Imagine that you are walking through a wood. Amongst the trees and flowers, you find an eight-year old playing. Blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, imagine that, somehow, this child is your mother, back when she was young. Now imagine that you start a conversation with this youthful version of your mother. She may know who you are, or she may not. We will use this conversation as the starting point for the year, in which we will develop architectural fantasies grounded ten feet deep in reality.
‘Let me tell you about my mother’ – Leon Kowalski, Bladerunner
The idea of what a mum is, or who yours might be is open to interrogation within this. While we are all physical beings as a result of the biological machinations of our parents, that doesn’t mean that our social relationships with them have necessarily been straightforward. As a result, you may want to create an alternative version of your mother, or acknowledge those who might have been more responsible for your upbringing. Delving into your personal history and cultural identity, you will be asked to merge ideas of yourselves, your childhoods and your mothers into architectural proposals. This process will involve a reflection on one’s history and cultural identity existing within a wider intellectual framework, which goes beyond the personal. As a result, this year’s projects will inevitably consider how issues of childhood have been addressed from the point of view of adulthood.
‘Genius is only childhood recalled at will’ – Baudelaire
As has become standard for Unit 13, we will study precedents which can also be understood through the biographical specifics of their architects. These vary greatly in scale, intent and style; they include gardens, houses, schools, museums, playgrounds. While looking at the design process that these architects pursued we will also delve into and analyse their ethical attitude towards the life of their buildings; before, during and after construction. This involves everything, from their relationship with the builders who constructed their designs, to the future inhabitants of their structures and the natural and built environment in which their architecture is placed. In relation to this, Unit 13 will continue to address the ecological and environmental crisis with a poetic stance, questioning superficial approaches to environmentalism. We will consider how architects might be more active in demonstrating a creative approach towards sustainability, beyond a reliance on off the shelf green credentials.
This year you will choose your own sites which will be defined by their proximity and relationships to your mothers’ childhood homes. Within this, we will address questions of construction and attempt to blur the boundary between making and occupying, building and living.
‘An excess of childhood is the germ of a poem’ – Gaston Bachelard
In Unit 13 we write briefs as a jumping off point, to be taken in whatever direction our students consider befitting. We like to reconceive the subjective through the objective, and vice versa, and back again, to create projects that reverberate on double, even triple levels. Somewhere between the real and the fictional, our unit’s projects ask us to suspend our disbelief and imagine.