The 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale (OAT) opened a reflection about the sense of belonging. The Academy, one of the programmes under OAT, was a forum organised by the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) that included its series of events for students. With an aim to produce a collective project, a student workshop was launched to study TØyen and GrØnland, a multicultural neighbourhood of Oslo. Fourteen schools gathered for a week split into three parts: a phase of analysis, a phase of critics and then the time for production. The workshop took place in an iconic building in Oslo. Club 7, in the beginning, was a venue for alternative art and jazz, later became the Stenersen Museum, and currently in the process of transforming into a new space with a kitchen for migrants, a school of music, a club and many other cultural spaces.
Students were put in ten teams each led by a group of tutors. Over a period of two days, we were tasked to think about an idea, a way to present it and a way to develop it with the others. I was in a team of ten students and three tutors from The Architectural Association (AA).
Monday – Searching for a Topic to Develop
Our team started the work by walking around and getting to know the neighbourhood, the people, and atmosphere of those streets. The main thing, we noticed, was the density of restaurants. They were from many different countries – from Afghanistan to India, but also Somalia and Turkey – serving different cuisines. Food always has a power of bonding people together. Through sharing a meal, we naturally opened up and talked – from learning to cook to sharing recipes. Everyone just loved to talk about the food they liked.
Tuesday – Surrounded by Food
After landing on a topic on food, we set our first task to collect food and recipes. We collected food by ordering takeaway from a bunch of restaurants, gathering the food in our workspace, and interviewed people on the street for recipes. We asked for the recipe of their favourite meal and also their details, such as their name, nationality, and if we could take a picture of them.
In the evening, we documented all the food gathered with photos and drawing, then we enjoyed them together. While having a great time, we also tried to mix the recipes to find a new “TØyen and GrØnland cuisine” which was going to represent the mix of culture existed locally.
Wednesday, the Parliament
The morning was dedicated to prepare for the presentation in the afternoon. We worked on the poster to present the data we got and communicate the love of food. In the afternoon, we presented our project to two other teams and listened to their presentations as well. The goal was to pick one of the three teams to proceed to the next step.
In the evening, all participating students were gathered to debate and were asked to pick one project for all students to work on. This part of the workshop was called the Parliament. It was not only picking one project, but maybe making the three projects to evolve into one. The discussions didn’t develop in a way that the organiser expected and students were drifted from the idea of having one project to represent all students work. Students also preferred an exhibition of a non-academic approach. But since Triennale already had exhibitions from a similar approach, the organiser desired one with a classic approach. After hours of debate, everyone dispersed.
My group went back to work on our project – we were very committed to present it – eventually, students from other groups were drawn to our project and joined force. At the end, the organiser considered the students’ feedback and presented a new plan for the exhibition: four projects (instead of one) would be selected to form the exhibition, namely The Panorama project, Borders and Gates, Politics of Food, and the Antechamber of a Parliament. Students were free to choose the one he wanted to work on. I chose to keep working with the same team, on the Politics of Food project.
Thursday – Data Mapping
As we kept working on Wednesday, we collected new data in TØyen and GrØnland, gathered all the restaurants façade in pictures and also the menus. On Thursday, all these were mapped the integrality of the restaurant industry. We also developed a set of artefacts to engage the visitors in participating in the exhibition.
Friday – Creating A Participatory Exhibition
Our idea was not only to produce an exhibition but also to actually entice the locals to order the new TØyen and GrØnland cuisine. We utilised the exterior and interior space. In the street, we put posters, with the visual of a takeaway box and a phone number. If people called the number, we would deliver a homemade box. Each of these boxes came the postcards of some of the food and a map of the restaurant. People coming to the exhibition could also get one. In the gallery space, we hang pictures of the restaurant and project the menu and other pictures we took during the week on the wall. Quotes from the interviews and a world map about the provenance of the food were shown on table tops. In the middle of the gallery, there was an installation of a pile of takeaway boxes and above them, a red phone was hanging down from the ceiling.
At 5PM everything was ready for the exhibition, and we even got two calls for takeaway order. We did the delivery for one order and a customer came and pick up the other.
An Awesome Experience – the City, the People, the Spontaneity
And that concluded the end of the workshop, The Academy. I had a full day free time before heading back to Hong Kong and I took the advantage to enjoy the city and the wonderful weather at BigdØy, a green space in the city concentrated with museums. I also perched on top of the opera house and slept on the pier, in the sun.
This workshop was an incredible experience for many things. Firstly, Oslo is one of my favourite cities for its landscape and peacefulness. Secondly. the people I met, the students from all around the world, and the incredible team of tutors leading my group. And finally, the spontaneity and the courage of the workshop organiser which allowed us to change the brief of the collective project, to present what we were enthusiastic about and not what was imposed, in the challenge of a limited timeframe.
Photo Credit: Mathilde Gattegno
Posted by Mathilde Gattegno – from Paris and love to see the world. Graduated from architecture with an option in civil engineering. Curious about everything, a huge bookworm, a little bit geek and also enjoy music, sports, going outside to take pictures. Hong Kong is a brand new playground!
MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.