Design Studio 15


Tutors: Sean Griffiths & Kester Rattenbury

Sean Griffiths is an artist and architect. He was a founder and director of the practice FAT, and now practices as Modern Architect, undertaking gallery-based installations, public art works and architectural projects.

Kester Rattenbury is an architect and writer. She is the author of This Is Not Architecture, the Supercrit Series (with Samantha Hardingham), she led the Archigram Archival Project, and her new book The Wessex Project, Thomas Hardy Architect is due out in November 2017.

Without Elevation

DS15 is an experimental studio which investigates the development of new design methodologies that offer radical alternatives to the creative processes and ideas that inform architectural design.

The work we do is part of an ongoing critical investigation of the relationship between architecture and its modes of representation. In the same way that traditional musical scores limit to a very small number of sounds what can considered music, we contend that architectural drawings are also inadequate to the task of designing and representing architecture. They create distorted representations of buildings and environments presenting them not as close-up encounters that unfold in time, but as discrete formal objects at dislocated scales. In focusing exclusively on the visual, they limit the potential for architecture to engage with, and choreograph senses other than sight. No one would confuse the act of reading a musical score with that of listening to piece of music, and yet as architects, do we not continually speak of plans, section and elevations as if they were buildings and not representations? In DS15 we challenge this, exploring other ways of experiencing, describing and making our work.

This year we will be focusing on the performative aspects of architectural drawings, looking at the idea of the drawing as an instruction for action and performance. We will be inventing new types of architectural drawings (which might not be recognisable as drawings at all) and using them as the basis to build at 1:1 scale. As in previous years we will be drawing on relationships between music and space. We will look at how musical scores can be created using “chance operations” as in the work of John Cage and how composers like Morton Feldman used new types of musical scores to introduce indeterminacy into the performance of music.

Just as these methods allowed for the creation of new types of music, you will be inventing analogous techniques for the creation of new types of architecture. You will be designing from the inside out, not from the elevated overview of the plan. You will be drawing, spilling paint, performing, sculpting snow, making things, composing music and designing in ways that allow you to divest yourselves of your prejudices, tastes, rationalizations and preconceptions and to enter the world of your subconscious. You will become a nomad in a land that you don’t know or understand, a dangerous territory that you will have to inhabit and map from first principles. It is of course, a terrifying place to be, but ultimately a creative, liberating and rewarding one.

Appropriately our site will be of a similarly extreme character. The town of Tromsø in Northern Norway is 350 miles above the arctic circle. It is home to the nomadic Sami people and is lit in winter only by the Northern Lights. We will be visiting Tromsø and using our new design techniques to make a building with a musical theme. It will be an adventure in every respect. If you think you have dangerous streak, join us for some fun in the studio and in the snow.