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Last night I  finished watching the first episode of Architecture School, the (perhaps mislabeled) Architecture “reality TV show” from the Sundance channel. I went to my computer, eager to post my reactions and of course my internet connection stopped working. It still isn’t up but thankfully, I have an internet capable phone so I can at tap out at least a cursory post now.

The first half of the episode was a quick paced, get-to-know-you of the students, their mentor and the discouraging brutality of the review process. I found myself uncomfortably shifting in my chair as I watched students try and articulate their ideas. So far the process of designing seems to be the heart of the show rather than any quibbling that may crop up around its margins. This sentiment is backed up by Architecture School senior producer Rob Tate in his comment on my previous post clarifying that the show is more about “collaboration” and than other competition based reality TV shows.

This focus on process, in design and eventually the building of the house, is brilliant on the part of the series producers because those processes are inherently dramatic and don’t need the extra dressing of absurd mini-competitions and cash prizes. The competition within each of the students the benign antagonism of their mentor will make for plenty engaging television. It is unfortunate that “reality TV” is the description that has been bandied about to describe the show. It is, as far as I can see, a documentary and deserves that more noble title.

The latter portion of the episode dealt briefly with the issue of context. We were introduced to the neighborhood and given quick sample of the previous two design-build projects. The first is inspired by the ubiquitous shotgun houses of New Orleans and despite being unmistakably contemporary, plays well with the surrounding turn of the century homes. The second home, which remains unsold, does not and is described both as the “house from space” and just plain “ugly” by neighbors.

I instantly recognized the house from previous reading about the project and I can remember being a little disappointed in the way it addressed its surroundings. I am hopeful that the house produced by the batch of students on the show will keep this in mind but even if they don’t, as one of the locals expressed this episode, a “house from space” would be better then the empty lot that preceded it.

I love the show so far and encourage everyone reading these words to check it out. If you missed the first episode on TV you can easily download it on iTunes (I did) which also offers a season pass for the show at $9.99. After one episode I can say with confidence it is worth the price of admission.

(thank you for forgiving typos and grammar mistakes in this post.  It was was after all, written on a phone)

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