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Found in translation? Reconfiguring the river edge of Cochrane, Patagonia, a travesía project of the Valparaíso School led by David Jolly and David Luza, November 2013

A live project in Cochrane, Patagonia, termed a journey or travesía, whose aim was to reshape an important threshold between the town and its wilderness setting involved a group of staff and students from PUCV (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso) sharing a life in common for a fortnight in November 2013. Taking errantry in post-colonial discourse on identity as its theoretical point of departure, and using the Cochrane project as a case-study, this paper examines an apparent paradox: that in a travesía the creativity of wandering must be allied to a strictly organised plan of campaign. Exploring how and why such a shared journey stimulates not only the acquisition of metis (practical wisdom or artful cunning), but a new capacity to ‘make the land speak’, it draws attention to the risk-taking negotiation skills on which wayfarers depend. Importantly the travesía is shown to be a form of learning-to-build whose arena for insightful play transforms design into an essentially collaborative transaction. Finally, the paper discusses why, as a kind of time-limited ‘trial’ away from Valparaíso to prepare students for the battle of practice, the travesía chooses some but not all the limits and opportunities of ‘liveness’.

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Live Projects: Innovating in the Present

Setting boundaries is a creative act. Harnessing the idea of student involvement and engagement in live projects to their architectural education is difficult. Attempting to define what a live project actually is in this situation has required a lot of self-searching by architectural educators. Whilst it is an accepted condition of mainstream practice that timescale, budget and brief are matched with intention and design before works starts on site, it is not at all clear that such a definitive bounding of the project is in the students’ best interest in a learning environment. This paper looks at the work of the Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources (ARCSR) research cluster, and assesses the relationship between boundary setting and changing intentions; speculating on the effect of changing intentions on the education of the student.

The value of live projects for students involves to a large extent the value of the present moment of active engagement with concrete reality. With the rising cost of university education and a parallel increase in the adoption of live projects at architecture schools, new approaches to learning are required that operate on a different set of principles to those geared towards training architects for large scale, office based practice. Students should be encouraged to experiment and innovate using incremental, iterative and reflective processes embedded in a real setting and tested in the present.

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