Culture is our making
Cass Culture is a cross-faculty enterprise. It frames the thinking in the making. Making is part of the Cass DNA and has been since the inception of its parent institutions. It lies at the absolute heart of our pedagogy. Making is where learning begins, through making decisions and choices, engaging both with the matter at hand and the constituency of makers.
In a sense, all the different forms of cultural enterprise relate back to this primal thing. We make friends, we make decisions, we make dinner, we make love, we make policies and political decisions, we make institutions and governments, we make exquisite metal objects, chairs to sit on, things that work and works of art, we make ephemeral sounds and moving images, we make spaces and buildings, pavilions, landscapes and cities to dwell in. Together they constitute our culture of making.
Ideas are cast through words and writing. So Cass Culture engages with how we make history and theory, how we construe the cultural landscapes we live in, how we give voice to our values. It is not an armchair discipline. We make ideas where we find them: in the archives and museums, out in the city and back on the streets, in the myriad places where people live their lives.
Sir Ken Robinson famously argues that our current educational system is designed to squash creative talent. Cities like London provide an antidote: they foster creativity; they brim with variety. So we use London as our library, the city as our seminar room. Indeed the inspiration for Cass Culture as a ‘culture’ is London because London is both a world city and a world within a city. We have the biggest collection of cultural resources our doorstep, from actual treasures to a diversity of people to an abundance of ecologies; from world heritage sites to circus fleas, bell foundries to opera houses, nearly three hundred museums and as many again libraries, twice as many galleries and named localities, not to mention all the extraordinary artefacts, buildings, artworks, folk, events and situations we encounter every day.
In 2012 we began building a Faculty-wide programme called CCS (Critical and Contextual Studies) to complement the design studios. The specific curriculum and teaching delivery remains firmly under the wing of the seven subject clusters but our undergraduate programme now shares a common structure in things like learning outcomes, resources, study skills, timetable, and assessment types, weblearn and online submissions through Turnitin (summarised in our Handbook Cass Writing). In September 2014 our shared framework allowed us to launch our unique invention, the ‘Dissertation Studio’, twenty-four of them, all of which were open to final year undergraduate students across the Faculty. Students could choose to work with someone from their subject area or any of the other discipline. They did both in equal quantities. See: Archive of Dissertation Studios.
Each Dissertation Studio offers a thematic topic in a seven-week course that takes them out on visits, rehearses them in how to do research, how to assemble a topic and structure a thesis. They offer a wide range of approaches from continental theory to interviews with East End makers, from histories found on London Walks to drawings tucked away in archives, from the cultural DNA of objects and images to the consequence of gender or the anthropocene.
Research across the Faculty reflects our deep commitment to social engagement. We have a PhD programme with award winning students and a research based masters course, the MA by Project. We support a spectrum of staff and student led research projects that are developed in and around the teaching studios and are fostered by our close associations with leading edge practices and institutions. Research underpins our live projects, adds value to our links with industry, and forms the basis of our partnerships. Research is part of what we do. Cass Culture is responsible for running the Faculty Research Committee and helping calibrate the synergies between research and teaching, research and practice.
We are looking at how we share what we do more broadly, particularly our pedagogical approach and our research and postgraduate forms of study. Plans are afoot to construct a different kind of offering that is inherently less monolithic and exclusive than the current degrees structure. The details have yet to be confirmed but suffice it to say the new programme will be up and running by the spring and represent another step jump in the ecology of the Cass. This programme will take its bearing from the range of work represented in the Dissertation Studios, their close cousins in the postgraduate programmes and our current research activities. But it will also instigate another level of play: working with more institutions and partners, introducing new ideas and topics, finding new people and situations to work with. Cass Culture aims to work outwards and grow its community out of its common interests.
Studio 1: Another India
Studio 1: Another India will examine, reflect upon and critique the historic use of "exotic" motifs in design.
Studio 2: Contemporary Ecology
In Studio 2 we will explore environmental topics through the lens of art, architecture, spatial practice, media and design disciplines.
Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry
Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry is an exploration of race, gender, class and more in music.
Studio 4: Not allowed
Studio 4: What Not to Wear? will investigate the roles that dress and fashion play in our workplaces.
Studio 5: Imperfect Theories
Studio 5: Imperfect Theories allows you to critically examine any work that can be seen as theory or presents an interesting relationship with theory.
Studio 6: Curating as a Spatial Practice: From the Wunderkammer to Installation art
Nico de Oliveira
Studio 6: This dissertation studio is designed to help students who are interested in curating as a broad subject, as well as those who wish to contextualise their own practice within the scope of displaying art.
Studio 7: Souvenir
Dr Lesley Stevenson
Studio 7: This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past.
Studio 8: Post – card
Studio 8 will look at one element of that system – the picture postcard – from a number of different perspectives.
Studio 9: ‘The Form of the Text’
Studio 9: Together we will explore the space of criticism; acknowledging our point of encounter with objects, places, sites and processes and the relationship between text, writer and reader.
Studio 10: Constellating
As creative practitioners we digest and produce images every day – as citizens of the digital age we consume between hundreds and thousands of images each day. This dissertation studio will slim down your daily diet to one image.
Studio 11: Science Fiction Futurity
Speculative descriptions of the future reveal a magnified — or distorted — reflection of the fears and desires of the present.
Studio 12: Alternative Fashioned Modernities
Much is happening in the world today that foregrounds questions pertinent to our identities in a globalised world.
Studio 13: Desire, Trauma, History
How does the relationship of memory to fantasy affect history? What are the links between desire, sexuality and trauma? How are these relationships played out or negotiated in visual and written practice? These questions will form the beginning of our enquiries into artworks, films and literature.
Studio 14: Design and Nature: Forms of an Entanglement
We will look at how the idea of nature has been constructed over time and place, and study its impact on design practice in an age marked by the sustainability imperative.
Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas
Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas encourages you to explore how and why we make music, including its origin, relationship to technology and more.
Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling
Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling will see you produce storygraphs, storyboards and various forms of narrative analysis in the seminars.
Studio 17: Knowing Audiences
Studio 17: Knowing Audiences will encourage you to study an audience group using qualitative research methods in your investigations.
Studio 18: Time and the Image
This workshop will address some perennial problems of writing in the field of visual culture.
Studio 19: Material in Motion
Studio 19: This studio will explore a reading of objects focusing on the interplay between materials, the objects they form and their context.
Studio 20: The Liminal
This Dissertation Studio examines instances of the liminal as they occur in critical theory and culture, and is open to any topic and students from all disciplines.
Studio 21: Reading the library (and nothing but the library)
This year, Studio 21 will stage an unusual experiment. It will move, unpack, catalogue, and perform readings from one private library; and make this library, without exception, the single resource for all the research and writing in the studio.
Studio 22: Meaningful work
Studio 22: Meaningful work explores the value of making and the idea of craft as meaningful work.
Course Leader for MA History, Theory and Interpretation of Architecture
Course Leader MA Architectural Histories, Theories and Interpretation, Postgraduate coordinator (RIBA part 2) History and Theory, Teaches on Architecture BA (Hons) (RIBA part 1).
Senior lecturer, History and Theory of Architecture
Coordinates Critical and Contextual Studies (BA), MA Architectural Histories, Theories and Interpretations. Professional Diploma in Architecture – RIBA2 and Architecture BA.
Emma is a senior lecturer with The Cass.
Emma teaches on Critical and Contextual Studies.
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