In its inaugural year, unit 8 will be exploring the notion of architecture as a visual construct, as something that is made to be ‘looked at’.
While the assertion that architecture is something that is ‘seen’ may appear as a bland truism, it is rarely a starting point for the design process. Unit 8 questions the established wisdom of thrashing out a design through plans and sections before a final perspective or model reveals what a scheme will actually ‘look like’. We will instead start with how we want our architectures to be perceived, and figure out ways to realise this.
We will take cues from existing disciplines of ‘view’, from film, photography and the visual arts, and deploy their techniques in the production of space. We will operate very much with the physical, concentrating on photography, modelmaking, and three-dimensional work from the outset.
We are not afraid of beauty, composition, or of things simply being themselves. We see technology as a toolset to be utilised as opposed to being an end in itself. We believe in empiricism and iterative experimentation, and in projects developing their own narrative through conversation and accident.
It could be said that architecture is fabricated, both in terms of being made, and being made up. An architectural proposal is an imagined fiction overlaid on the world as it is. An architect needs to sell this fiction to various parties, to the client, to the authorities, to themselves. Techniques and technologies are available to assist an architect in these endeavours – Computers can produce photographs of objects that have not yet been built, and models (miniature versions of buildings) can be produced that are still somehow understood as being enormous.
We are interested in the notion of architectures as myths, both in terms of the unrealised (unrealisable) proposal, and the re-reading (misinterpreting) of the material world. As is apposite for a post-truth age, we will be encouraging students to frame and present their work from within such a context, as a fictionalised proposition may still have material outcomes.
The unit will perform a series of fast pace studio workshops, back to back with tutorials, and strategically spread throughout the year. With the use of film + photography/ 3d collaging + drawing + photoshop/ model-making/ etc. We perceive these workshops to be a point of departure to explore the visualisation of a narrative, to translate ideas into tangible representation, to discover different ways of seeing, and more. During the first term we will also embark on fieldwork investigation, mapping, and fabricate initial site interventions.
The sublime flatlands of the Essex estuary will form the backdrop to our field of experimentation. We will explore the ‘otherness’ of this surreal edgeland where swamps and marshes are interspersed with flood defence walls, eroding military forts, sewage plants and a state-of-the-art logistic hub – its gateway to the rest of the world. It is also a place of respite, where rituals take place, for the scattering of ashes. Inland, points of reference range from the aptly named Worlds End pub to a radical modernist town built in the 1930’s by Czech shoe entrepreneur Tomas Bata. From fact to fiction, in H.W. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the estuary was disturbed by a Martian invasion. So, in true experimental spirit of the area, it is an ideal testing ground for our unit 8 participants in (re-)constructing the unrealised and unrealisable.
Deploying the tactics and techniques learnt in the first part of the year, we will be asking you to design The Gallery. This is a space of display, narrative and revelation. We will use this programme to explore the notion of architecture as something that is ‘seen’, and also ideas of myth, authenticity and belief. In modern society a gallery can be many things, from a near spiritual space of reverence, instruction and contemplation, to a place for populist entertainment, to an act of defiance and rebellion.
- ‘Camera Lucidia’ and ‘Mythologies’ – Roland Bathes
- Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing – Richard L Gregory
- Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death – Frances Glessner Lee
- ‘The Slow House’ and ‘The Blur Building’ – Diller and Scofidio
- ‘Flesh’ – Diller and Scofidio
- Die Wahrheit über Hänsel und Gretel – Hans Traxler
- The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Los Angeles
- Le Musée Miniature et Cinema, Lyon
- Giovanni Battista Piranesi
- Andrea Palladio, Teatro Olimpico
- Louis Boullée’sCenotaph for Newton
- Panorama Mesdag, The Hague
- Sarah Sze
- Forsensic Architecture
- Jeff Wall
- Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
- A Peepshow with Views of the Interior of a Dutch House – Samuel van Hoogstraten
Image: Andrei Tarkovsky on the set of the ‘The Sacrifice’