Selected Undergraduate Design Studio Projects--Design III, Fall 2011

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FALL 2011

Professors David Turnbull, Hayley Eber, Urtzi Grau, Sam Anderson

THE HEART OF THE MATTER

This year we reinvented the third year. The faculty group was consistent for the entire year. The project sequence was designed to build systematically from quick observational projects, to analysis, to a short design project before the winter recess and a semester long design project of some complexity in the spring. This may sound like business as usual, but it is differentiated critically by abandoning the principle that there are two semesters with different faculty teaching in each, and in defining a trajectory that explicitly embraces the social purpose of construction and an ecological consciousness. Guided more or less unconsciously by Felix Guattari’s ecosophy, and Bruno Latour’s insistence on a perspectival shift from matters of fact to matters of concern, the work of the studio is simultaneously pragmatic and utopian, speculative and realistic.

This is important, particularly for the third year. It is often difficult, a rite of passage in the strange journey of architectural education. There are obligations. Explicitly, a building or buildings that are organizationally complex must be designed. An understanding of structural and material performance should be demonstrated. The technologies that modify the climate, elementary building physics, systems design should inform the work, and so on. There are implicit obligations too, concerning the integrity of the architect as much as the integration of structure, services, building envelope and internal arrangements, or the elision of form, program and material. But, however responsible we must be, and however careful the students’ work might be in relation to these considerations, we should also be careful to neglect our obligations when we think that an apparent failure in one sense could be a success in another. Aiming high, we may fly a little too close to the sun, we may fall; in third year a student must become confident enough that they can fall without breaking bones… and that confidence should come with knowledge.

There is a lot to learn.

We started with a short project describing the Bowery, inspired by Martha Rosler’s ‘The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems’ (1974–5), the students worked in groups, examining specific qualities offered by the Bowery, reading those qualities with a bias provided by a specific architectural provocation: Learning from Las Vegas, The Manhattan Transcripts, Delirious New York, The ‘As Found’ (AS & PS), Pet Architecture (BOW-WOW). They then looked for a hidden archipelago of ‘islands’—‘cultural production’ sites, minor and major: St. Mark’s Church, The New Museum, STOREFRONT, the PRADA store, The Cooper Union (Foundation Building), The Armory, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, The MoMA sculpture garden, The Whitney and The Guggenheim. Choosing one, each group made analytical drawings and models developing graphic acuity and analytical skills, in multi-dimensional representations of a setting that could be visited, so that the building could be touched, measured and experienced… but also ‘discovered’ in books, novels, newspapers and magazines, on paper and on-line. They then made a project for the site of The Guggenheim Lab on Houston Street, speculating about the future use of the provisional cultural production site established by the Lab, another island in the archipelago.

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