Unit 13: A New World of Joy. Ifi Liangi & Dan Wilkinson

Image: The Wizard of Oz, 1939

Unit 13 operates with a foot in the magical and a hand in the practical. This year we’ll explore colour as a political issue for architecture. 

Throughout Western history colour has been marginalised as superficial and cosmetic, including by the founders of modernism who considered it to be deceptive, primitive and feminine. Proclaimed by white blokes who were being, well, white and blokey, the modernist giddiness towards white walls often included statements which dismissed the use of other colours in relation to issues of race and gender. As a unit, together, we want to urgently exchange ideas on architectural colour by celebrating the cosmetic, the wily and the artificial as an act of defiance towards these early opinions. We want to consider alternative positions to find a truly modern architecture which critiques the whiteness woven into our history. 

We’ll begin the year with a reverse crit. With you, our students, being the crit panel we’ll present how these ideas can be found in our own work, and the methods we use.

‘Colour is suited to simple races, savages and peasants’ Le Corbusier, 1925. 

Seeing as we’re not allowed to go anywhere, our site will be somewhere we could never go – the 1925 Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. This city-wide world’s fair was a pivotal moment for modernism with Le Corbusier presenting his L’ Esprit Nouveau pavilionWhilewaffling on about the importance of his use of white (which, to be fair, wasn’t even a particularly interesting one) Le Corbusier used the fair to criticise the Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Persian participants as being culturally inferior to the West. For the founding of the modern era, white minds mattered. 

Through researching the negative ideologies present at the fair we will defy them by designing our own architectural prototypes to be placed back in 1925. Working between an architectural and urban scale, these spatial experiments will challenge the modernist dismissal of colour and the racism and sexism buried within this. Our projects will be designed to last exactly 95 years as they undergo a change in state – such as a change in gender, race or nationality. Through the critical and political nature of this engagement with colour our work will celebrate other ways of thinking to the modernist elevation of white walls and white skin. 

Immediate further reading: https://bit.ly/3kcGrBY 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *