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Monday, 25 July 2011

Study & Shop Sci Fi Style

It's still The Dome to me!


No privacy here!
Living beside The Dome (yesI know it's called The 02, but I'm a local so I'm allowed to call it by it's original name!), is fascinating because development in the area is so continuous. Every time I go there another new venue appears; most recently a Tesco supermarket, a chemist, SubWay and Wagamama noodle bar. And these are on the outside. About 18 months ago a new building on a scale overshadowing all others appeared; the new home of Ravensbourne College specialising in digital media, design and technology. It is the only open plan university in the whole of the UK and is regarded as a blueprint for what studying in the future will be like.

By open plan it means lectures, seminars etc all take place on different floors, separated by dividers but are happening at once allowing any student studying any discipline to be able to learn about anything they want. The first thought that came to my mind was isn't it noisy and what about privacy? I remember in my day seminars could get heated, personal and private, you expressed opinions you didn't want to leave the room - yet I was told by our guide the emphasis here is to move away from that kind of thought process - students should be willing to share anything and everything.

You loose all sense of perspective walking around the building. This image was taken from floor nine looking down on the ground floor which is a communal chill out space often used for events. What's strange is that while in most buildings 'the 9th floor' sounds like a thigh-aching trek, between each floor here there are hardly any steps. You go between them without even experiencing any sensation of going downstairs.
A scene from The World is Not Enough?
On one side of the building the windows look directly onto The Dome. It reminds me of how excited I was when I watched the opening credits to the James Bond movie The World is Not Enough when Pierce Brosnan falls and lands on the roof of the iconic building, before it had even opened (or maybe to coincide with around the time of the Millenium when it did first open.)
What a view!
On the other side is magnificent views of the River Thames. Inside the fashion tech room (what an incredible place to design from) the sewing machines look directly out on to the walkway that leads you to The Thames Clipper - so you can commute to college via boat...amazing! (Shame is it is so expensive though maybe there's a student rate?) Years ago I used to commute to Blackfriars Bridge and it cost just £1.30 each way (you could purchase a book of 10 saver tickets) now it costs somewhere between £5-£8 for a single....sheesh!
So back to school - this is the lockers, they are few and far between but they resemble Daleks. Everything about the college is Modern with a capital M but quite how it will work (the college has been open for just one year) still remains to be seen. 

Here's some fascinating things I found out about whilst going on a public tour last week:
1. There are no computers (not like the IT suites at normal colleges). All students must bring a laptop with them - plugs are everywhere and the biggest investment went into WiFing the building.
2. Every single window in the entire building is round.
3. The college will play a vital role in the TV broadcasting of the Olympics as they have such sophisticated broadcasting suites and equipment.
4. Major media companies like ITN and Sky work closely with the college to get access to the next generation of tech savvy employees. 
5. The building cost £70million to construct.
6. It recently won a prestigious RIBA architecture award.
7. You can leave your work out over night with a note whereever you're working and it's fine, it will still be there in the morning (apparently).
8. As there's no rooms students are encouraged to grab chairs and have meetings whereever they want.

What I thought of it:

1. While they have amazing courses and I would love to make clothes and look at the river Icouldn't study here. It felt too compact - there's no green spaces anywhere, you're just trapped in doors where everyone can see you whatever floor you're on.
2. I hate the idea of noise, how can anyone truely concentrate and think straight.
3. Students having to bring their own laptops......so unfair.
4. Yes I get that they are trying to make it like the real world as open plan is just what it's like in the actual workplace but I still think there's room for studying in a classroom (there are a few but it's discouraged).
5. The proof is in the pudding and whether this kind of study works is evident in the students work. I saw the Post Grad end of year exhibition and was deeply unimpressed, it felt technology heavy for the sake of it and was so bland. Every video was shot in 3D and ideas felt old (the trouble with technology is you have to be ahead of it. These students should be setting the trends not running with them as they loose their appeal.
6. It probably does work well for digital media courses but there's alot of subjects that wouldn't work in this environment and I cannot see how anyone could ever revise for an exam in a place like this. 
Will colleges be like this in the future? I hope not but I hope so too at the same time....
M&Ms take over the world
So on to futuristic shops. I don't hang out in Leicester Square often, but occasionally I end up at the Cineworld cinema at Trocadero because it shows Bollywood films and is slightly cheaper than other central London cinemas. Some months ago I noticed huge hoardings saying M&M World. I didn't know what it was but I didn't for one second think it literally was a mega shopping mall dedicated to selling M&Ms...I mean, come on - they're not even tasty!! Give me an (Orange) Smartie any day. These huge stores are already in Las Vegas, Florida and New York and now Europe has one in London town. It's been open just over a month (June 13th) and it's like the loudest, brashest most horrific shop I've ever been in. It's soooo noisey and full of complete and utter tack.
Start of the rainbow
 The most appealing part is looking at all the walls of M&Ms which you can hand pick.
Fashionable flavours
 There's a colour of confectionery to suit every outfit you own.
Or if you can't make your mind up, ready made mixtures. BUT the majority of the store is dedicated to the ugly M&M characters - you can buy anything with them on - so many cheap and nasty plastic toys and sweet dispensers and even household items, clothing and luxury goods which are sooooo expensive it's sickening. Who wants a diamond M&M compact mirror anyway? I sincerely hope this is not the shop of the future, it personifies everything that's wrong with mass consumerism. And I never want to go inside it again!
Purleeese! The M&M characters are not as legendary as they think they are....

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