CCDN 271 Lecturer: “You’re going to be dreaming design, thinking design, speaking design, eating design… it’s all very sad for you, really.”
Last year, Media Studies major Elle enrolled in a 100-level, open-entry course at the School of Architecture and Design on Vivian Street as an interest paper. That was her first mistake.
You see, they do things differently down at Te Aro. You bitch about staying up ’til 3am to finish a 1300-word essay for your 200-level English class? At Te Aro, all-nighters are par for the course. Fact: design and architecture students are the reason it’s worth Midnight Espresso’s while to remain open past midnight. When, in 2005, Victoria University moved to close the formerly 24-hour campus at 11.30pm every night, there was an outcry. It’s hard to imagine us Kelburn students responding to a reduction in the Central Library’s hours with such outrage.
There is much more separating Kelburn and Te Aro than a massive hill. The biggest difference is how accountable design and architecture students are held to their work. That 1300-word essay for your 200-level English class might not be perfect—it might not even be coherent—but meet the minimum word limit, make that delirious push to Von Zedlitz, shove it through a letterbox, and it’s gone, forever. That assignment is dead to you.
That’s not the case at Te Aro, where students present their work in gruelling two- or three-hour studio sessions. When a design student does a half-arsed, last-minute job on a project, they have to justify this to their lecturer, their tutors, their classmates, and, in some cases, even guest lecturers. This prospect instills a sense of responsibility and commitment: do at least a passable job, or you’ll look like a dick. The fear of public humiliation can do wonders for one’s work ethic.
Although Elle soon realised that she preferred the flexible and forgiving nature of her BA, aspects of her short-lived stint as a design student lived on. She discovered the benefits of developing her ideas in a workbook. She saw how rewarding it was to do work she could be proud of. And briefly, just briefly, she experienced that much-fabled campus culture. There’s a real sense of camaraderie down at Te Aro, where students grow close with their year group: they help each other out, they share ideas, they hang out for fun. It’s not the only example of the compact communities that can be found at Vic—the music and theatre schools operate on similar principles—but it is the biggest, the most obvious, and, arguably, the most successful.
So, if possible, and if it sounds like something you’d be into, take a paper down at Te Aro. You might learn something. Just don’t treat it as an interest paper.
Elle & Uther