Unit 08: Lightness and Weight

Unit brief

“Weight or Lightness?” asked Milan Kundera, in his 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

This year, Unit 08 will explore lightness in architecture – of material, construction, and crucially as a disposition that favours touching the earth lightly. We will test this architecture by proposing buildings with a civic dimension in Battersea, where a combination of WWII bombing, post-war reconstruction and indulgent contemporary development have shaped a complex, disjointed urban fabric.

The ethics of building will continue to influence our work. In this context, we are concerned with communicating meaning and continuity – or weight – in the language of architecture. We hope to use composition as a primary tool, and challenge Kundera’s question as a false dichotomy.

As our culture critically re-evaluates its use of resources, the Unit will question what tools still remain to the architect that transcend these concerns. Through reading, reflection and proposal, we will pursue an architecture that is irreducible – one that contains urbanity and continuity within the lightness of its approach. We will consider the complexities of lightness in architecture critically – studying built and unbuilt examples together with our programme of seminars on architectural theory.

We will travel to Berlin, and reflect on its legacy of critical reconstruction. Looking back to OM Ungers and Rem Koolhaas’ 1977 manifesto The City Within the City, together with their proposals for renewing a fragmented post-war Berlin, we will define and question architecture as artefact – condensing urbanity and public life into the scale of the finite, singular project. In turn, we will consider the legacy these architects have had within contemporary practice and theory.

We begin the year collaboratively, working with Ghent-based Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu and Philip Christou. We will travel briefly to Belgium, and through drawing and large-scale models we will survey exemplary Flemish architecture of the past century as a site for irreducible architectural gestures.

Our sites will be scattered across Battersea. Carefully drawn, photographic and modelled survey of existing places will inform initial public architectural interventions in semester 1. Later, we will conclude the year proposing buildings that overlay public use and education within a singular project, deploying lightness and weight toward a renewed civic life.

Image: Figure Study, Painted Paper. Sofia Ghigliazza Lieberman, t-sa Forum 2018 © Takero Shimazaki Architects

Figure Study, Painted Paper


Architecture MA
Tutors Takero Shimazaki (t-sa)
Paolo Emilio Pisano
Karabo Turner 
Where Goulston Street
Room GS1-19a
When Monday and Thursday

Architecture Postgraduate Studios


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