What is Architecture and why should I care?

Architecture, Article, Arts, Bristol, Events, Exhibition, Inspirational, Photography, Street Art, Uncategorized

I’m Co-curating an exhibition at The Architecture Centre aiming to get young people involved with architecture. This is hard, because to lots of young people, the world of architecture seems completely alien. Even to me, it conjures up images of middle class white men in their 40’s discussing buildings in an office. It feels like it’s a world that you can only unlock after 7 years of training, and it’s only then that you can begin to grasp what it’s about. So let’s find out what architecture is.


I started by googling it and came up with this definition:

“the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.”

Okay. That’s true. Architecture IS the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings, but it’s also so much more than that.

It’s about places. It’s about the spaces in between the buildings. It’s about the communities and interactions that take place in them. Architecture is as much about the buildings as it is the people inside.

Architecture plays a huge part in our lives and in ways that we don’t even realise. Walking down a street seems like a completely simple moment in our day, but we don’t realise that this street has been designed to be like that. Those lamp posts have been placed exactly where they are. Those trees were planted exactly there. It’s all been designed to look the way it does. It is the reason why small music venues feel intimate and personal, whilst massive arenas feel impressive and inspiring. Each of those was designed to evoke those feelings.

This is why architecture – in my opinion – is the most important art form there is.


But why should we care? I mean – sure, these spaces were designed like that and to make us feel certain ways, but why does it matter?

At the end of the day, we – as young people – can live our lives in a city content with the architecture around us, letting other people decide what it is that we want.

Except we don’t have to. Okay – to design a building you might need a seven year degree or something like that, but you don’t need a degree to have your say.

Throughout my experience with Shape My City,  where I got to work with experts and professionals from the world of architecture; the one thing that they told me is to just “go for it” and to do whatever it is I want to do, and those are words to live by.

Shape My City
We have spent far too long letting the middle class white men decide what it is that young people want from a city. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to young people, and I’ve realised that we do have opinions about architecture – we just don’t realise that they’re opinions about architecture.

Young people have a voice and opinion about this. I want to challenge you. What do you want from a city?What do you like or not like about Bristol?

Why should you care? Because you have an opinion about it, even if you don’t think you do!

To share your thoughts, visit the Shape My City blog or send an e-mail to amy.harrison@architecturecentre.co.uk with your pitch.


Who is art for?

Art, Article, Arts, Uncategorized

Jon Aitken recently wrote an article for Rife magazine sharing his thoughts on artist Jake Chapman’s statement that taking children to art galleries is a “waste of time“. Young Arnolfini – in case you hadn’t guessed – is a group associated closely with Arnolfini, and one of the points in our manifesto is that we aim to bridge the gap between young people and contemporary art. Statements like Jake Chapman’s are exactly the opposite of what we are aiming to do. 

Arnolfini gallery exterior

What Does Culture Mean to You?

Bristol, Workshop

My personal initial response was complete utter blankness.

Culture? Wait, what?

In hindsight it’s so utterly diverse, yet such a similar versatile store of a value, after a while I couldn’t stop thinking deeply as if ‘culture’ had always been such a profound element in my everyday life. And funnily enough, after the first Teenage Kicks research project workshop looking into what culture means to young people, I discovered that of course culture does have such intense and deep emotions attached to it because it’s part of what forms an identity.

The culture – the people, activities, places – you surround yourself with are all influential in forming your identity.

So yes, initially I was slightly apprehensive going to today’s afternoon workshop at Arnolfini because I didn’t consider myself to be well astute on the topic of ‘culture’. From academia alone the only form of ‘culture’ I had come across to accept as plausible was that in Religious Education or PSHE lessons about ethics, ethnicity, and religion, but this idea of culture being a form I could associate myself with never really crossed my mind.

‘Culture’ wasn’t something I did, it was something I knew about that happened somewhere else.

But soon enough I discovered I had all sorts to say.

The workshop was built around firstly formulating the idea of culture through word and object association activities that, for me, really helped broaden my concept of ‘culture’ to being able to simply include things dear to me. And most importantly, there was a real emphasis on there being no right or wrong answer to anything because every point was valid for the reason of it simply existing.

Afterwards we were then asked to answer different questions dotted around the room, like ‘which cultural forms or activities do you engage with the most?’, with post-it notes and it was quite intriguing to notice the room verbally quieten as the mental bolts went off on one like clockwork.

It was after this that we were given the chance to discuss the different ideologies and feelings of the intimate group of seven. It was incredible to be given the opportunity to consider and develop differing and similar viewpoints, with this idea of ‘open-mindedness’ being key to everything. Thus, keeping this in mind we discussed everything from academia to the arts to music to fashion to celebrities to social media to communities and cities, and a lot more! And best of all it was fabulous to have different insights to varying and complementary views as it not only helped to broaden my knowledge but was a great way to ascertain my own opinions.

So, I’m pretty stoked for the next session and would like to thank the ever-so-wonderful Kamina Walton for once again providing us Young Arnolfini members with continuous opportunities and Emma Pett and Dr. Helen Manchester from the University of Bristol for arranging such a brilliant interactive project to really voice young people’s opinions.

Young People’s Festival of Ideas

Bristol, Inspirational

Young People's Festival of Ideas

Young Arnolfini are helping host the first of three Young People’s Festival of Ideas events happening at Arnolfini this Wednesday. For an evening full of debate, laughter and free thinking come along at 6.30pm this Wednesday, 6th November. Places are limited so book yours now – 0117 9172300

The Ammerdown Experience w/ Salaam Shalom

Meditation, Nature, Reflection, Roundup


Over the course of 5 days, Maz, Emma and I took part in a residential courtesy of Salremadelogobestressstxtsmalleraam Shalom, an organisation keen to promote dialogue of all kinds between young people. I went to Ammerdown with an open mind, even to the Buddhist meditation which left me as I was – uptight and tentative. Still, I’ll try anything once except incest and morris dancing, though watching Russell Peters draws the line somewhere near the former. I think of ‘atheist’ as a shoddy word often inexorably linked with ‘materialist’ and ‘pessimist’, but would never protest if bundled under that label. It’s just simply not that I don’t believe in God(s), but that I don’t know or claim to know the mind of this deity, knowledge I view as man-made and positively unattainable.

I find my beliefs are largely unmoved, but through the Salaam Shalom programme I am all the more richer culturally. It was utterly fascinating to be a part of a Passover seder meal, which involves an analogical meal – including mellow Israeli wine – and the joint, jaunty singing of songs in Hebrew. A highlight was the opening of the front door for Elijah’s spirit to join the table and help himself to a modest meal laid out in Judaica porcelain, after 5 seconds of which a young boy declared ‘He’s not here!’, followed by many a ‘Perhaps there was nowhere to park’ joke.

Everybody in our group engaged well in debates, with one comment often sparking off a thought in someone else, and so on. The times I learnt the most was listening to others, and trying to absorb a simulacrum of the way they see the world: impossible, but interpersonal understanding is one of our better traits. Still, I found myself often immersed in dialectics of one kind or another throughout the residential, whether with seven other people or just in my own head. I never felt trapped at Ammerdown, only liberated; no question was too contentious, no belief dismissible. Ultimately, this journey nicely coincides with my timely discovery of the work of Graham Greene, specifically his beautiful novel The Heart of the Matter which at one point states:

‘How often, he thought, lack of faith helps one to see more clearly than faith.’

– Tom

Ammerdown was a really trying and self evaluating time for me personally, with hindsight I can now appreciate how it has helped me refocus certain aspects of my life.

In particular, our Wednesday morning spiritual reflection session was led by John Preston on Buddhism. Funnily enough, with my Christian background, you wouldn’t have initially expected this Buddhism session to be the one that got to me the most, as opposed to the other Christianity-based sessions earlier on in the week. However I appreciate the fact my lack of familiarity with Buddhism; the concept, beliefs, et cetera; engaged me all the more.

The session was fragmented, with the first section consisting of Preston discussing his life; from being a senior Social Services manager, a counsellor, a lecturer in adult education to his five years of training as a monk at a Buddhist meditation monastery to his current life. Afterwards we had a brief discussion which included asking him our own questions. His honesty and consciousness to not feign being omniscient as if he had all the answers is why I hold him in high esteem because it’s so refreshing to experience such candour.

The last part of the session was a meditation led by John (feels weird calling him Preston, first name basis guys!). I’ve always wanted to successfully meditate but living the city life you never seem to get the chance to and this just seemed like the perfect opportunity. Once we got going I really noticed the Achilles heel of my meditation efforts – my impatience. John’s breathing exercises seemed to go on for so long but what I’ve realised is the meditation worked then for a reason, he seriously knew what he was doing. When I reflect on the actual meditation part it’s hard to describe it. But if I had to pick three words: clarity, consciousness, free.

And it’s the best thing I’ve felt in a long while.

– Emma Blake M.

People. Caring, considerate people everywhere. Ammerdown was an awesome experience for me. I truly loved spending my five days there and spending it with people who I, whether or not I knew them before, developed such a strong bond with. Obviously, it was good to even just get away from Bristol for a while and reflect. Courtesy of Salaam Shalom, we participated in three days worth of workshops and activities (and vegetarian meals), all of which I took something from, whether it was due to the actual activities or the debates they provoked. I felt comfortable during these group discussions and as a result of this, I probably expressed my opinions more confidently than ever before. When I truly felt the love and bond we shared for each other was when I fell ill and everyone seemed so concerned and kept asking me if I was okay. When it came to it, there was someone holding a bucket and reassuring me while I puked. Surprisingly, no-one ran away and I never felt embarrassed.

The final day was very interesting as it consisted of a poetry slam competition (organised by Shagufta Iqbal). For the competition we were put into pairs where we had to put together a poem and perform it. We were judged on our writing skills, performance and audience response. It was nice to end with us collaborating and creating something physical, something everlasting (hopefully) in a way, and then showcasing it to each other. Even when I looked at the program before getting there, this poetry day had intrigued me; I knew I would leave me feeling better equipped to write, even if it was only me discovering Polarbear, and it did. It’s at Ammerdown where I wrote my first ever, what I would call, “official poem”. Being given a broken apple, that someone had been throwing around, to write about, this is what I came up with:

Ever since seven or eight,
They told him: “Oh boy, you better have your five a day
You see it keeps the devil away,
Yes you better have your five a day,
‘Cause it keeps you from going astray.”
But he found that even when he put his forehead to the ground, illness and death still came to play,
Still they say: “Oh boy, you better have your five a day,
You see it keeps the devil away,
Yes, you better have your five a day,
‘Cause it keeps you from going astray.”
But hey! What’s so wrong with those who don’t believe the same???
The more he thought about it, the more he raged,
As a result, he never makes time to pray,
In frustration, he picks up one of his five a day and throws at the wall which breaks away,
This makes him say: “I can still be fit and healthy, without five a day!”

Also, I can’t forget to mention the awesome last night we had. It was probably the first time I’ve danced to bhangra music in front of an audience. Sadly though, the videos of this were accidentally deleted.

– Maz Shar

Salaam Shalom’s Website, Twitter & Facebook.