Today, the problem of design has been increasingly reduced to a problem of accounting. In the wake of global terrorism, economic collapse and environmental disaster, the demand for “accountability” represents an unholy alliance of the social and corporate, the perfect mash-up of responsibility and efficiency, and an expression of the realignment of the political economy of neo-liberalism to metrics. In this context, architecture has become a life-saving, job-creating, environment-preserving commodity, a product whose end is to reduce cost, limit liability, and guarantee predictable results for a world where failure is no longer an option.

When a practice insulates itself against failure, however, it no longer occupies a cultural field. Risk-aversion executes a general lobotomy on our ability to collectively imagine alternatives and radically contracts our envelope of choice exactly to the degree that it would answer presumed necessities. At its most culturally charged, the job of design is not to accommodate this world but to instigate the desire for another. Architecture performs as a cultural practice to the extent that it extends projects that, under the metrics of the current regime, appear as irresponsible, excessive, and wasteful. Without the possibility of failure, there simply are no options.

Robert Somol asks: How do we mobilize the risk of failure in a world that demands security?

Student statements after the realization of their projects:

Baljit Panesar – CANAL DIVE
The proposed location of the diving board was changed to allow greater synergy between site conditions and the other interventions. Unaware of the full implications involved in the move to the disused Minto & Turner Mill, the mobilization of risk became evermore vital.

After numerous attempts to gain access to the building, permission was only granted with the condition that a structural engineer should be present to assess any danger involved in our installation. On entry, the areas of danger became instinctively evident. It was necessary to allow our intuition to help determine the possible risks involved. Common sense and careful judgment were essential to determine which floorboards were safe to walk on, how to open the weathered window and how to fix the diving board in situ.

Haroon Hayat Noon – CAUTION: PLAY WITH PUBLIC
My initial intention was to interact with pedestrians by employing conventional yellow road markings in an abstract form, provoking them to question their surroundings. Further development of the idea led to a series of designs that paid homage to the widely recognized, traditional ‘caution’ and ‘warning’ street signs. These re-interpreted signs questioned the essence of the interventions on site, and evoked a sense of curiosity for the pedestrians. The signs attempted to capture the notion of what is permissible and interpret the hazards in a way that debates their validity, addressing the approach to failure and the nature of the risk.

Mariam Iqbal – MOVING VEHICLE
“The Large Moving Vehicle” is a means of transforming our environments so that our cities—like Manchester—can become more livable, with spaces regulated by the public rather than authorities who demand security. Therefore, the idea of attaching tires to the corners of the concrete columns helps remind us of a playful way of controlling our surroundings. It gives a momentum to the large bungalow, making it seem like a mobile vehicle situated in the car park. It now seems belong in its own setting.

Bettery Magazine and our readers thank the dean of the Manchester School of Architecture Tom Jefferies and his team of professors, Rob Hyde, Leo Minuchin and Isabelle Doucet; the project’s structural engineer, Helen Gribbon; and all of the students whose realized concepts will be documented in these final segments: Aida Rodriguez-Vega, Baljit Panesar, Haroon Hayat Noon and Mariam Iqbal. Your work and creativity have made this contemporary exploration of urban possibilities flower.

Check back for the second series of collaboration results, to be published in Bettery Magazine very soon!