/ Kamil Shah / City & Land

op·por·tu·ni·ty [op-er-too-ni-tee] noun, plural op·por·tu·ni·ties. 1. an appropriate or favourable time or occasion: Their meeting afforded an opportunity to exchange views. 2.a situation or condition favourable for attainment of a goal. 3.a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.

Architects manipulate materials and form to create settings for the life of their communities. Indirectly the volumes we create shape those communities whether at home, play or work. We hope they do so for the better.

Pictures and models are our means of expression as we evolve our projects. But we also need words to explain the images. As we all know words can be incredibly precise, or at the other extreme, loose and flexible in their interpretation. Words too become the means by which a project can be lauded or sunk.

It is interesting how words can define an era, functionalism defined the activity of early modernists, prefabrication shaped a post war building boom, community described its consequent reaction and iconic represents our recent excess.

We seek simplicity in these defining terms and of course they are totally inadequate to describe the complex reality. Austerity is the current mantra. Nowhere has the impact been felt more painfully than in the building industry. So many businesses have been shredded in its wake.

Austerity and opportunity don't seem like good bedfellows, they seem to cancel each other out. Opportunity needs room to operate in. Replace austerity with the word caution and a different perspective emerges. One that says we have to be careful but at the same time seek opportunity. If you think about almost any game it is very rare to only defend and not take any opportunities to attack if you have any aspiration of winning in the long run.

At the heart of everything we do is this seeking of opportunities to make a difference. And it is in our universities that probably the most proactive activism is to be found. Irrespective of the state of play of the economy, universities are driven to find opportunities in exploiting the creative opportunism of research. Research by its very nature explores the potential of any situation, it maybe hampered by the caution of its context but crucially, irrespective it needs to drive towards unknown territory. In our plans for universities new ways of creating settings to promote proactive ideas are being explored at the individual and campus level.

They represent a remarkable model for us all in rising above the vicissitudes of contemporary life.

Photo credit: University of Glasgow