From the first moment you enter architectural education, tutors tell you repeatedly and often passionately that the learning never stops; this is how it is going to be from now on. Student platforms are an example of our efforts to share our discoveries, many emerging out of the tension between academia and independent learning. From the post-digital advocate KoozA/rch to university publications like The Bartlett's Lobby, AA files, or Yale School of Architecture’s Perspecta, research and media platforms represent the creative consciousness of our generation today. Volume64 is a recent newcomer born out of this tension, and behind it is a team myself and my colleagues have founded and run. Through ArchDaily, we’re sharing a little bit of our story so far.
What Is Volume64?
Volume64 is a design platform that emerged during a series of conversations between architecture students in the second half of 2016. We test different micro-typologies and challenge architectural norms through our drawing experiments: isometric cubes of 4x4x4 meters—coined the “CubeLab.” In one season, around 50-70 drawings are produced by a constantly changing team of contributors. Our collaborators write, curate, and edit briefs which our team of contributors (regular and visiting) respond to in drawings that get released in 2-week installments, with 5-6 briefs marking a season.
Our SEASON 1 fold-out posters are HERE! You can find them at the Bartlett and Architectural Association Degree shows (and more) on NOW 🌞 special thanks to our killer crack team who designed and workshopped them to technicolour perfection #VOL64team : @nesslafoy @cjdelahunt @h_enry @_jonathanwren @agostinonickl @johanna_just @georgibelyanov @lloydlees @stan_trcn
A lot of architecture studies revolve around typology. Precedent studies, their transformations, and subsequent reinvention can mark the life cycles of buildings. Peter Eisenman literally built his residential typology experiments in the form of his House Series. Challenging typological norms is the modus operandi of offices like OMA, with Ole Scheeren and BIG adopting similar studio philosophies. The idea of Volume64 was sparked when our co-founder Lloyd Lee attended a workshop on diagrams during his first term at the Architectural Association. “Mostly comprised of OMA/AMO projects," he believes that "the workshop also presented a good case of how the typological norms within architecture could be challenged.”
What can we do without the decades of practical experience and necessary compromises in architecture? Can there be a space dedicated purely to the experiments and drawings resulting from this line of questioning? Volume64 finally came to light as we continued our conversations from these questions.
– Lloyd Lee, Volume64 Co-Founder
Challenging everyday spaces, and thus questioning the perception of architecture, became the motivation behind Volume64. The idea of a platform developed: to express these small exercises that could challenge existing rules without the limitations of academic or professional submissions.
Who Makes Up Volume64?
Volume64 is run by a group of students in their final years of architecture education. Currently, our team members are from the Architectural Association, the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Edinburgh School of Architecture (ESALA). Collaboration is at the heart of the platform. While each school is a treasure trove for research, innovation, and unique skill sets, their best parts usually thrive in isolation, passing each other like ships in the night. By working together through a shared platform, we’ve managed to build relationships and trade experiences between members, as well as compare how our backgrounds shape responses to the briefs.
Cross-school collaboration has encouraged very different takes on similar briefs. [It creates] a lot of cross-fertilization of ideas, approaches, and methods that go beyond speaking with friends at other schools, reading about others' work or visiting degree shows.
– Jonathan Wren, Bartlett School of Architecture M.Arch & Volume64 Head of Bartlett team
Why the Cube Drawings?
Discussions moved towards formulating a graphic language that could express these experiments in a radical, yet manageable way for each person trying out their idea.
– Lloyd Lee, Co-Founder
The cube appealed to Volume64 for both its architectural purity and its ambiguity. A symmetrical shape, it can be rotated and split in infinite ways. The 4-meter sides were also chosen carefully, as their resulting area could be just big enough for a micro-building and tall enough to host a structure that was high enough to feel spacious, yet contained. The isometric format at 1:50 scale completed the framework. Contributors didn’t need to worry about what format the drawing would take and were free to focus exclusively on its contents, and to experiment with new graphic languages like collage, bolder drawing styles or animation.
Animated GIFs feature prominently in Volume64’s drawings: creating a drawing made up of several frames allows the author to create a larger narrative behind their idea. GIFs pair well with the playful nature of Volume64 as a platform that doesn’t take itself too seriously while expressing, through the drawings, what it feels like to study architecture today.
Through our first season, we’ve found that certain perspectives kept re-appearing regardless of what brief was being explored. Our ambivalence about technology taking over every aspect of our lives, mass consumption, and social media were expressed through many of the quick-fire experiments, especially in our impulsive Fake Newsroom brief, which wasn’t a typology but sought to create a space in response to the overwhelming news coverage of 2017. These anxieties, paired with the playfulness of the platform create a series of revealing drawings that tell a story.
Volume64 is an essential tool for architecture students to not only exercise their ability to think and question but also to share and engage in a dialogue with their fellow contributors, in order to produce productive architectural content that contributes to the critical discourse of the platform. I thoroughly enjoy exchanging and challenging drawings and ideas with my colleagues from our new-found alliance of exciting architecture students from all over the country.
– Henry Schofield, Bartlett School of Architecture M.Arch & VOLUME64 Head of Bartlett team
Information Courtesy of Volume64, Sabrina Syed and Lloyd Lee (Founders)