ARU (Architecture Research Unit)
photo: Philip Christou
Beyond object-ness, a good house
Can we consider today an architecture that is not focused on object-ness?
As an architect it is useful to think first about the space in between – the void – rather than the things or the objects. When designing a house or a building or a piece of town it is the relationships between:
the rooms in a house; the tectonic elements of a construction; or the interplay between the buildings and the conditions that they find themselves in.
Architecture is the embodiment of these relationships.
We are intrigued by Kasimir Malevich’s text first published in 1927 titled:
The World Without Object-ness. Malevich was trying to describe a new era in art that does not refer back to object-orientated representation. He spoke of a “new objectless construction of relations among elements through which sensations (feelings) are expressed.”
The challenge this year is to design a good house.
This house will be made of good relationships – between the house and its context and between the spaces inside the house. It is not necessary to begin designing a house by thinking about the functions of the house such as sleeping, cooking, eating, reading etc. Designing a house is not un-similar to designing other buildings. It is more important to think about what makes a sense of place and a sense of time. What is it that gives people the desire to return to it, a place with character, a place that offers a feeling of well-being? This might be due to the thoughtfulness that has gone into its design, its particularities, its special nature, its moments of awkwardness and charm. It is also a question of a good judgement of the relative proportions and dimensions. These judgements require a good eye.
In the end, whether we are designing a house or a factory or a bench, we are searching, each one of us, for our own sense of beauty in this world.
Project 01 – The sketch project, ways of seeing
In Dip Unit 1 we have always put a great emphasis on sketching by hand as a way of working when designing. We will begin the year during the first week with an intensive sketching project. The idea is that each person is to be able to see afresh without preconceptions. Paul Klee called this “taking a line for a walk”.
Project 02 – Making a sense of place
This project is a response to an initiative between The Cass and the Sir John Soane Museum in London. We will find and reveal and strengthen the open public space in the Lincoln’s Inn Field. We will go through a process of distillation and abstraction, working from the drawings made in the ways of seeing exercise. This is a matter of enhancing and revealing a certain sense of beauty inherent in the place.
Project 03 – Precedent studies
This year we will study a number of good houses from different times in history. We feel it is very inspiring when finding ideas for a design concept if we have a larder of references relevant to the project at hand. Students make careful drawings and concept model studies of architectural precedents to try to understand the architectural intentions of the architects or master builders. The unit has published a book each year that is used as a design resource.
Project 04 – Study trip
In mid November we plan to visit the ancient city of Evora in Portugal where Alvaro Siza has been working on the Quinta da Malagueira project since 1977. An architectural infrastructure of aquaducts connects the city tissue in the ancient centre of Evora and the new district designed by Siza. We will have the unique opportunity to use one of the Siza patio houses as a base during our stay, and we will have access to Siza’s drawings of the Evora project here in the UK.
Project 05 – The final design project – a good house
We will identify specific sites for the final design project within the old town of Evora or within the new district during our visit. The final project will begin in late November. Again we will begin by sketching and finding a sense of place in the site we have selected. This will involve searching for the times that are embedded in the site.
We will not give a programme of use of the house, and we will not be designing housing. What we want to do is to design a good house, or an ensemble of houses that improve the nature and already existing beauty of the site. Students will make spatial concepts for the site and the spaces of the interior of the house. This is more about what a room is next to, the spaces in between buildings, ensembles of spaces, routes and sequences, not functions. It is about good proportions and good judgements about qualities of light and ways of living.
We are searching for a house that has an open-ended quality like a ruin or a building still under construction has. In such a house, the meeting of different materials and building elements is like a jazz ensemble where each instrument has its space within the music.
A good house is not a machine for living in. It is a place that inspires poetic imagination and thoughtfulness in people.
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou are working on design as research projects in the Architecture Research Unit, at London Met University.
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