HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Putting design to the test
A number of University students, including myself, have come home for their mid-year break. Though I’d like to think that I’m on “holiday,” one thing is always on the back of my mind. The one thing that sets students into a heart-throbbing mode in front of the computer screen, on the edge of their seats, eager to find out how well they’ve performed this semester. Grades.
There were four papers we needed to take this semester. Design (100% coursework), Media (100% coursework), History (50% test, 50%coursework) and Environmental Design and Acoustics (50%exam, 50%coursework). Design and Media are practical papers. Each required that we design a home or office space for a client, within a span of one semester.
The theme for our Design paper was “Modern Spaces of Samoa.” We had to design a home for our tutor who is of Samoan descent. He wanted a home that was modern (yet not so much that it looked alienated) something that, in an architectural sense, “spoke” to the client, and most importantly, a house that could cater for a large Samoan family, and their daily routines. Thankfully, we could imagine that there were no budget constraints, and could therefore design with whatever size, and whatever materials we thought would be best. Like any other design, however, we did have to ensure that we considered Samoa’s climate, the existing environment, topography of the site that we were designing for, and the any special needs that the client may have.
The interesting thing about Design is that your exam is delivered in the form of visual and oral presentation. This is one of the most daunting days of my semester. They’re called “CRIT” days. It’s a public event where you present your building design to your tutor, colleagues, guest critics, or just about anyone who wishes to sit in and listen. Often some of New Zealand’s renowned architects are present. This is when your skill for public speaking comes into play. And it’s usually when Mrs Herman’s voice comes to mind too, “shyness won’t get you anywhere.” Our group was very fortunate to have friendly critics who gave constructive and helpful tips on how we can improve parts of our project. We had a recent graduate from UNITEC, Albert Refeti (one of New Zealand’s prominent writers who have published countless stories relating to the Pacific) and Lama Tone (our tutor for the semester, and a practicing Architect).
Some, however, weren’t so fortunate. You can usually tell when someone ends up crying after a presentation because a critic verbally thrashed their design. It’s sad. But unfortunately, that’s what happens in the real world, and it’s something we need to get used to.
It’s the same with Media, except, there is no oral presentation. It’s meant to be a fun paper that gives students a chance to get creative, while at the same time, explore and play with all sorts of ideas and drawing materials in order to produce analogue, digital or even hybrid drawings.
Having two practical papers meant we only had one exam for Environmental Design and Acoustics. Environmental Design is an interesting subject. It deals with the construction, and mathematical side of architecture. But most importantly, it focuses on what we must consider when designing, so that we don’t harm the existing environment, and those occupying it. Such as, what materials (and how much of it) would be best to use in your floors, walls, or ceiling to prevent problems such as water leakage, moisture build-up, and so forth. Energy saving strategies such as location of windows and doors (to determine solar gains for heating, or prevailing winds for cooling), and so forth. I can’t say the same about the delivery of the lesson though. Often I’d find myself writing more notes than I really needed because I needed to stay awake. But that’s how Uni is. Some of your classes will be boring. But you can’t change the lecturer. So you’ll just have to find ways to stay interested. I did, on the other hand, always look forward to Acoustics which was taught by another lecturer. Acoustics is much easier to understand if you have some background knowledge on physics. These classes made me feel so proud and grateful that we were taught physics so well at Tereora.
They focus on how we can design homes to control excessive noise transmission, and what materials would be best to achieve that. There’s a lot of numbers, formulas, and rules involved. At one point we were studying the parts of the ear and its function - details that medical students would normally come across. It seemed irrelevant at first. But in the end we realized that it was just a stepping stone to the bigger picture.
A few weeks before our exam we had a history test. We needed to learn more than 50 buildings, architects, locations, year of construction, and the concepts behind each design. I must admit, studying for the test was quite difficult, but in the end, it was all worth it. In fact, all the time we’ve put into the first semester has been worth it. Second semester has commenced. It’s a new chapter. Hopefully it’ll be an exciting one! -Sally Hosking

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

Copyright 2006 Cook Islands Herald online . All rights reserved.