The week’s Course
I went on the Architecture Beyond Sight course at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, with no expectations and I’ve gained far more than I could ever have imagined.
The days spent at the institute of making and the British Library have given me a better understanding of materials, there uses and I also have more knowledge of architectural design.
The space mapping exercise by Mandy Redvers-Rowe has given me the skills to understand why I find certain areas of buildings difficult to be in and if I just turn slightly in another direction I won’t get the same overload of sensations, depending on the materials used in the building and its layout. For someone with multiple conditions like me, this is invaluable.
I was nervous about making a box in the wood workshop, I had no previous experience in 3D design or woodwork and have never been welcome in these environments.
Duncan Meerding made the B-made workshop at the Bartlett School of Architecture accessible and I found his straight-talking but relaxed approach refreshing and engaging. I was inducted on the machines and tools by Tom, who had so much patience. When I forgot information I told him it was because of my epilepsy, which for me was a huge thing to do, I never tell anyone because people generally still react badly to this but he didn’t bat an eyelid, he just demonstrated and talked me through how to use everything until I was confident.
He even showed me what machines would be helpful during my MFA and sought Duncan’s advice when he felt it would benefit me more. Duncan showed me how to access them as a visually impaired person which gave me even more independence.
We had been asked to make a box inspired by our time at the British Library, I’ve ended up making two one made of driftwood, that’s texture and smell links back to the library’s architectural links to ships and there for the sea. My second box is called an archive box of feelings and will hold small prints inspired by my experiences last week and the quiet achieve areas in the library.
On Saturday I woke up and realised I’ve spent years making art accessible for others but no one has ever made anything accessible for me in my entire life, this was a very emotional realisation.
I realised that being excluded or only getting half the information had become the norm. As recently as last year I was told it didn’t matter if I learnt things properly because I couldn’t see any way, it was at that moment that I decided I needed to find a new way of learning because these tutors only see my visual impairment, they don’t see me as an artist who exhibits and does art residencies unlike the tutors attitudes this week.
I will never be able to thank Duncan for making the workspace accessible, Tom for his patience, or let them know what a truly huge and unexpected impact this has had on me and how I will now approach my MFA in a completely different way.
If I’m completely honest and open, I’ve gone from being nervous, excited to emotional all because I was on my first truly accessible course. I wouldn’t normally be this open but I thought it was important that people understand what this course has done for me.
If two days in a workshop can increase my confidence in a workshop environment, imagine what a lifetime of accessibility could do for generations to come. I really hope this course is the start of things becoming accessible and attitudes changing.
Congratulations to Zoe Partington and Jos Boys at Disordinary Architecture for a wonderfully successful course and well done to whoever selected the support workers and the workshop staff for the course, having the right staff and tutors like Duncan makes all the difference.