The core of our unit involves helping each student develop their own experimental practices, both in their approach to design and in the media through which they think and work. In our experience an experimental approach fosters rich design potential while also providing a productive educational method. We value the way that working experimentally through materials and processes can open up possibilities that might elude us when working with more conventional design methods. We encourage speculative risk and not knowing where the idea will end. To operate like this we look for rigour when nurturing the relationship between idea and technique, looking for ways in which each student might develop or invent their own media and be in control of it on their own terms. We are much more interested in the literal and figurative manifestation of the idea than in the diagram.
This year we speculated on how architecture might be implicated in between various realities. To help study this we visited Rome and Naples with a special emphasis on examples of architecture where there was a tantalising assembly of material and pictorial space. Most of the unit proposed building projects on sites on the South Coast. These include the Hythe Ranges that have the cultural marks and the operational strictures of the military combined in equal measure with a range ecologies hardly touched by humans during the military tenure. Above the ranges, the soft cliffs of the Roughs present a realm of diverse geologies, inventive military listening devices and all manner of walkers. In our research we were teasing out diverse ways of activating these sites in ways that questioned the more obvious oppositions between nature and culture.
Architects often feel the pressure to explain their work but we have been more interested in the less reductive constructions that hide behind such lucidities. Each student developed their own worlds with apparent logics but also more hidden realms of invention. Many of the projects are developed through constructions or drawing methods that act more as tools for discovery than as illustrations of the designs. As so much of the act of design depends on tacit knowledge we have been looking at ways in which not just the research instruments but also the propositional tools can help develop such a capacity.