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Updates (and general progress on everything) has slowed this month. But for good reason – I just returned from a two week holiday (a week in Miami South Beach, followed by another week in Cancun, which coincided with Spring Break). Too many burgers, nachos, cocktails, tequila shots, late nights, sunburn… It was a welcome break from work and the typical winter weather we see here in the UK, but I’m absolutely knackered now and in dire need of detoxification.

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Me (the goon) with some Mayan architecture (the pyramid). You can check out my instagram (add @nickjparr) which contains a few more photos from the trip.

There is a potentially exciting joint project in the works, but I’ll hold back on sharing that until more has been confirmed. But the usual updates should start flowing again soon.

Cheers!

Whilst studying architecture I did some weird things. I dressed up as a clown. I interviewed, photographed and filmed a food vendor in Camden Market. I posed as a waiter trying to serve wine and pasta with an inverted periscope attached to my face. I trespassed through a hospital (actually I did a hell of a lot of trespassing as an architectural student). Carrying chairs into a forest and to the top of a hill. The list goes on. 

One day, in my second year, I found myself down in Hastings, a beach town east of Brighton. I forget why, but I purchased fish guts from a fishermen to encourage the (intimidatingly large) seagulls in the area, then I chased them away. I live on an island and thought I had a good grasp on seagull behaviour and mentality, but the seagulls in Hastings are terrifying. There are hundreds of them everywhere, they are huge, and they eat anything and everything.

seagull image 5I don’t like seagulls. No, I’m not scared of them. I just think they’re great big bastards (I’d also recently watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which may have had some influence). So whatever the project, or design brief was for our trip to Hastings, I reckon I used the location as a chance for revenge. Seagulls love to swoop down on unsuspecting beach-goers and grab their chips and ice creams, so I thought I’d set a trap involving bread crumbs and fish guts, before chasing them away.

seagulls2I set down seagull treats at one metre intervals from a bench in Hastings. After waiting for enough seagulls to show interest, I would then jump up and chase them away. It was cathartic, even if I did get a lot of strange looks from the locals (and a few cheers from the onlooking fishermen and fishmongers). I had some course mates photograph and film the event, without really knowing what I would do with it.

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I filmed all of this from two angles, one camera on the bench and one from the side. I took freeze frames and drew over stills that I then imported into Photoshop to play around with.

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I ended up turning this sequence of events into a ‘flipbook’, where I first set down the seagull snacks, then waited for the seagulls to arrive before springing up and chasing them away.

I look back at a lot of the weird stuff I did at university and struggle to remember exactly what it was all for at the time. There were always reasons, often loosely connected and stretching. I don’t study architecture now or have any desire to work in the field, and I will always question whether those years were worth it, whether I would make different choices if I could, and what those choices would have been. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say “it was dull”.

hello blue monday!

Blue Monday’ refers to the third Monday in January, the third Monday of the year – which just so happens to be today – and has been reported as the most depressing day of the year. Despite being conceived relatively recently (2005) it has taken the western world by storm. Yet how was such a date picked? Not easily, by any means, for the methods used involved complex calculations and hours of time from the very best scientists (it was certainly not created by a travel agency to generate sales of short breaks and holidays, and it certainly is not nonsense) to create a day that brings attention to the gloom and misery present in all of our lives, and an opportunity to compare against others; something super easy and fun to do considering the ease one can now view the shared intricacies of another’s life through social media, the what and the where and the who and the why that is superior because it can be seen.

But of course, if you do choose to celebrate Blue Monday, you can easily become overwhelmed. Don’t fear, as there are plenty of ways to shake off that depressive stupor. Stay positive, take exercise, eating healthy, and (one of my personal favourites), smile. That’s it – just smile. Yep, that’ll work. No matter the situation, there are always precautionary steps to ensure your Blue Monday remains <insert colour of choice to represent happiness>

Or embrace the blues. Go forth and bond with people over shared dislike and mutual hatred for, but not limited to: the weather, being in debt, job satisfaction, unbearable family members, the lump on your neck that you keep meaning to get checked out, old friends drifting too easily out of the field of view, the many reasons you are unsuccessful with the opposite sex, the inescapable routine that is nine to five, living for weekends that you can’t remember, a diet of grease and painkillers and alcohol, jealousy towards anyone with happiness, a bed that becomes you, latest news that continues to escalate a level of unwavering cruelty and brutality, all those wasted years long gone, the quickening and unrelenting pace of time, the uncertainty and inability to rationalise one’s life, and spiders.

So grab the gin, spark a cigarette, and raise a toast: Hello Blue Monday!

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016

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fitter, happier, more productive,
confident and at ease with oneself
and one’s composition,
healthy body healthy mind,
fresh air, clean living, eat well, filter your body,
supplements and medication: good,
sloth, greed, red meat: bad,
a bed is not your sunday,
takeaways and carcinogenic commutes for
a rigged rat race,
learn to laugh at yourself,
live life with a laugh-track.
embarrassment is welcomed,
knows how to have a good time,
with and without stimulants,
moderation is key to keep
those addictions under control
(caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and the like)
admits shortcomings and failures
(only when backed into a corner)
frequent checks at the doctor
(don’t worry there’s a pill for that)
ignore the thrall of the (social) media,
read local, not world news that can’t be changed,
considers with respect that opiate religion.
fitter, happier, more productive
does today what was scheduled for tomorrow
(the early bird catches worms)
routines that never get old on continual repeat,
works hard in a rewarding and challenging career,
respect for your superiors and colleagues
they are your friends (everybody is very good friends)
don’t be stepped on, voice your frustrations,
no muttering on the walk home
alone, and in the dark, and in the rain,
disregard for authority,
un-forcefully fed shit
with a smile on your face
feels no anxiety (feels nothing)
time is on your side,
change for the sake of change
not your questionable and ever-spinning ballast
of morality and ethics,
knowledge of existentialism and personal finance,
the resolution of it all might seem far away
but keep waiting idly for an unknown and unidentified
cataclysm of clarity to bring you to exactly where you want to be.
stop outside the slipstream every now and then
and just watch, watch it all,
you are not just a cog
(you grey speck of dust)
you are not a gear in a machine,
(inutile automaton)
calm, fitter,
healthier and more productive
prepared for the future

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016

This will be my last post on the Guy’s Hospital project. One last look before I finally put it all to bed. From Unexpected Findings to sneaking around forbidden areas to taking in the whole London Bridge surrounding site to building upon those ideas to make the hospital a better place to be – hell, even speculating on a strange dystopian future for the hospital. I’ve spent far more time going back and sharing this project than I expected.

Experimenting with facades and external spaces with 3D modelling in Vectorworks

Experimenting with facades and external spaces with 3D modelling in Vectorworks

Alongside all the portfolio work, the drawings, the photography and the models created for the final submission I also produced a 120 page A5 booklet, filled with drawings and thoughts I’d scribbled down and diagrams and photographs I’d found during the six month project. I thought I’d share a (very) small sample of my thought processes, my inspirations, and various bits and pieces. A lot of which I’d completely forgotten about.

Technical sections going into more detail on how these proposals would actually be built

Technical sections going into more detail on how these proposals would actually be built

The hospital was a fascinating place and I really don’t think I could have picked a better site. It had a bit of everything. A little unorthodox at first but once you started to think outside the box the opportunities were there. In all honesty I didn’t do the site justice; the ideas were in place, and over time they’ve held up, but it all could have been executed with more finesse and detail. It’s easy to say that now. But at the time I just wanted the course to be over – I was working impossibly hard knowing that I was only ever going to scrape through the year.

I managed to obtain old photographs and diagrams of when the tower was originally constructed

I managed to obtain old photographs and diagrams of when the tower was originally constructed

Comparing areas within the hospital; then and now.

Comparing areas within the hospital; then and now.

Throughout the years I kept my eyes open for projects that inspired me, and for aspects which I could bring into my own work

Throughout the years I kept my eyes open for projects that inspired me, and for aspects which I could bring into my own work

I was miserable throughout most of this project and sick of the sight of this bloody hospital. The pressure of deadlines, the humiliation of bad feedback in front of your peers, being torn apart before the eyes of a watching room, days without sleep, caffeine overdoses. I’ve enjoyed revisiting the project without those pressures, and realising how lucky I was, to visit and spend time in these places, to work with some amazing people, receive feedback and support from some fantastic tutors. I’m rambling, but yeah – as much as I suffered during my time as an architecture student, I’m glad to have experienced it all.

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2015

From one of the largest and most renowned music festivals in the world, Glastonbury, to surely one of the smallest, which takes place on an island sized at little over two square miles and home to just 600 people. Just four days after returning from Worthy Farm I found myself at a festival still in its infancy; this year being only the 6th iteration of the Sark Folk Festival.

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Unknown to most, Sark is one of the smaller Channel Islands, viewable across the waters from the island I reside, Guernsey-much larger in comparison but itself also very small with its population of just ~67,000. In my previous post on Glastonbury I described the post-festival symptoms, and was even a little apprehensive of jumping straight back into the action. Two festivals in two weekends sounded like a great idea at the time… Luckily, and as you may have already guessed, these two festivals offer completely different experiences.

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I’ll first talk about the setting itself. Sark is a fantastic, beautiful place, and having grown up so close to it in Guernsey perhaps I’ve taken it for granted. Every time I return I’m reminded how unique a place it is. There are no roads as such but tracks, and you won’t find any traffic here apart from the odd horse and carriage, a tractor here and there, and during the summer plenty of tourists on hired bicycles. A throwback to simpler times, it can be refreshing to visit a place so laid back and indifferent to the rest of the world. During the festival the pubs are active and bustling and of course at the festival site, the atmosphere is buzzing in its own, chilled out, family friendly way. Unlike many other festivals, a 2 minute walk from the festival site (which only spans three fields!) can take you from the cheering crowds and the lively folk music to a gorgeous stretch of coast without a sound. Serene.

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The music. This is a folk festival, make no mistake, so expect anything else and you’ll be disappointed. But there are some refreshing acts that try and merge different genres. A local band from Guernsey, Buffalo Huddlestone, make excellent use of an MC (or wordsmith) who raps over a background of acoustic guitars, violins and backing vocals), and have, after several appearances at the festival, gained a cult following. In general the standard of music was very high. I loved it and the raucous, at times unstructered nature, mixed with the slower, more composed, soulful acts. There should be something for most to enjoy, and like most aspects of the festival, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything offering quite the same as the Sark Folk Festival.

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The atmosphere at this place is superb, with friendly locals and festival goers intent on having a great weekend. Everything is done at a slow pace. Tickets are highly sought after and dare I say it, equally as difficult to obtain as tickets for Glastonbury, and most of those attending are returnees; you can just guarantee, rain or shine, that you will have a fantastic weekend. The food is fresh and local, and as you might expect from a place surrounded by the sea, there are some wonderful seafood options such as fresh lobster, crab and classic fish and chips. The drinks are just as tempting, with a selection of beers, ales and ciders brewed within the Channel Islands.

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Sark Folk Festival was the perfect weekend after the Glasto comedown. I came back with my batteries fully recharged and refreshed. Still plenty of fun, music and partying, but in a chilled out fashion that would be hard to match at any other festival in the UK.

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Returning home, sailing back into Guernsey Harbour.

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2015

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The week I returned from Glastonbury was a miserable week. It was the second time I had experienced the Somerset based festival and so I thought I knew what to expect when trying to resume my normal life of 9-5.

It still knocked me out completely. Constantly tired with no energy yet I couldn’t sleep. No enthusiasm for anything or anyone. Little I could muster up in terms of small talk with friends, family and colleagues. It was a bad week.

On the bright side, it reinforced what a fantastic place Worthy Farm is. Hundreds of thousands coming together to appreciate great music, good times, and of course plenty of alcohol, nicotine and whatever else you’re into. Weather was for the most part perfect. Bit of rain which lead to some muddy areas, but it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without it.

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From a musical point of view I saw most of the bands I wanted to see. There were clashes of course, as there always will be. The Who, The Chemical Brothers or Flying Lotus? Kanye  Hot Chip or Jamie xx? Luckily the Foo Fighters pulled out to make the decision some what easier). I made decisions mainly on who I thought I would enjoy the most, as well as a wow factor – I don’t really like Kanye West, but I appreciate that he is a big deal, a huge character and has an immense back catalogue of material, so I caught the second half of his set just because.

Hot Chip supported by Caribou were probably the highlight of my weekend (as well as Lionel Richie, hands down the coolest man on the planet). Other bands and sets I managed to catch were, but not limited to; The Cribs, James Bay, Alabama Shakes, Jungle, The Vaccines, The Maccabees, The Mothership, Four Tet, Alt-J, Hozier, and a Smiths (The Smyths) tribute band.

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We arrived early on the Wednesday, with the festival proper not kicking off until the Friday, at least that when the stages are open for the live acts to start rocking. The festival was by no means dead though. We had a great time re-familiarising ourselves of the layout and location of the main stages and tents, the best bars, the best clubs, where to go if you need to chill out (GreenPeace and Green Futures, for your eco friendly, therapeutic needs as well as a cheeky massage if you fancy) etc. There was so much going on and we all felt like we had experienced so much before the music even started on the Friday.

The food was fantastic. Don’t let anyone pass on the old ‘urgh, festival food’ bullshit; it’s lazy and I’d like to think most don’t even consider it a stereotype any longer. Name a cuisine, it was at Glastonbury. Name your allergy or dietary preference, you will be catered for. Over the week I dined on Giant Yorkshires, sweet and savoury crepes, pizza slices, vegetarian curries, falafels, Poutine (a Canadian styling of cheese, chips and gravy), mac n’ cheese, breakfast quesadillas and much more. At times it was on the pricey side but hey, you’re on holiday.

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Beer (and other drinks) were expensive – but unlike other festivals, you can bring in as much alcohol as you can carry (that’s not a challenge-if you want to lug 3 crates of beer along with all your camping stuff for a mile then go ahead). I brought along plenty of gin to keep myself merry. Problem is I can no longer stand the stuff. There were some excellent cocktail stands which again were harsh on the wallet, but when they taste that good, who cares.

I’m ashamed to say that the last night most of our group, myself included, slunk back to our tents with our tails between our legs at the embarrassingly early time of around 2am. The festival was still alive all around us but our feet, legs, bodies and minds were broken. It was an exhausting week – please don’t go expecting a holiday. I took a week off for the whole event (being from Guernsey, there were return flights to take into account) and felt like taking another week just to recover. It was in-tents. But a hell of a lot of fun.

A while since I last posted. Apologies, plenty more content on the way over the coming months. And sorry for that title.

For now I want to share a few collages I began working on a while back. They are crude, simple, and took very little time to make. First, some insight to my motivation and inspiration.

Pinterest link to a board containing Surrealist work and art that I really dig.

And another for more general collages. Cool stuff.

Collages can be a great way to throw ideas together and spark your imagination. They formed a key part of many design processes during my time studying architecture and I believe they can work for a variety of mediums, not least writing and literature. Forming thoughts in your head as you write is one thing, but to visualise something that you might normally just scribble down in note form and turn it into a piece of work itself, is something I see a lot of use in.

Even if these pieces are rather basic, they do serve a purpose. I have thought about the key themes from my story/work-in-progress and combined several throughout these collages. There are surreal aspects to all of them.

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loss of innocence / identity / isolation / kudzu / wilderness

space work in progress

age / vertical city / skyscrapers / knowledge / looking back

sky lights

reaching upwards / vertical city / the stars / overpopulation / technology / science

work in progress b&w

child / loss of innocence / violence / isolation

For the first time in my short writing career I have submitted a piece of work to a literary magazine.

The magazine is Lighthouse, a publication of Gatehouse Press. Submissions can include poetry, prose and articles, and is aimed at up-and-coming, unpublished authors. They aim to publish a selection of the best work later on in the year.

Check out their site. http://www.gatehousepress.com/lighthouse/

The short story is called Pynzack Magenta and the Art of Displacement. A short work of contemporary science fiction, where an eccentric space traveller struggles to give his life on Earth relevance. About 4000 words approx. Inspired by recent readings of Vonnegut and Philip K Dick.

The deadline was yesterday; the idea itself only came to me last weekend, and it was a struggle to get it written, to a point where I was happy to submit it, in just five days. There have been some late nights but I’ve sent it off, and I said to myself I wouldn’t send it if I wasn’t completely satisfied with it.

If I’m honest, I don’t think the piece I’ve written is totally suited to the magazine (although I’ve only read the sample edition available on the website). I’m not expecting anything at all, but merely submitting a piece of work feels pretty damn good.

There are a few more submissions for UK based publications coming up this summer that have caught my eye, and I look forward to writing with more purpose on a regular basis. Exhausting work but enjoyable, and with a bit of luck, rewarding.

The London Bridge area is steeped in history. The hospital was the main source of interest for the project but to restrict yourself to looking for ideas and intrigue in just one setting is pointless, and I found the surroundings of the hospital to be just as fascinating as the hospital itself. Taken on the same day as my hospital visit I took in my previous Guy’s Hospital post, here are a few areas around the hospital in London Bridge that captured my imagination.

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The murky Thames water beneath London Bridge

To get to London Bridge itself from the hospital is a good ten minute walk. There is plenty of traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Across the bridge takes you out of Southwark, and so I would remain on the bridge, observing the Thames, the waterfront and Tower Bridge in the distance.

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The area is built up and short distances can take longer due to pedestrians and traffic.

Plenty of pubs and bars around, to my joy.

Plenty of pubs and bars around, to my joy.

One of the oldest stations in the city, London Bridge Station still remains incredibly relevant today; the fourth busiest station in London and the U.K. It acted as the main hub for my visits to the hospital. Being situated in Brighton at the time, it would take about an hour to get here. I would then usually head off after my ‘work’ at the hospital was done, catching the tube further into the city, either to meet friends or get a bite to eat.

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The underground station entrance.

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Old brick interior of the station, below the Shard.

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Exit toward the base of the Shard and Guy’s Hospital across the street.

Over 1000 ft high. 95 storeys. The tallest building in the EU. The Shard, designed by Renzo Piano, the spire like structure can be seen all across London. As tall as Guy’s Tower is (the tallest hospital building in Europe), it is dwarfed by the Shard. As a former architecture student I should probably give my critique on it…it’s alright.

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Escalator down from upper level of the station to the ground level. McDonalds and the hospital across the street.

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Looking up the facade of the Shard.

King’s College, London, or KCL, is the third oldest university in England. The Guy’s Campus is directly opposite Guy’s Hospital; convenient as the Guy’s Campus focuses on medicine. It is home to the school of medicine and the Dental Institute, which is actually within Guy’s Tower itself. The streets and roads between the hospital and the campus were filled by groups of students, walking to lectures or off to the McDonalds on the corner.

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KCL Campus. Taken on a Saturday, so not too many students here.

I believe this is Thomas Guy, the founder of Guy's Hospital.

I believe this is Thomas Guy, the founder of Guy’s Hospital.

Allegedly existing since 1014, the bustling, noisy and colourful Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. The photos below were taken on a Saturday morning, and the number of stalls, vendors and shoppers was overwhelming. Fantastic smells and tastes, it was a carnival atmosphere with a bit of everything on sale.

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Thousands, tourists and locals alike, flock to Borough Market every day.

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There is plenty of fresh local produce on offer, and some stands offer tasters and samples.

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The waiting time for queueing customers wanting the famous steak sandwiches at this stand was over half an hour.

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There is enough variety and choice to satisfy anyone’s tastebuds.

So why did I go to the trouble of documenting my exploration when the project was to take place in the hospital itself? Because I had decided what I wanted to do with the hospital. I wanted to create new spaces within, some seen and unseen, some expected and unexpected.

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Above is a collage I created to illustrate the incorporation of elements from the surrounding area into the hospital. I drew a quick section of one of the towers that make up Guy’s Tower, then began to overlay the image with aspects of the London Bridge area that I wanted to see in the hospital environment.

Cranes were everywhere – London is a growing city, and adding cranes to an already towering skyscraper, bring in spaces to expand the tower, was an ambitious opportunity I couldn’t turn down. When you are given the rare gift of creative freedom you need to dream big.

Ideas such as a speakeasy, an illegal bar hidden deep beneath the hospital where patients can defy the wishes of their doctors to drink and smoke during their stay. Or a performance theatre where the doctors sing or tell jokes in order to gain votes. The more votes you receive, the more patients will want you as their doctor. Or walkways and balconies that came out from within the hospital and wrap around the exterior, spaces of green and light and fresh air to get away from the stuffiness inside.

Ideas that were wacky and strange appealed to me. People suffer and die in hospitals. Without edging towards disrespect and distaste, why not open up the hospital to allow for a lighter, more holistic experience?