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Mini-Pecha Kucha!

June 7, 2011
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I wanted to change the materiality of this space...

Over the past two terms I have been teaching introductory digital media in the Architecture department at the University of Oregon and for their final presentations this term I asked my 70+ undergrads to step outside the box a little by presenting “mini-Pecha Kuchas”.

For those in the know, Pecha Kuchas have become a popular format for presentations by architects and designers of all sorts.  Originating in Tokyo, I first heard of the format when signing up for the Murcutt Program last year when we were asked bring to show our work to the other attendees.  Even our quiet little town of Portland, Oregon, now hosts Pecha Kucha nights on a regular basis with terrific presentations and free beer (either of which would qualify them as a great night out).

Opening instructions by Prof Brian

The Pecha Kucha format is 20 slides for 20 seconds each.   This  forces the presenter to use images that are both worth talking to for 20 seconds and preventing them from dwelling on any one image for too long.

Around the same point in time as the most recent Portland Pecha Kucha night, I was deliberating what to ask my students to do for final presentations.  Yet another review of drawings hanging on the wall seemed too dull.  And would not have fit well in our assigned lecture hall.  Furthermore, past year’s classes had included a group project which I wanted to incorporate as well.

A team working the lecture hall

The result?  Mini-Pecha Kuchas!  My students formed teams of two and each team was given 8 slides at 15 seconds.  Plus a title cover slide at the front and a “Thank You” on the back.  They were then asked to present one significant change to their partner’s project, with their partner’s  help (these presentations were a week following their final studio reviews and in many cases addressed feedback from those reviews).  What changes they could make was left totally open and ranged from removing a wall in order to clean up circulation to relocating the entire project to another city where it fit better into the surrounding context.  Each presenter was asked to use two images from the original project and produce two new images explaining their suggested change, and each was required to speak to the change they had made to their partner’s project, not to their own project.

The resulting presentations were a great success.  35 teams presented in an hour and a half without the audience going completely stir crazy.   The concise format drove the students to present graphics that precisely explained the change they had chosen to make.  Some needed more time to explain than was available in 15 seconds, while changes that were too minor still left a lot of blank time to fill.

And this is what the facade looks like now...

The mini-Kuchas were also a useful tool in a design teaching process as well, with the students both thinking about another student’s work and getting a different look at their own.   It made them focus precisely on the one change they felt would be most significant to make in a design project.  I particularly enjoyed presentations in which some major change was made to the studio program and felt they exposed fundamental issues and weaknesses that could be explored further inside the original “legal” parameters.

Teaching these past two terms has been a great experience and I have enjoyed being back in the college environment.  Happy to say that my experimental mini-Kuchas turned out to be the perfect capstone and I highly recommend the format to other design instructors.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Carrie Ure permalink*
    June 30, 2011 4:58 pm

    Great idea!

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