Daryoush Haj Najafi, Associate Lecturer, Central Saint Martins, Granary Square
Words as told to Kiosk.
Photography by Kiosk.
As a person from Leeds, I've always known King’s Cross as an entry point into London and I've known that part of the city for a long time. It was, when I first moved to London around the millennium, a place of great nightclubs but it was dark, dingy, neglected. They knew the future was going to arrive with Eurostar and everything. That was an exciting prospect - as a child of the '80s and '90s, Eurostar was this promising connection to the future; this connection to Paris. This unbelievable thing to be able to travel around the world and so King’s Cross is quite amazing as this connection to the rest of the Continent and somewhere where London, the Continent, the North, comes together is really interesting.
At Central Saint Martins I teach on the fashion journalism course so I'm not full-time. I work within the industry. I'm an associate lecturer. I teach on various subjects to the fashion journalism students. In an average class of maybe 15 people, I have students from India, Singapore, Poland, Russia, China, Taiwan, Canada, America, probably Italy, Greece. I'd say only about a third of my students are actually from the UK so with such an internationally famous, probably the world's leading fashion college in King’s Cross and the Eurostar and all the great rail links to the North, it really is like a coming together, a node.
Teaching at Central Saint Martins is very task-based. There's not hours of long lectures, although what's brilliant there is because of the proximity to central London we have lots of people come through who are at the top of their game in fashion, in the media, so one day I might be interviewing somebody like that, the students might come and watch, ask questions at the end, but really it's mostly about seminar time with the students that are a mix of lecture, tasks and then getting the students to present work in groups and that's all part of the daily mix. It isn't so much like go to a lecture, then go off to the library and do something. It's much more about inspiring work and work patterns and it works really well because most of the staff there still work in the industry in some capacity, then a lot of the students are already getting involved in whatever their field is because they're already there. It's got a huge postgraduate school so you tend to have slightly older people who are a bit more accomplished. It's a real mix. There's very little sense of barrier between the university and the city. It takes advantage of being a university in the centre of London, to be part of the city, to be at one with the city and the industry that it surrounds itself in, and it's a seamless transition.
"I think it's incredibly smart to place creativity and youth at the centre of change in a city. I think people want to be around new ideas. They want to be around change."
I think it's incredibly smart to place creativity and youth at the centre of change in a city. I think people want to be around new ideas. They want to be around change. They want to be somewhere that feels international and having one of the world's top art colleges essentially in the middle of that development is an incredibly smart move. Most people like to be surrounded with smarts, so it feels good. If you're a business or you're setting up your office, it feels good to feel like yes, the people putting this development together really knew what they were doing, not just the fact that it's great having the college there but also yes, this is a satisfying, fully fledged vision.
You have to build new things. It's human, isn't it? It's distinctly human. It's what monkeys and cows don't do. It's 21st century humanity. Humanity's progress is about what we build and the way we change the world around ourselves to be better.
Walking around King’s Cross, it must be one of the oldest transport interchanges on earth. It feels extremely busy. It feels extremely exciting to be somewhere where so many people are making steps on their journey, going towards their destiny and they're travelling around the world and getting places. That feels exciting and progressive.
In the future - it would be incredibly exciting to see people return, Chinese students to return and invest in the area. It would be exciting to see more French companies invest in the area. I'd like to see all the threads of the North, of China, of Paris. I'm excited when the trains from Berlin finally start coming into central London. That will be incredibly exciting so it's not just Paris and Brussels but Berlin and Hamburg and Amsterdam, and it becomes a real portal onto the rest of Europe.