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Previous research on the Kunsthal Rotterdam - designed by OMA/Rem Koolhaas from 1987 to 1992 - has been limited in scope and depth, taking into account only a fraction of the available archival sources. The few scholarly articles to be published in the past twenty years have focused on the relation between interior and exterior (2003), the role of montage (2015), the concept of the ‘pliable’ floor (2018), and a first project for the Kunsthal that never materialised (2016).1 The subject of this article, namely the relation between the project and its context of origin, has not yet been addressed. My argument is based on a research project that reconstructs the genesis of the arts centre in minute detail, drawing on extensive archival research and interviews with several OMA staff members and municipal representatives involved in the project.2 The account dovetails with the discussion of three distinct phases in the Kunsthal's design - the first project, the inception of the second scheme, and the development of the project between 1989 and 1992 - with ‘digressions’ on the respective historical backdrop, concluding with the particularly intricate relation between the project and the prospect of European unification at the turn of the 1990s.
This article reflects on the visual, spatial, and textual devices deployed by the Architettura Radicale in the 1960s and 1970s through a discussion of a pedagogical project developed for undergraduate architecture students from Monash University, Australia, as part of a travelling intensive based in Prato, Italy. At the time, Prato became the subject of debate about the rapid expansion of consumer culture in Italy, as underscored in Claudio Greppi’s graduating project, ‘Territorial City-Factory’ (1964-5). This architectural proposal rendered the area between Prato and Florence as a totalising city-factory, a proposition that was later developed under Archizoom as ‘No-Stop City’ (1968-70). Greppi’s recasting of Prato as a site for political and architectural experimentation became the catalyst for a teaching-led research project, re-examining the work of the Radical movement in Tuscany. In collaboration with architect and artist Gianni Pettena, the intensive sought to draw out the performative and embodied approaches implicit in his own work and that of his peers including UFO and 9999, as well as the rhetorical devices embedded within the critical fictions of Superstudio and Archizoom. By first dissecting and then redeploying these techniques in response to a site-specific brief, the ultimate pedagogical aim was to expose the students to an expanded range of architectural approaches and to re-evaluate the nature of radical practices ‘within and against’ the omnipresent struggles of late capitalism, and the contemporary cultural and educational context of neoliberalism and the university.
The article discusses an approach taken for the design of a new temple in Karnataka, India, to be built in the medieval ‘Hoysala’ style, which followed the Karnata Dravida tradition of temple architecture. This style is unfamiliar to present-day traditional temple builders in India. The design needs to be based on research into architectural history, of a kind that aims to relive the processes through which temples were designed, assimilating the architectural language and its principles. This kind of architectural history involves re-creation, and this kind of design can contribute to architectural history as ‘design research’.
An application of such research is the reconstruction of temple designs from ruins. The temples can potentially be rebuilt, or they can be reconstructed graphically, and presented meaningfully on site. Re-creation of temples through drawing is also a key for understanding canonical Sanskrit texts on architecture. These texts are not illustrated but call for interpretation through drawing. Temple types are typically presented in sequences of evolution from simple to complex forms, one type emanating from another in way reminiscent of how the architectural traditions themselves develop. Texts provide a framework for a design, demanding interpretation, improvisation, and invention. The results are only partly determined by an individual architect, and the framework can stimulate creations that an individual would never have thought of, as if such temples are svayambhu, or ‘self-creating’.
A ’svayambhu’ approach has been taken in the design of the new Hoysala temple. No texts survive from the Karnata Dravida tradition, but the surviving creations of that tradition display the emanatory logic of its unfolding. A ‘self-creating’ design for this temple can be achieved by exploring formal possibilities inherent in the tradition and extrapolating a new form, while accommodating ritual and iconographic requirements, and being open to the unexpected.
This article investigates architectural responses to everyday sociospatial practices in public spaces in the postconflict urban landscape of Belfast, where public buildings and façades impact pedestrian flows and movement patterns in the public space. While the city has an extended history of vibrant public spaces and active urban life throughout the first half of the twentieth century, devastating memories of the so-called Troubles leave imprints of division across the city’s public spaces. Inscribed by memories of conflict and violence, ground floor façades are mainly solid, disengaging, and do not encourage fluid movement across their thresholds. This article argues that the architectural design of public buildings and spaces characterise attributes of a reciprocal reproduction of memories of fear. A comparative analysis of the architecture of four different public spaces in Belfast city centre highlights factors that inform the relationship between the building façades, ease of accessibility, and use of the public space.
This article provides an English translation of an unpublished German typescript found in the archive of the architect Julius Posener in the Akademie der Kunst, Berlin. Posener, a professor of architectural history at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (HBK), travelled with a colleague and fifteen students to England for a fortnight in March 1963. They met several prominent architects, saw a wide selection of their current and recently completed works, and attended events at the Architectural Association school. The typescript is an account of the trip that he wrote up from notes in his diary on 29 March, two days after their return. Posener, who had previously spent almost a decade teaching architecture in London, proves to have been a sympathetic observer of the scene, eager to compare and contrast what he saw in England with contemporary work in Germany; his account evokes subtle disagreements between himself and his colleague on conceptual and historical points, and gives us an insight into the day-to-day workings of Denys Lasdun’s office, the Architectural Association, the London County Council, and the Building Research Station in Garston.
After the Boxer Rebellion ended with China’s crushing defeat and the signing of the Boxer Protocol, China participated in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition as its official debut at world’s fairs. The Chinese pavilion was supposed to represent the country’s national pride and cultural identity, yet ironically, the pavilion materialised the Chinese government’s weak position in its quasi-colonial relationship with the US – both politically and culturally – in terms of the appointment of architects, the design process, and the arrangement of construction. Such power interaction shaped an ambiguous ‘Chinese architecture’ presented at the fair, imitating the Beijing residence of a Chinese Prince while incorporating vernacular architectural elements from south China. It reflected the Chinese government’s early self-vision of its global image in an age of political turmoil and cultural uncertainty, and pioneered the exploration of an architectural ‘Chinese-ness’ in the early twentieth century.
Between the months of September and October, Kolkata celebrates the Hindu religious festival of Durgapuja on a grand scale. Organised by local clubs and neighbourhood voluntary associations, approximately 2,500 temporary structures – pandals – are built for the worship or puja of the goddess Durga and her entourage. Of these about two thousand occupy the city’s public spaces: streets, parks, green islands, and vacant lots. A large number of the pandals are finely engineered structures that are fabulously decorated and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each day of the festivities. It takes anywhere between three months to three days to build these pavilions. After five days of festivities the pandals are dismantled and the clay deities destroyed by immersing them in the Hooghly River or another nearby body of water.
Austerity measures have been discussed widely since sweeping cuts have been made to local government budgets following the global financial crisis of 2007-08. More than a decade later, the impact of these measures on everyday lives of communities is still growing. We use the context of austerity to discuss our research in partnership with Community Place Initiatives in the city of Sheffield, UK, and to examine the approaches they use to attempt to overcome the shortcomings and challenges of precarity.
This article focuses on revealing the impacts that budget cuts have had and are still having, and speculates upon what these findings mean for the role that schools of architecture can play outside the academy. We draw on research conducted by Urban Education Live Sheffield - a team of researchers and educators from the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield in the UK, and the Department of Architecture, Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany. The team is part of a broader international project, Urban Education Live (UEL), a multidisciplinary research project with partners from across Europe funded by the ERA-NET Cofund Smart Urban Futures (ENSUF) programme, established by the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe.
Through a multi-modal ethnographic and design-led approach combining interviews, case studies, and ‘live’ pedagogy, we examine how Community Place Initiatives in Sheffield deal with a context that has fundamentally changed the ways in which they operate in, or in relation to, their place over the past decade. We explore how collaborations between these local partners and architectural researchers and students can be mutually beneficial within this context, in order to speculate upon how such collaborations can be more effective in their contribution to local place-based urban capacity building and future resilience.
In 1955 Charles and Ray Eames gathered more than three hundred photographs of their Case Study House #8 in the Pacific Palisades to produce the experimental film House: After Five Years of Living. The film is a visual exploration in which craft and found objects contrast with the mass-produced industrial structure of their house, but also a constant tension between the frantic acceleration of its images and moments of slow pace.
Proceeding from a close reading of House: After Five Years of Living, this article analyses its film and editing technique to proposes how domesticity becomes a screen. This means, an ideological surface promoting the cultural, social, and economic changes of the Cold War period, while simultaneously screening out (obscuring) its anxieties, preoccupations, and fears in its mode of visual representation. In the film, the Case study House #8 exposes and covers, promotes and disguises, veiling some preoccupations and motivations while exhibiting an alternative reality.
This article examines multi-modal perceptions of İstiklal Street, a public space in İstanbul, using a zoetrope, an optical, scientific, and educational instrument invented in the mid-nineteenth century that was a predecessor to film in early cinema. It discusses how this tool increases the awareness of architectural students to environmental perception through observation. Constructing a black curtained zoetrope with a radius of five metres allowed them to metaphorically inhabit the optical device as it was large enough for their bodies to enter. After experiencing İstiklal Street as flâneur/flâneuse, students aimed to understand its heterogenous and fragmented narrative using the zoetrope. Re-reading the street through a zoetrope enabled a paradoxical interplay between the device and its scale. By interacting with a zoetrope to create different fragmented movements and scales, movement in the urban space was understood as more than a visual perception or transient state of curiosity. Instead, the students comprehended architectural production through filmmaking as ‘a mode of reflection’ rather than as mere representation. The zoetrope became a medium through which the students’ visual, haptic, and kinaesthetic senses were fused together.
The design of domestic environments is fraught with decision-making, a process often dictated by fashion. The resulting inhabitation of domestic spaces blends the routine and the banal, with occasional forays into the extraordinary. The spaces of the domesticity range from single rooms to elaborate palaces. These can be functionally prescribed or open-ended, they support furniture, décor, behaviours, and narratives. The writer Georges Perec (1936–82) provides a way of looking at the domestic realm and ordinary life through his many inter-related writings on the subject. In his quest for an ‘anthropology of everyday life’, he explored notions of the ‘ordinary’ and ‘infraordinary’. In this text two important works by Perec are examined to explore how he framed and questioned notions of domesticity; can this reading be construed as a theory of domesticity?
Perec’s text Species of Spaces describes a spatial continuity between city and dwelling that is characterised by spatial types, thresholds/boundaries, objects, and everyday practices often of an autobiographical nature. He begins with the page, ascends through the apartment building and the city, and ends with the world in a sequence of embedded spatial conditions. A close read of Species of Spaces uncovers a kind of sociological work, a critique or manifesto, and an evolution from Perec’s previous writings. In the text he asks the most fundamental questions, such as ‘What does it mean, to live in a room?’
In his monumental text Life A User’s Manual, Perec examines the lives of residents in a typical Parisian apartment building, it remains one of the most significant imaginings of how a building, or work of architecture, can be occupied. Through the vast scope of Perec’s project the book captures the intertwining lives of the occupants of the building at 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier, in Paris’s 17th arrondissement, at precisely 8:00 pm on 23 June 1975. To accomplish this Perec devised forty-two ‘preprogrammed’ factors to structure each of the ninety-nine chapters to ensure that he covered plot, actors, and setting in a systematic way. The apartment building ultimately provides an armature for the study of the very small to the very large.
Life A User’s Manual describes a domestic world, how we organise our residences into compartments of space, how we furnish the rooms, how our stories create our realities, and how the lives of people in an ordinary apartment building intertwine in so many ways. Although frozen in a moment, the novel captures the vagaries and complexities of the everyday. It describes the routines of living, unexpected happenings, the connections between people living together at close quarters, the role of interiors in defining a particular period, the histories that can support and damage a life, the common aspirations and tragedies of urban dwellers, and so on. Perec's work does not constitute an actual theory of domesticity, although it precisely describes a domestic order that provides a sense of place by attending to both the minor and major aspects of an environment.
This article considers the relationship between architecture, bodies, and custodies in the making of Indian urban monuments. Monuments are created through a combination of design and designation. In this article I explore a religious architecture that is dynamic and iterative and at which monumental designation was attempted and quickly abandoned. I align three issues: what a monument looks like, what a monument does, and how both design and function connect to the custodian regimes at monumental, or potentially monumental, sites. In particular, I am concerned with architectures of divinity, and devotion, as both quotidian and monumental aspects of a city.
Drawing on philosophical writings ranging from the Enlightenment and the Romantics through to the contemporary world - including, among others, Rousseau, Hegel, and Thoreau - I explore the civil dimensions of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s gardens and landscape designs. I argue that Oberlander’s landscapes are not merely visual delights; they are civil, humanist works. I survey a selection of her designs, from collaborations with Arthur Erickson and Renzo Piano to her public housing projects and the playgrounds that she designed in-and-around her home of Vancouver, Canada. A secondary argument I make is that Oberlander’s gardens and landscapes are not merely aesthetic objects, but artworks, and they do the work of art as Hegel describes it: showing us something of our human spirit, and specifically our creative and political geist.