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August 16, 2010 | by  | in Features |
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Capital A Superstudio 10—August 6+7

Architecture students are a peculiar breed. Those who have had previous run-ins with the illusive kids from the Te Aro campus will no doubt be aware of the strange hours and habits they seem to keep as they run themselves into the ground for the sake of their craft. In light of such devotion, it should come of no considerable surprise that 36 of Vic’s finest—rocking laptop tans and pepped up to their eyeballs on No-Doz—would give up a weekend of their free time to travel half the length of the country and dedicate the best part of 24 hours to a furiously paced design competition.

Earlier this month, 35 architecture students (and one stealthy geology student) headed up to the UNITEC School of Architecture in Auckland to compete in the annual Superstudio competition. Organised by SANNZ (Student Architecture Network New Zealand), Superstudio is an international short-form ideas competition which sees students from the country’s three architecture schools come together to compete against students across Australasia in a 24-hour no-holds-barred contest. Designed as a chance to challenge the limits of what is normally a slow and drawn-out process, the event encourages students to push the boundaries and cast aside any technical favouritism in place of the creative, the imaginative and the plain bizarre.

What Went Down

On the Friday morning, a crew of bleary-eyed VUW students diligently set their alarms to catch the 7am train to Auckland. Thirteen hours, 352 bridges and 14 tunnels later, the southern rabble arrived at the UNITEC architecture campus in Mount Albert, where they were treated to a dinner of cold sausages and the announcement that their late arrival had already shortened the allotted time period—leaving them with just 22 hours to produce convincing architecture schemes for an esteemed judging panel. The assembly was then divided into teams of three across the schools, requiring each individual to cooperate with complete strangers as they hastily put together fantastical schemes for the scrutiny of their peers.

After a brief sleep (for some), Saturday saw most teams up and about early in the drizzly conditions visiting various sites throughout the city to locate their designs. Once back in the studio, the teams got down to some serious scribbling and squabbling as they started to push and develop their ideas, often to the consternation of the other team members.
Thankfully, a number of practising architects were on hand to offer support, and their advice was welcomed by the students as the realities of the time constraints began to take their toll.

After an intense scramble to the finish line, the pained cries of flustered students subsided and the group made their way back to the lecture theatre to present their proposals to the waiting panel. Disappointingly, the judges barely seemed to raise an eyebrow at the ensuing hilarity. Nothing seemed to be off-limits, as break-dancing brick walls and Justin
Bieber jostled for the top spot against some of the more macabre offerings that saw a dual-purpose drug rehab clinic and kindergarten occupying the same space.

Although one of the principal aims of the event is to encourage a collaborative atmosphere between the schools, it was hard not to be impressed by the dominance of the Vic contingent. Despite a home ground advantage for the two Auckland universities, the Vic group seemed to dominate the podium and represented six out of the nine place getters, the winning entry coming courtesy of a Vic-heavy team ‘Brotown’, who will now move on to compete against our Australian counterparts in a bid to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Venice Biennale.

The closing of the competition coincided with the SANNZ AGM, which saw a number of promising young bloods elected to the exec for the following year. In addition to the new arrivals, current President Nicholas Leckie handed the reins on to fellow Victoria student Samantha McGavock, who will take charge of the organisation for the year to come. After sorting out the housework, a generous bar tab ensured that the event’s competitors were well looked after and a solid posse battled through the night, ending their festivities at Britomart station for the long journey home.

The highlight of the presentations came courtesy of Victoria’s own second-year ‘Maxwell’, who entertained the assembly with an award-winning display of comic genius and a seemingly endless draw of one-liners that had all present in stitches (minus the judges, of course). Overall, the quality of the proposals was truly inspiring, particularly given the
short amount of time taken to produce them, and the light-heartedness with which many approached the challenge proved a seriously refreshing antidote to what has traditionally been a stronghold of the super-serious.

Superstudio is a pretty fantastic platform for young students, and currently stands as the only significant point of communication between architecture students across the country. Most left the weekend feeling suitably invigorated by the camaraderie displayed by all the participants, and by all accounts this year’s event was a success which will
hopefully be repeated when Superstudio is hosted by Auckland University next year.

Props to Gordon Harris for supplying drawing material and prizes, and to KiwiRail for generously providing the Wellington contingent with the means to get there and back for bext to nothing. Chur.

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