MArch Unit 20 :: RESILIENCE: An Inquiry into Modes of Existence :: Max Dewdney + David Hemingway

“The raw and the cooked, nature and culture, words and things, the sacred and the profane, the real and the constructed, the abstract and the concrete, the savage and the civilized, and even the dualism of the modern and the premodern, do not seem to get our investigator very far. It might almost make us doubt the ultimate light that such plays of contrast are supposed to shed when they are applied to the “others.” “ [p146, Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence]

We are living in uncertain times, in which our relationships to the object world can no longer be considered in isolation from humans and technology. In turn humans can no longer be considered outside of the objects they have ordered and classified, which alters the relationships between the artifice and artefact and the natural and the artificial. U20 will explore this shift in the object-subject relationships between architecture, materials and perception. We are interested in the ordering, display, observing and making of architecture and will deliberate upon how we perceive and make architecture in the era of the reclassification of the natural. In order to explore Modes of Existence we will investigate a series of parallel inquiries into four episodes; Artificiality, Scalelessness, Sublime & Displacement in the shifting European boundaries between London, Berlin & Cologne.

Episode 01 – Artificiality
What is real? The conception of urban and natural space has altered radically through post-industrial manufactured landscapes in the lithium fields and the workhouses of Bitcoin Mining. Such shifts in virtual and real space can also be seen in the digital through Gaming, virtual navigation, dating apps, and the Google street views and satellite mapping of space. The world is now recorded and mapped and the automated vehicles will digitally flatten the space of the city and rural landscapes alike. Our ability to create hybrid surfaces, artificial reality and photo real images and rendered surfaces has fundamentally altered our perception between the artificial and real. U20 will explore artificial landscapes seen in theme parks, the artificial landscapes such as Matterhorn, Shinkle’s follies of San Souci and the landscapes of Capability Brown.

Episode 02 – Scalelessness
Scalelessness has been a preoccupation of 20th century literature, exemplified in the writings of Lewis Carroll and Virginia Wolf, and in scientific endeavors such as the inventions of units and tools of measurement in the fields of Geology. Architecture exists across a range of scales, from the scale of the particle, object, building and landscapes. The way we now draw in digital space is further altering our relationship to how we produce real space. We wish to investigate the new forms of the infinite spaces of the city and mega-structures such as those seen in the new Tesla Giga factories or the intimate scale and impact that the reception of an object has on a room, the body and users perception.

Episode 03 – Sublime
The sublime exists between fear, awe and beauty in both the natural and artificial. In ‘Critique of Judgment’ (1790) Immanuel Kant noted, “We call that sublime which is absolutely great”. He distinguishes between the “remarkable differences” of the Beautiful and the Sublime, noting that beauty “is connected with the form of the object”, having “boundaries”, while the sublime “is to be found in a formless object”, represented by a “boundlessness”. U20 are interested in how architecture can exist in states of in between and beyond such boundaries.

Episode 04 – Displacement
Berlin is a city of displacement, both in terms of architecture, such as pre-post, classical and modern and also physical boundaries and borders, such as the now absent wall. When Schinkle designed San Souci in the park of Potsdam he was designing a series of rooms and ruins for his client Wilhelm the First, he was displacing multiple memories of Rome with the gardens of Potsdam. U20 are interested in displacement in the urban condition and urban and rural picturesque.

Displacement relates to drawings and representation as visions and the creation of particular perspectives for architectural imagination. U20 asks, how as architects, do we readjust our practice to buildings not only read as singular objects alone but as integrated systems within wider new urban and new rural landscapes?

Project 01 – Autonomy of Art & Architecture [Green Archipelago]
City populations are now in growth not decline, the workplace is evolving, transportation, manufacturing and construction are becoming increasingly automated and the services industry now dominates. Based within, London, Cologne or Berlin, investigations will reflect upon OM Ungers, seminal text, Die Stadt in der Stadt 1977, (City within the City) which sought ‘disenclave’ the city through the creation of ‘City islands’, ‘Green archipelagos’ and the transformation of the ‘Urban Villa’ by using ‘decay’ as a driver for reinforcement, destruction and eventual ‘liberation’. We will also investigate Rem Koolhaas’s Exodus and investigations into the urbanism that takes the city fabric as architecture, when urban form becomes urban condition, looking specifically at the typologies of the wall and courtyard.

Year 2 students will investigate Ungers visual metaphors through the lens of the research clusters starting with a collection from the Natural History Museum, London. How can Unger’s thesis be reinterpreted within the framework of the Unit brief? Will the ‘generic sublime’ and ‘artificial landscape’ inform a new Autonomy of Art & Architecture.

Project 02 – The Distributed Museum
Y1 will design a Distributed Museum exploring, changes of scale, displacement and morphology. More compact sites will be selected within the context of Project 1. A programme developed that fits within the contemporary or future ‘decay’ of the urban plan through the anthropocene of post anthropocene and technosphere from a reading of Ungers and Koolhaas. The programme will sit within a framework of the 4 episodes.

Y2 students will develop their own individual forms of design research for Project 2 based on the design research developed in Term 1 on Artificiality, Scalelessness, Sublime & Displacement.

U20 will collaborate with Haus der Kulturen der Welt & Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft

Our laboratory of Resilience will be augmented with visits to archives in London and field trip to Berlin & Cologne.