“Is online teaching a wasteland of impersonal interaction, dehumanizing rote learning and impoverished communication? Or is it education’s holy grail, equalizing opportunity and access, opening up classrooms to the masses, and now ensuring that the world can continue to be educated while a pandemic closes public spaces, including schools and universities?”
This question is the subject matter of a new blog by Caroline Levander and Peter Decherney titled "Can Remote Teaching Make Us More Human?". Unit 04 in the Virtual Laboratory explores the current condition as a new context for architectural pedagogy and practice where in the age of COVID the potential for a renewed architectural agency and new virtuality (Proust) takes centre stage. What do we do as architects if this is the new normal?
Some scholar argue that we are now in the geological age of the Anthropocene when the human footprint on planet earth has come to define our destiny. Climate change, over consumption and overpopulation leads to increased number of natural disasters and reoccurring pandemics. How can we plan cities and buildings adapted to physical distancing, remote working and instilling increased resilience to more extreme natural events? How can we reduce our ecological footprint by making new provisions for public space both real and virtual at the same time as we embrace the COVID induced thriving biodiversity and wildening of our cities and society?
Architects does not tend to physically engage with the act of building, but ever since the renaissance, architecture has primarily been preoccupied with representation of building and communication of complex information to other artisans and experts carrying out our instructions (Carpo). The representation of architecture remains an ideal in this sense and it is real on its own term, but there is gulf between the ideal of what is drawn and the reality of what is built. This distance effectively means that there can be paper architecture without buildings and buildings without architecture. Unit 04 and the Virtual Laboratory want to mediate this paradox and schism with the experimental deployment of collaborative digital design tools, 3D scanning and extended reality combined with advances of digital manufacture. The Virtual Laboratory is exploring new forms of collaborative work, exploiting emerging forms of digital media and representation to blur the boundaries between the ideal and the real, going from the point cloud of a digital object to the ethereal of its representation to its ideal physical manifestation.
Unit 04 is working with digital tools as instruments of design in two design projects going from digital file to factory remotely in the exploration of engineered timber:
- We are designing a nature trail with a series of engineered timber pavilions as part of a timber innovation centre using 3D scanning and Virtual reality as a method for design
- We are designing vertical villages or tall engineered timber towers aiming to participate in the on-going global technology race to design and build tall in timber
Architecture Postgraduate Studios
PG Architecture Unit 02: Creative Kentish Town
Tony Fretton and Jillian Jones
Exploration of the social and urban possibilities of contemporary work and leisure, and designing unusual forms and facades.
PG Architecture Unit 03: A Museum For Now
Pippa Nissen, Marie-Lise Oulmont, Andrea Hickey, Kate Coghlan
Our unit is looking at architecture from the point of view of experience and how we can design a series of spaces as a carefully choreographed route. We are working on two projects over the year. Firstly, a smaller building to house an exhibition, and then a new museum building in the Hackney Marshes. We will ask you to think about themes around light and materials and how we can make our cultural buildings relevant today; how has the pandemic changed our view of culture and society?
PG Architecture Unit 04: Virtual Laboratory; Wilderness In The Making
Jonas Lundberg, Nate Kolbe
How can we plan cities and buildings adapted to physical distancing, remote working and increased resilience to extreme natural events? How can we reduce our ecological footprint by making new provisions for public space both real and virtual at the same time as we embrace the COVID induced thriving biodiversity of our cities? We work with digital tools in two design projects direct to factories in the exploration of engineered timber: timber pavilions and tall timber towers.
PG Architecture Unit 05: The Borrowed Landscape
Michael Dillon, Amy Bradley Smith, Lauren Shevills
This year we explore the layers between outdoors and indoors in dwellings. Forming skins and spaces that mediate climate. By manipulating thermal enclosure, we look to reduce the material consumption of building and make landscape more manifest in the interior. The borrowed landscape transgresses ideas of ventilation, enclosure, live/work and a more cyclical and outdoor life-cycle. We are actively engaging with the climate emergency, designing to reduce embodied energy.
PG Architecture Unit 06: Loose Fit City
Professor Maurice Mitchell, Dr Bo Tang
This year, Unit 06 will be investigating two London settings looking for ways to transform hard boundaries into loose borders into which students will introduce appropriate social infrastructure to create and expand common civic grounds. We will encourage you to find new ways of representing your ideas, fostering cooperation between fellow students and provoking new ways of looking, imagining and representing.
PG Architecture Unit 07: Self Build: Furniture, House and Housing with an Emphasis on Timber Construction
David Grandorge, Ted Swift
Unit 07’s primary interest this year is self build, by which we mean to self construct as well as to procure and manage the construction of a dwelling or dwellings. This idea will pursued at two scales at two sites in the London Borough of Hackney. The two projects will address some of the issues raised by the housing crisis and the impact of architecture on resource depletion and climate change.
PG Architecture Unit 08: Enough Already
Takero Shimazaki, Paolo Emilio Pisano and Karabo Turner
We have enough already: enough resources, enough buildings, enough space. Unit 8 explores the notions that everyone might enjoy private sufficiency and public luxury, and that of a '15 Minute City'. Leading from a provocation that daily life can be organised within a small. accessible radius, we will propose singular architectural interventions, challenging ideas of private and public space, re-use of resources and building stock, minimal intervention, and juxtaposition of programmes and spaces.
PG Architecture Unit 09: Rus in Urbe
Stephen Taylor and Theodoros Thysiades
This year in Unit 09 we will explore how architectural projects that sustain a feeling of the countryside whilst living in the city could be developed. We will work in a suburban setting and test how good design could help cultivate a sense of community and liveliness. We will aim at creating environmentally sustainable and economically viable architectural forms, suitable for a diverse urban society able to live in harmony with nature.
PG Architecture Unit 12: The Dream of the Metropolis
Peter St John, Fabienne Sommer, Ben Speltz and James Hand
At a time when its celebration is under threat, the studio will look at how we protect public life and sociability, by looking at the provisional and the festive social spaces of the city. Reflecting on some important questions of this time, we will look at architecture that is independent of the permanent city fabric, and is instead immediate, short-term, diverse and public. We will start with the design of a small interior, a café or a bar, and finish large with the design of a public park.
PG Architecture Unit 13: Industry in the City
Jane Clossick, Beatrice De Carli, Colin O’Sullivan, Mark Brearley
If you want a city with industry, with makers and menders as part of its diversity, join us to develop bold proposals for a chunk of the Old Kent Road. Start with the design of a large scale multi-let workshop building, later work to shape and advocate alternative plans to save the area from becoming a super-suburb of residential conversion and make space for industry and craftsmanship. Embrace one of the city’s big design challenges, and join the tussle over how this place should evolve.