We are an experimental unit – both through an interest in experimental practices in architecture and a belief in the benefits of experimentation as a productive educational method. Two of our key sites of experimentation relate to how ideas are teased out by and embodied in media – the tools and materials through which we design and the materials and processes through which ideas are made real in architecture.
The previous sentence already presumes a commonly held idea of a separation between designing and what is designed. This year we will be looking at a number of seams that lie in between conditions that are often seen to be in opposition in architecture – one of them being reality and representation, with a subset of the relationship between material and pictorial space. We will also look at the realm where utility and desire might not be mutually exclusive and examine how appropriation and the bespoke might be equally capable of precise specificity. We imagine that students in the unit will seek out other seams of their own to inhabit.
Another dimension of experimentation lies in the pleasure of inquisitiveness and the condition of not knowing. While the discovery of knowledge is a benefit of the experimental process, the experience of discovery can be just as rewarding as what is discovered. In her essay Tactics For Not Knowing Emma Coker suggests that:
For the artist, to prepare for the unexpected has a dual function. It is the gesture of developing readiness (for anything), a state of being at the cusp of action, mind and body poised. It is also an act of scarifying the ground, an attempt to create the germinal conditions within which something unanticipated might arise. Artistic practice recognises the value of not knowing, less as the preliminary state (of ignorance) preceding knowledge, but as a field of desirable indeterminacy within which to work. Not knowing is an active space within practice, wherein an artist hopes for an encounter with something new or unfamiliar, unrecognisable or unknown. However, within artistic practice, the possibility of producing something new is not always about the conversion of the not known towards new knowledge, but rather involves the aspiration to retain something of the unknown within what is produced. (Coker, 2013)
One of the reasons why ideas are often located in opposition and simplified is that as a profession we try to appear to have knowledge. In doing so we try to express this knowledge in a form that is not the one we use. Our attempts to make our knowledge explicit through words tend to be a reductive distillation of the meandering subtleties that we hold in our tacit (or personal) knowledge. By developing ideas through the media with which we work this tacit knowledge with all its subtle and intimate pleasures can remain in the thing that we design. The things that are made and drawn in the unit are therefore much more agents of discovery than of presentation or rhetoric, with the possibility of being much more personal to their author – an aspect that we encourage.