Threshold's Pecha KuchaSource: Jim Stephenson
I swallow a mouthful of beer. Jim nods in agreement.
‘That’s exactly the sort of thing my friend and I had in mind for ‘love architecture’ this year’
Like all good things it started with a conversation in the pub – in this case the much revered Basketmakers Arms in the North Laine area of Brighton. It was a late March evening, dark and dreary. The conversation drifted to other things.
Nothing happened until late April when I finally met Jim Stephenson’s friend the immensely well connected and knowledgeable Cara Courage who seems to take everything in her stride. We discuss possible venues and events and come up with a vision.
Our premise is that we want to create a public facing pop up architecture and built environment centre demonstrating how architects and associated creative professionals can adapt, reuse, transform and re-invent the spaces around us, presenting an exhibition and programme of public events on the theme of inhabiting un[der]-used space(s). Sounds very grand. We don’t really know what it means yet.
I am particularly interested in inhabiting an empty shop unit – there are plenty of them around at the moment – and we got into a very positive dialogue with the owner of a three storey former deli in Brighton. Unfortunately at the last moment it turns out they have building work happening during the week we would need the space.
Paul Nicholson steps in. His client, the myhotel group, offer us the use of their underground car park. (I’m delighted when I find out Andy Thrasyvoulou the founder of myhotel is a trained architect). The starting gun is fired. We have one month until we open to coincide with Love Architecture.
There follows a call for expressions of interest – which receives a good response – and the building of a website. We are all phoning and emailing speakers and contributors, cajoling, begging, borrowing, and holding down day jobs. Richard Wolfstrome does an amazing job on the graphics and Push Studios supply and install them – the installer turned up with his poodle in tow and his mirrored shades on. The amazingly supportive myhotel provides the bar; Small Batch, the coffee.
Threshold opens with a Pecha Kucha on the subject of built environment. The highlights for me were Rob Jones coming to terms with the 20 seconds a slide format in his presentation on fashion and architecture; and Mike Lawless’ impassioned call to arms for architects. 100 people attend and we are amazed. The following day we have 220 people.
We put on what I consider to be an amazing programme of events that complements the aims and ethos of threshold and put together a playlist and we covered a broad range of built environment issues including design, housing, sustainability, and the NPPF. Tim Abrahams spoke on temporary architecture; Brighton University students bring their models and drawings for the exhibition; Piers Taylor wrote a programme essay on youth for our emerging practices evening; BBM Architects talked eloquently on sustainability. Kennedy Twaddle, Konishi Gaffney and Aberrant Architecture all gave engaging and inspiring talks on their work and approach. Robert Nemeth – presented to start off our debate on housing provision in Brighton & Hove – but it was interrupted by protestors. This episode, lasting only a few minutes, ended with both Robert and I being hit by glitter bombs.
The whole thing feels vital, alive, relevant.
Over the course of the four days and five evenings we were open people asked me if they can be involved next year as exhibitors, performers or speakers alluding to the space we were standing in. Some of them are even architects. I am enthusiastic but non-committal. It would be great to have a bigger exhibition and an expanded programme of events but the point is that the next event will not be – and should not be – the same. It brings to mind Piers Taylor’s programme essay:
There’s a strange myth that’s perpetuated by older architects that serves only to reassure themselves that they’re still relevant in a changing world – the myth that architecture is a skilful mastery of form and light and something that you get better at as you get older. It’s a little like Yehudi Menuhin telling Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious that they’d never get anywhere because they couldn’t play – missing the point that each new generation invents their own rules and plays the game its own way.
We will be back before next year but we’ll be something different. Come find us
The Threshold Team:
Olli Blair – a:b:i:r architects
Paul Nicholson – Chalk Architecture
Richard Wolfstrome - Wolfstrome