MICAELA BARKER / ASHLEY CHIFFY / STEVEN CHODORIWSKY / KALYN FALLER / RANDY FERNANDO / LUKAS FETZKO / THOMAS MULLIGAN
On a Saturday at the beginning of the school year, there was a large gala event commemorating the restoration and reopening of a historic building on campus—the home of the School of Architecture and Planning. Under a large white tent installed in front of the building, and amid many other speeches by politicians, university officials, trustees, administration and faculty, one student representative, Micaela Barker, read an impassioned text that was well-received by the school community at large. It concluded in this manner:
‘I would like to challenge the architecture and planning community with the following assignment… Students, do not be afraid to take an active role in how this building’s culture is defined over the next years. Take ownership of the space. Propose thoughts and ideas to our administration about how to use it and create new traditions that enhance our community. Fill the building with your hard work and keep it filled. Celebrate your work often, together, and invite the outside world to see it.”
The event continued into Sunday. At noon, I planned to meet some students under the tent. Making photocopies of Micaela’s original speech, I proposed that the students, in an act of solidarity for the speech’s content and to move it from one representative’s words to a collectively-uttered tract in the public record, read the speech aloud as well, from the same spot as Micaela had, out into campus—although audience members had long since dispersed. But, before this could happen, the tent was dismantled, leaving the field in front of the historical building empty.
When we arrived (our number had swelled through word of mouth), lacking the speech’s original conditions, we changed tack and gathered in a circle off to the side. In no particular order, we each read the speech out loud in its entirety. We then began reading the speech over the top of one another, starting at different points, highlighting portions with raised voices, repeating points for emphasis. The speech took on the form of a discordant round. After several minutes, we stopped, took a breath, and left shortly thereafter.
I then asked each student to take their copy of the speech and turn it into a poster, surreptitiously placing it in a prominent building location where other community members might also read it and take on its challenges.