Home Works: 'changefulness' a lecture by Florian Beigel and Philip Christou
In The Stones of Venice, Ruskin wrote about what he defined as changefulness:
"It is one of the chief virtues of the gothic builders that they never suffered ideas of outside symmetries and consistencies to interfere with the real use and value of what they did. If they wanted a window, they opened one; a room, they added one; a buttress, they built one; utterly regardless of any established conventionalities of external appearance, knowing (as indeed it always happened) that such daring interruptions of the formal plan would rather give additional interest to its symmetry than injure it."
Some of Europe's best architects run studios and units at The Cass. These architects lecture about their work all over the world but not often enough here in The Cass. The Home Works lectures puts this right and invites you to celebrate and discuss the current work of the following practitioners, curated by Robert Mull.
- Florian Beigel and Philip Christou
- Deborah Saunt and David Hills
- Richard Cottrell
- Stephen Taylor
- Peter St John
- Geoff Shearcroft and Tom Coward
- Tony Fretton
Review of Lecture
Changefulness - more than just a pretty word
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou of the Architecture Research Unit have given the first in a new series of lectures at The Cass called ‘Home Works’ and they’ve set a high bar. In their lecture, ambiguously titled Changefulness, they presented three ambitious projects that propose an architecture of sensitivity and inclusiveness.
From an enormous city infrastructure project in Seoul to a proposal for a new residential settlement on the edge of the Gloucestershire city of Cirencester, they consistently illustrated an instinct for creating feeling through subtle approximation of space and scale. The presentation illustrated their adeptness in identifying a strong order in any given context and modifying it to adapt to circumstance generating new potentials for shared spaces between buildings.
A particular highlight for me was their proposal for the regeneration of the last remaining shanty town in Seoul, Korea. The steep hillside town consists of rudimentary constructions, micro homes shoe-horned in next to one another, seemingly held up with only trinkets and knick-knacks. In the words of Beigel, each one is ‘a cabinet of curiosities’, a rich collage of textures. Every tiny house is unique; a quality that they make a point of honouring in their own design proposal. This is housing without plan types; a conglomerate of building volumes and terraces instinctively attuned to create the most interesting spatial relationships. It is a master-class in composition. Every house elevation and street corner is negotiated with sensitively judged ‘articulations’ which might take the form of an off-centered window, a sudden material change along the façade or maybe a well placed portico. Ambiguous elements and multifunctional space are curiously interspersed throughout the town at every scale, such as the ‘laundry tower’; a small yet powerful belfy like structure, that brings life and richness to a small public square next to the public laundry yard.
Some might question the validity of an architecture that has the ambition to emulate the essence of a process that has occurred haphazardly over time. However, they are presenting is an architecture that understands and utilises this vernacular sensibility. It shows artistry in architectural compositions that have been woven into their surroundings seamlessly, provoking the same curiosity, yet with overt self-awareness. Where an additional room or floor might have been a necessity before, they turn it into an opportunity; an opportunity to add a new element to a composition.
To quote from the lecture, theirs is ‘anticipatory architecture’, ‘seemingly chaotic’ and ‘allowed to assume a certain amount of redundancy’. It is an architecture that celebrates the consequences of time. It incorporates all the character and complexity and misses none of the grittiness and anonymity that is presented after decades of accumulation and change. In the word ‘Changefulness’ Florian and Philip express an architecture that has real value. It is humane, inclusive and intimately attuned to its cultural and physical landscape. Adam Perkins - Diploma student at The Cass