KOE-ED

Flimwell gridshell
Koe Sauna

Ksenia Rakovskya, part of Wood Program 2011-12 student group, casts an eye over her year in the studio and the forests

Looking back on my Wood Program experience, I realize that I have a new view on architectural education, and on how students should be prepared for architectural practice.

The Wood Program forces students to consider many different components of our profession all at once. They must deal with a variety of technical, social, theoretical, scientific, experimental, practical, and even managerial issues at the same time. This could be an education itself. But the main part of the program is surely the opportunity to work with one's hands and to engage directly with the crafting of wood. Amongst the wide range of building materials, wood is surely one of the most delicate and sensitive. It requires a careful approach and thorough study, but the idea is also that having ‘direct contact with the problem’ is the best way to understand it.

Rather than slowing the flight of imagination, continuous work in the workshop (with the best quality equipment) helped to open up even more freedom and possibilities in the design process. For our group the Paja (workshop) became an extension of our own hands and allowed us to realize a full-scale building. The technical difficulties became one of the most important ways to understand (and to believe in) the real possibilities of the design.

For me it was a particularly special experience. As my own proposal was chosen for the group building project, I was thrust into the role of ‘project leader.’ At the same time I was just another student, along with 17 other people. We had to work together, considering everyone’s opinion. The hardest moments came at those points of contact, but those moments of difficulty helped develop the project. I was constantly forced to explain and clarify the original concept, and to help others understand it better. I feel that this is the thing that makes the Wood Program experience most like real architectural practice.

From the beginning I was inspired by the material by itself, and as we studied wood more deeply, my ideas became clearer and stronger. The instructors worked with me to figure out how the project could be realized, and their advice gave support to the design. At the beginning our instructors were helpers and teachers, but later their roles changed. As the design developed our teachers became ‘customers’ and we students became ’executors’. We were asked to prove our ideas, and to make final decisions that we could clearly support. I can’t say if this was a good or bad way of teaching, but it forced us to form a cohesive team and produced a very special experience for everyone. I don’t know where else a student could find such an opportunity.

Flimwell Gridshell under construction
Flimwell Gridshell under construction

Flimwell Gridshell under construction




In some sense I think that the Wood Program resonates with older traditions of apprenticeship, when aspiring craftsmen had to study in a Master’s workshop. Of course there were some troubles and difficulties, but now I see the Wood Program as one of the most important periods in my professional life. And if I ever have enough luck to work in the field of architectural education, I would hope to organize something similar.



Flimwell Gridshell under construction
Flimwell Gridshell under construction




Flimwell Gridshell under construction












Ksenia Rakovskya’s Koe Sauna was one of Wood Program’s 2011-2012 projects