Transforming the nature of Architecture degree shows – How WSA Student Show 21′ evolved into a student-led exhibition

Belief, bravery, confidence and four months of our life – that is what we committed ourselves to be able to make this year’s student show. We all shared the hope to be making something different. To reshape the student culture of this country. To take on a role to reform the way our work and ourselves are exhibited in front of our profession.

Only just finishing my second your in Architecture, I have jumped into the conversation in-between mostly graduate (both third and fifth years) alongside the staff members on how can we learn from the last year’s experience and create something bigger.

The WSA Student Show 2020 was okay. Our work was presented in a professional way; although, limited the possibilities for students to show their projects, there was a lack of consistency and commitment of the school (not to even mention the lack of engagement on part of the students – it was COVID hitting in then, there was not much we could do about that). Being a first year then, I was trying to follow the hectic nature of making the show not understanding the rush, quick decisions that needed to be made. (Of which, we were not asked to be sharing our views on.)

Entering the scenery left at the mid summer in the middle of May, we wanted a difference in the way we are represented. We had ideas. We were willing to take on the responsibility and reform the way degree shows are made.

Having an experience in curation from my first year studies, I have been smoothly taking on the leadership of the role. It was quite of a commitment that I was not aware of from the start making me work around 400 hours within a three months of time. The work was not only hard to be leading because of the pressure of different teams to be working with. I was given a leadership over a role where I was almost the youngest one. The workload constantly increased and I slowly became part of many roles (graphic, social media, 3d exhibition, yearbook, sometimes even the events) which I did not have any experience in.

As the rest of the core team, I wanted a change. I wanted the school that has already given me much possibilities to be reaching to higher levels. Working towards a community of students and closely to individuals with diverse interests and ambitions made me become confident. I became a year chair myself.

The process of becoming one of the leading forces of the exhibition, shows the possibility for growth not only professionally and academically, but very much personally as well. Being mentored (without being called as a mentee) by the graduates, I could understand the processes needed to be involved in making. I could gain experience in the profession I am leading towards to. Coordinating with the team, and my team, constantly seeking for answers and help from the school, while in conversation with those whose works are exhibited, the students.

Probably the most hectic months of my life have been these last few but looking back, I would not change my commitment, at all. The experience has been very valuable. That is something which is very much missing from the ways architecture schools work.

Our show can truly be an example to many schools in the possibility to giving the platform to the students to make their ideas reality. It is interesting to see how architecture schools leave a such distance from the profession. There is a division that needs to be addressed. Such opportunity as making a student-led show is making this step. And we, the students of the Welsh School of Architecture certainly moved forward.

We were in touch with firms to fund our expenses. We were in close touch with practitioners to be coming in as speakers to our events. We were working with web designers to help us translate our ideas into reality. We were coordinating social media, yearbook, events, sponsorship, curation, 3d exhibition, awards, graphic design at the same time. Neither of us have been trained to do that. All of us had experience in certain fields. We were learning by doing. By making mistakes. Mistakes that we are constantly encouraged to make by the school.

That is not to say to be giving leadership to the inexperienced. Possibilities need to be let for those who have ideas and not being afraid of their mistakes. There is always place to be making mistakes.

I am very glad that I could work closely with some inspiring, motivated individuals on a daily basis. I am excited to see where we can bring this exhibition to. I am hopeful that our show becomes an example to many to be reshaping the way their exhibitions are presented and we can be inspiration for these changes to happen. We, the students of architecture schools are the future of the profession. Let us to be involved, let us to make a change.

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