Architecture student Craig Brown showcased his passion project at the Scott’s End of Year Show*. We spoke to him before the show, where he looked back on his 6 years at RGU and shared more about his work and passion for architecture.
Can you tell us more about the project that you have been working on for your Architecture course?
Right now, I am just concluding a two year-long project where I have been working on an academic library situated on Orkney, in a small fishing community called Finstown. I was looking at designing the space. How would that space be built and how can people move around it, as well as conducting an analysis of different environmental impacts.
This research has progressed to form the basis of my thesis. For example, identifying the main reading room of the library, looking at how people interact, the actual action of studying, and what we need to learn about libraries. Then, I can feed that back into architecture to inform the wider architectural ambition.
How did you come up with this idea?
We all work as part of a unit here. We have three units in the school for Stage 6. There is Unit 1, which is based in Aberdeen and is looking at the King Street area, Unit 2, my unit, situated on Orkney and looking at Finstown, and Unit 3, which is located on South Uist.
When we were looking at Finstown two years ago as a group, we developed a master plan of the little village. Right now it’s tiny, there’s only maybe about 300/400 people living there. So we developed this master plan that looked in-depth at bringing a new research centre to the island. We planned to bring new university campuses, housing, new bars, new infrastructure.
Through that development, we each took a separate functional building within the wider master plan to develop individually. Where I took my project was based on the recognition that an academic library is very much needed when you’re considering postgraduate candidates. I thought it would be a very interesting thing to go into, and was part of the wider brief.
I guess my idea came with the interest in learning how people interact with a space. As we move into a digital age, we have lost grips with libraries. We don’t use them the same way anymore. That opens up the question of how are we learning? That’s where the inspiration came from.
How do you feel about exhibiting your work at the Scott Sutherland End of Year Show?
It’s a big thing. I’m quite nervous. We’re the first year to do it post-Covid, so it’s not something that we’ve experienced before. It’s very difficult to think back on what it used to be like, how big it is, and what is expected.
Even though there’s a lot of pressure to make sure it gets done right, I’m also really excited to showcase the work that I’ve been doing for the past two years. I think it’s an amazing opportunity to curate something in a way that really shows what I’m passionate about.
What does Architecture mean to you?
Architecture means to me the ability to interact with society in ways that we don’t really consider. I think it’s very easy when we think of doctors and nurses to see their impact on society. But what we don’t tend to think about is the architects that are designing the spaces that we use, who are behind the scenes.
Architecture is curating how streets are laid out, how people interact with a space, how big a building is, right down to the minute details. How do you feel when you walk through the doors of a building? That’s really important. Making a home feel safe, making a church feel grand, that’s all expressed through architecture. I think for me the passion comes from understanding that the ability to put pencil on paper and create something that doesn’t exist has a wider impact than what we immediately see.
Knowing that it goes beyond that is definitely something that drives me forward. And that idea drives a lot forward in the industry.
How do you see the industry evolve in the next few years?
Architectural movements tend to be born out of times of crisis. When we look back, we can see that crisis demand that we change how we live as a society, and I think that’s no different for architecture.
I think right now, the climate change emergency and the sustainability drive that’s obviously sweeping the world is going to be the main thing moving forward. We’re already seeing it in the industry. There is a rise of new materials, new manufacturing methods, and even a change in how buildings go together.
I think there is going to be a lot more regulations put into place in the future, which will perhaps in one way limit creativity and limit how we can design. But, at the end of the day, we are doing it for a better future, a better environment. That’s the challenge, to marry the creativity with the practicality and hopefully produce something that’s just as beautiful as it was.
If you could describe your university experience in one word, what would it be?
If I were to sum up the whole experience, I would say: innovative.
Having an undergraduate degree here and now doing my masters, I see a massive change in how the university approaches things. At its core, the values that matter the most have remained, but the importance of those values have grown. I think that being part of the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment has been a big push to innovate and be industry-ready for going into practice.
What was the highlight of your Architecture course?
The highlight of the course for me will always be the study trips. Going abroad as an undergraduate student with the rest of the cohort and walking around a city that I don’t know very well.
I was fortunate enough to go to London and Barcelona on two separate instances. I got to experience the city, and talk about the buildings that were there, not only historic but contemporary as well, and draw an interest from it. It sparks a whole new passion seeing something that you’ve learned about in a book and then going inside and walking around the thing. It’s completely perplexing to see so many details. That building that’s 10 metres long isn’t just a small line on a book anymore.
This is linked to innovation, looking at learning through theory but understanding that in reality this is a real thing, it’s practical. Marrying the two together is certainly something that I think has been the best experience.
* The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment’s End of Year Show is an annual event showcasing the work of final-year students and celebrating their talent.