[21-22] AN ECOLOGY OF ARCHITECTURAL KNOWLEDGE

In PG X-25, we are interested in experimental methodologies and helping students to develop their own design methods and media. We are interested in the parallels between idea and media in representation and ideas and materials and construction processes in architecture. We encourage students to think through their drawings and constructions to develop their own sets of logic.

Last year we asked how ecological responsibility ties in with the pleasures and practicalities that we care about in architecture. This year, we will expand this interest into larger and more diverse networks. We will specifically ask how spatial networks equate to ecological networks, across disciplines.

The ongoing practice of the x25 studio is to work experimentally and rigorously and to help students develop media appropriate to their ideas, in a way that provides a means of research and discovery while providing an analogue to the translation of ideas into architecture through various materials, processes and techniques. We also expect that students will take a hands-on approach to making and prototyping, making full use of the Bartlett workshop facilities and studio space. No prior experience of making is necessary as we will help students to nurture new skills as well as developing existing ones.

One of the pleasures of architecture is that it gathers together so many ideas and interests and makes sense of them in a way where the assembly is richer and more telling than the parts. Where does the knowledge come from to enable us to do this, and how do we further that knowledge? This year we will look at how new architectural knowledge is generated whilst also learning from the past. We will search for the knowledge base that is particular to architecture whilst studying what can be learned from other disciplines. In architecture schools there is typically an emphasis on the project. This year we will place an emphasis on each student’s underlying practice and the way it infects their projects.

Modernism propagated a romantic fantasy that architecture could be rational and its terms reduced to controllable attributes– believing that if we enact a certain architectural move then a certain outcome would happen. While we have seen that architecture does not have such a level of power, this sort of fantasy perpetuates, especially when addressing the urgent question of climate change. When architecture is reduced to a single issue invariably it fails at every level. We have seen this repeatedly in buildings that claim to address questions of sustainability yet despite their technical prowess, fail to perform because they do not accommodate broader behavioural and cultural issues, for example.

We would like to take a broader approach. To understand how to address the burning issue, we need to understand how it nestles with all the other issues and concerns, both within individual projects and a larger sense of how to construct one’s practice.

We will start by looking at the on-going studies pursued by architects and artists in other fields, not only to develop ideas but also acts of practicing to develop skills and sensibilities. We will examine methods of learning, how different ways are appropriate to different ideas and different people. While we are all familiar with ways of accessing explicit knowledge, we will also look at techniques of extracting embodied and tacit knowledge. While some knowledge can be told, some has to be found and we will look at techniques such as mimicry as ways of teasing this out.

From these studies we will run a research project and architectural project in parallel. The research is explored via two parallel routes: Through speculative experimentation and through dedicated and rigorous reflection. We will help students to develop a practice individual to each student’s fascinations and to develop ways of building and finding the knowledge relevant to such a practice. The process of inventing architectural projects will begin immediately and will run in parallel to the first term research work and preparation for the 4th year DR module.

We will use the Isle of Portland as a site. Unimaginable volumes of stone have been extracted from the island to build London’s monuments (one million cubic feet for St. Pauls alone). The combination of the given geology and the subtractive quarrying provide a captivating landscape. As stone is having a renaissance as a sustainable material and a more economically viable material to work with due to CNC tools it provides an opportunity for those who are interested to study the rich history of stone construction as well as speculate on its future possibilities. It is a site that offers the special possibility of working additively and subtractively.