of the exhibition realisation.
We thank the UCD Library Special Collections, Digital Initiatives and Research Services for their help, and generosity. Especially, we thank Julia Barrett, Audrey Drohan, Evelyn Flanagan and Eugene Roche.
Special thanks are due to the National Film School, Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology for their collaboration throughout this project. We thank our collaborators Finbarr Crotty, Aran Hennessy and Niamh MacNamara.
We also want to thank Stephen Russell, UCD Building Lab Technician for his support during the installation phase.
We thank Rachel Farrell, IADT Marketing Director, for her help in publicising the exhibition.
We want to express our sincere gratitude to Cillian’s parents Thomas and Patsy, for their hospitality, encouragement and support throughout the construction phase in Cavan. We are indebted to them for their help and kindness.
We also want to thank our friends for their encouragement and interest throughout the process. Special thanks are due to Marc Golden, Nicky Rackard and Cian Tarrant for their logistical help during the installation phase.
Finally, we would like to express our eternal gratitude to our parents and siblings for their continued support throughout the project.
City, Assembled was a fascinating journey of learning. It was demanding, gratifying, engaging and will remain a treasured invaluable learning experience and opportunity for each one of us. It is stimulating to reflect on where the exhibition began in September last year to then consider the realisation of it 5 months later. From the outset, we as three students, had never undertook a project of this scale on our own direction let alone fathom an approach to collectively do it. In order to reflect succinctly we will explore it under two headings; construction, collaboration.
The process of design and construction was deeply rooted in the evolution of the exhibition. Not only were we always thinking about the curated material, but along with this came the notions of how to display it, hang it, hold it, fix it. Intrigued by the evolution of panoramas and optical devices through the centuries we began our process with precedent research into the structure conceived to construe these immersive environments to the spectator. The Mesdag and Thun became prime examples for a constructive approach to so called stage sets. Exploring various materials and methods of construction we arrived at the decision of using timber due to our experience of how to work timber and the resources available to us. The moving panorama was the heart of this exhibition and from the beginning we understood that it was what needed the most attention and creativity in order to develop it to a stage that we were comfortable with. Along with this came the need to work at 1:1 due to the nature of projection and the requirement for testing. This afforded rapid progression in the design of the structure as we had the ability to test and experiment at full scale on a quarter of the panorama. From our initial mock-up in the building lab we began to understand dimension and scale more appropriately due to the tactility of the structure; fixing, cutting, replacing, removing until we achieved an appropriateness to the construction. In tandem with the 1:1 testing we moved back and forward between scale drawings and models, yet all the decisions where made on the basis of the testing at 1:1. This was a fantastic opportunity for us as students to gain the practical experience of constructing at scale. We learnt about the joining of timber, tested the structural limits of the material, gained understanding into best practices of application and the capabilities of such a material. Reflecting, it was an invaluable and completely invigorating way to work and develop the construction of this project. Due to our nature as architecture students it was hard to peel us away from the design of the structure and display methods, and with the opportunity to work between all scales we were afforded a greater degree of testing than is common place in architecture schools. With the construction of the final structure and components for the exhibition, we renewed and developed our skills of working with timber. From the construction process we gained experience in the procurement and tendering of materials and developed management skills to ensure we had access to all the required materials at the times when we would need them. One thing that we learnt very quickly about was the value of jigs to increase production speed and accuracy. Also, we believe that working together as a group was hugely beneficial to the development of our teamwork skills. University is a particularly individualised realm yet architectural practice is rarely of this manner. What we developed most prominently was communication skills.
Film became our major medium and thus a collaboration developed with the National Film School, Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology to encourage development in the technical aspects surrounding the moving panorama installation and shooting of the archival material. The process began with an assessment of the archival material pertaining to the 1914 Civic Exhibition and Town Planning Competition. These materials were examined throughly and documented as to their relevance, potential use or method of presentation. One of the main archival records available to us was C.R Ashbee’s book ‘The New Dublin, A Study in Civics’ held by UCD Library Special Collections. This presented its own challenges as we nor the IADT students had portrayed a book through film before. With some research on video precedents of books we compiled a list of shot types and examples for the various types of materials that we considered relevant in the book. It was intended that all these shots be taken within a morning of filming to ensure consistent light levels however due to time management and equipment issues this was not achievable, thus a return was necessary. With similar problems on the return we lost quite a number of intended shots to portray the book in its best light, yet it was necessary to find the best combination of the shot footage to complete the video. Due to the two day shooting and mixed footage the period for editing and post-production became prolonged and enduring. Reflecting on this element we feel that outcome does not reflect the potential, however in saying this we are still pleased by the output. This was our first cross-discipline collaboration, and we found it somewhat difficult to develop an mutual attitude towards the process and output. What we learnt was that collaboration is difficult at best, however it takes both sides to attain a level of common motivation to make everything work. The main aspect of the collaboration was the development of the technical issues surrounding the moving panorama. Working together with the IADT students we began to work up tests on the 1:1 mock-up that we built in the building lab. This provided its own difficulties as we did not have access to the projector that would be used in the exhibition as it was yet to be found. With the development of the panorama we began to understand the intricacies of the beast and the utmost care needed in the precision of the execution to ensure a constant, seamless output. From the initial test we learned the particular aspects of the filming and projection necessary to be understood at greater detail. With all the trials and tests that could be done with the initial footage it was now required that we shoot the final footage due to fading daylight hours necessary to photograph the panorama as the photograph and filming had to happen on the same day. On a screen the shot footage appeared to be fine, however once this was blown up by the projector onto the full scale screen, it was evident that there was substantial problems of alignment. Reflecting on the filming process, we believe that to diminish any of the alignment error which may have been caused by wind or the relocation of the tripod between photographing and filming that it was necessary that we have built some form of contraption to ensure that the camera remained in the exact same location. We did our very best to achieve this by way of a detailed survey of the location of the camera however reflecting, even 1mm difference at that scale would be quite exaggerated at the projected scale. With the issues arising in the overlay of the filming and photography, time constraints limited the input from the IADT students due to academic commitments thus we felt it necessary to take control of the video and manage the problem directly with the help of Ed White, a fourth year student with some experience in film editing. As a result we resolved the problems with an abundance of post production and trial and error. The satisfactory outputs only downfall was the need for it to be re-aligned ever 30 minutes. Yet in hindsight we believe this to be unavoidable due to the collective inexperience in such an obscure method of projection and the resources available to us. Reflecting on the collaboration, yes it was extremely difficult due to the different motivations as unfortunately IADT was not willing to provide their students with any academic credits for their learning and experience, thus it was difficult to fathom an approach of learning skills from each other, which was the intention of this collaboration.
From conception to completion we are astounded with the outcome we have achieved with this exhibition. Through writings, research and practical application we firmly believe that this dissertation has been one of the richest learning experiences that we have undertook in our studies. The knowledge and skills gained from this alternative method will certainly stand to us in the future. We are indebted to everyone that has helped us along this journey and we are forever grateful to them. Even with its downfalls at certain stages of the process we are aware that we have learnt more from these than if they didn’t arise, they became obstacles that we navigated, through a process of learning and application of the newly found skills.
Exhibiting for 14 days, City, Assembled received 517 visitors. Overall it was clear that patterns of flux could be identified in projected numbers for each day. Comparing the two weeks, figures for the same day were relatively similar, early week being quiet, Wednesday and Thursday with a high possibility of large numbers, Friday relatively quiet and again a high chance of large attendance at the weekend.
The feedback that we received was very positive. On the opening night we received a number of kind comments from guests, friends, tutors and colleagues commending the work and effort of the resultant exhibition. Along with the verbal comments made, the 4th year students that invigilated our exhibition wrote a piece on their individual experience of the exhibition and a critique of it, which can be found here.
Taking everything apart is always faster than the precision of assembly. With the strict dis-assembly time frame we began with the process just as the exhibition closed on the final night. First the iPads, motor and projector were removed and stored safely. Next on the agenda was the removal and rolling of the screen. in our previous attempts to remove and roll up the screen in Cavan, we took the approach of rolling the screen vertical as we moved around removing the fixings. This method worked to a degree however we unable to get a tight consistent roll due to the awkwardness and heaviness of the role in a vertical position. Thus we changed our method this time around as we were aware that the screen needed to be neatly demounted as it will be stored for a substantial length of time. With the dexterity of the pvc material of the screen we decided to remove the screen in one go to the floor and from there we manoeuvred it to enable us to roll it up on the floor allowing a tighter, more even roll in order to preserve the material without creases if it is to be ever used again.
With the screen out of the way we then began to disconnect all the wiring to enable the removal of the band of light boxes and iPad holders around the perimeter of the structure. While disconnecting these we also took the time to label everything if the exhibition was to ever be reconstructed. Next up was the removal of the band on the exterior. Once all this had been completed we loaded everything into the van and caught some rest.
With an early start we were able to have completed disassembled the structure in a few hours. As we deconstructed each L of the structure we moved them downstairs to be stored, freeing up room in the exhibition space. The final piece to be taken down was the steel centre, alas it was done.
With everything in part form again we began to organise the timbers and duck tape them together to prevent warping and twisting during their storage. We then began to load all the materials into the van trying our best to maximise the space usage. With everything aboard we set off for Richview, the exhibitions final destination. Having consulted with Michael Murphy in the Building Lab we found a suitable location in the school to store all the exhibition material for future use.
As a result of our endeavours to market the exhibition we gained a large amount of publicity through various institutions and publishing houses. This publicity came mostly as a result of the press kit being sent to the various administrators/ editors of the subsequent platforms. The first ‘plug’ came from Philip Crowe who was involved in an article focusing on Geddes and the 1914 Civic Exhibition written by Frank McDonald in the Irish Times. The rest of the listings came by way of the press kit except for Pivot Dublin, who approached us about the opportunity to develop content for their website. This was hugely exciting and encouraging for us that there was interest in the exhibition. A number of the publicity features can be seen below, along with links to their direct site. Irish Times article by Frank McDonald Decade of Centenaries Event Listing Architecture Ireland Event Listing Visual Artists Ireland Event Listing Irish Architecture Foundation Event Listing Pivot Dublin Blog Post Pivot Dublin Event Listing Irish Design 2015 Event Listing
Within the digital society we now live, digital marketing is an extremely cheap, effective and fast method to broadcast to a large audience at a finger tip. We decided to target the two major online platforms Facebook and Twitter to market our exhibition. Along with the print design material, Kevin and Ed developed content for the online marketing. Once everything was set-up and running we approached contacts that we understood to have a large audience on these platforms in hope that they would advertise on their network to increase the catchment audience.
With these platforms, it enabled us to provide updates and reveal some teasers of the exhibition during the installation due to their virtual nature.
The Facebook page received 172 likes since it was created. According to Facebook data, our posts reached 3,310 peoples newsfeed. A breakdown of post reach and activity can be seen in the chart below.
The Twitter page received 124 follows since it was created, while receiving many retweets and favourites.