Design Studio 25

MArch Architecture

Tutors: Dr Alessandro Ayuso, Daniel Wilkinson and Martyna Marciniak

Body Architecture

DS25 takes the fundamental relationship between bodies and architecture as the starting point for unabashed speculation through filmic representations and haptic forms of making.

Background

Our existing architectural design standards and methods find their figural logic in precedents dating back half a millennium. Through establishing a conceptual and material idea of the body, we look both forwards and backwards in establish- ing the new. The contemporary condition of people and architecture in the 21st century— one of posthumanism, defined by a pervasiveness of new forms of technology in our lifeworld— adds twists to the plot. Posthumanism is accompanied by conundrums with respect to the all-too-human spheres of society and subjectivity. Here, social and experiential phenomena are in turn mediated by hybrid materialities and augmented realities, blurring the built environment with the virtual, and even with inhabitants’ bodies.

Focus

To speculate amidst this condition, in Term 1, studio skills seminars will focus on:

  • Animation: Architectural bodies and their environments are in flux. Time-based media can capture this motion; film clips are the new sketches.
  • Narrative: Writing, storyboarding, and choreography allow the designer to operate within the kinetic reality described above; architectural bod- ies are protagonists.
  • Haptic making: Drawing and fabrication techniques can be altered, spliced, combined, edited and layered; this hybridized mode brings embodied qualities to the surface.

…and theory discussions will focus on:

  • Figuration: Particularly the notion of ‘Body Agents’, representations of figures that impart a subjective presence into design and allow for a reciprocal interaction between architecture, architect, context, and the other.
  • Architecture Parlante: Architecture needs to speak; its language may convey subtlety and refinement, but it also may be outrageous, heretical or blissfully celebratory.
  • (Ir)reverent Historicism: History belongs to us all. We can use it subversively and creatively to move beyond orthodox assumptions, especial- ly by re-looking at past figures (from Lequeu, Michelangelo, and even modernists such as Le Corbusier).
  • The periphery: The edges of the discipline are fertile, particularly where it overlaps with Art (from Duchamp’s systematic absurdities to Marguerite Humeau’s fictional bio-histories), Interiors, Set Design, and of course, Film.

Field Trip

We will visit Milan and Turin where we’ll be on the lookout for instances of embodied architecture. In the works of Carlo Mollino in Turin, we’ll see anthropomorphic design that is at once opulently kitsch and sensually poetic. In a visit to the Fiat Factory Lingotto, we can question the modernist notion of the body as a machine. As we wind our way through the buildings of Sacri Monti, we’ll find ourselves amidst a panoply of plaster figures already inhabiting them, and in Milan we’ll see extraordinary architectural figures such as Marco d’Agrate’s St Bartholemew. To determine project sites, we’ll be looking for places in these exquisite cities where the embodied occupant is neglected. These two cities, with their rational plans punctuated by architectural jewels (mostly in their centres) but also neglected non-places (mostly at their peripheries), are ideal settings to find such anomalous zones in need of new Body Architecture.

Schedule

(Weeks 0-6): Body Agent Design

The first task is to quickly work towards an idea of the body through precedents and materials (which tutors will help you choose). Students will learn software and fabrication techniques through in-studio seminars so that each can design and animate their own body agent and, to begin to establish a tectonic language, fabricate a full-scale fragment of it. Using the limited time of a term to our ad- vantage, the inevitable glitches, errors and oversights which are bound to occur along the way in learning how you’d like to use digital media and materials will become criteria for developments— an attitude we’ll encourage over the remainder of the year.

(Weeks 7-12): Palimpsestic Model

Following the field trip and seminars on camera tracking, each students’ animated body agent will be ‘deployed’ into sites through the production of a short film clip. The next task will be to create a palimpsestic site model, with layers that not only diagnose the site but move towards prognostication. Within the territory described by the palimpsestic model, ‘posthuman programmes’— in our case not only taking into account the imminently technologically saturated future, but the social and experiential circumstances they would contribute to— can be explored, looking toward the future of the city and its communities.

(Weeks 13-24) Proposals for Milan/Turin

Starting from the scale of the ‘body proper’, students will have diagnosed an urban situation, identified a site and programme, and produced the beginnings of an architectural language. The mappings, fabricated fragments, and collections of social and architectural conditions are consolidated in the palimpsestic model which defines a territory that in the second term becomes the staging ground for architectural interventions. Term 1 situates each student to pursue their own unique project in Term 2, to develop a fully-fleshed out proposal intensifying and benefitting the urban fabric.