The last 18 months or so have changed our relationship to our environment, indoors and outdoors. Access to ‘fresh air’ in all its forms underlies our physical and mental health. This strange period coincides with a noticeable intensification of materialist and consumer-driven technical progress in the outdoor equipment design industries. Depending on the data stored in huge servers you may, like me, spend some time scrolling through targeted forms of advertising on social media. ‘Outside is free’ as a popular ‘tag’ describes this endless movement across the terrain, through the air and over the water of our spectacular planet. The business model of these athletes or ‘influencers’ providing this content means they receive clothing, equipment, food and supporting technologies from companies in exchange for sharing their image and expertise.
Outside is indeed free, but you need the skills, the kit, the knowledge and ideally ‘the look’ to fit into this world. In this dissertation studio we will investigate how architecture, furniture, clothing and product design shapes the work, living and leisure cultures they support. How these have influenced our relationship to our environment and indeed how this relates to resources at a local and geo-political level.
In 1965, the architectural historian Reyner Banham (who had cultivated an eccentric image of a bearded man in glasses on a Brompton bicycle) was invited to speculate on the nature of American domestic living for the magazine Art in America. The most memorable image from this article entitled A Home is not a House was produced in collaboration with French architect Francois Dallegret. The "Unhouse, A transportable standard of living package" featured a zorb-like inflatable bubble perched on a rock. Several cross-legged Banhams sit around a mobile console, supposed to provide heat, power, cooking and entertainment. It is a powerful image, but a nonsense reality – even now. The practical and technical questions about how it would work are many, even with the huge research and design budgets of NASA – this would have been far from achievable in the mid-60s.
Banham liked to be on ‘the scene’ and as his career led him to America he gravitated towards the Southern Californian counter-culture around surfing, hot rods, pop art and the mobile lifestyle of the Los Angeles freeway system. The post-war baby boomer generation could take advantage of the military-industrial advances and sacrifices their parents had made winning WW2 – by having fun and defining their own way of life. At the same time the considerable environmental costs of a modern consumerist lifestyle were starting to become apparent. Forest fires threaten the homes of present-day California, compounding an already severe housing crisis. For some, living outdoors is not a positive choice.
Today you only have to look on YouTube to find good approximations of Banham’s illustration and how it actually might work in reality. You can upload your own reviews of consumerist goods, demonstrate in a performative way how they support a way of life or sporting pursuit. Two middle aged Korean men sit making Ramen noodles by the shores of a frozen lake next to their tents. Even though it is winter, they are ridiculously well kitted out and self-sufficient. Presumably they have left their families at home for the weekend, two technological geeks revelling in the ceremonial assembly, use and disassembly of their make-shift camp.
At the end of this commune with nature, they collapse their tents and fold up their solar panels. All traces are removed and they return to their normal lives.
- Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles BBC Documentary, 1972
- Korean Winter Camping YouTube film by Camping Together, South Korea, 2021
- Pandemic Pas de Chever - Ski Fly Mission! Film by Dave Searle, IFMGA Guide, 2021
- Emelie Forsberg Achieving the Fastest Known Time on Kungsleden Trail Film by Salomon TV, 2019
- Bitter Lake, Adam Curtis, 2015
- Fifty project van review, Cody Townsend, 2021
- Reyner Banham (Illustrated by François Dallegret), A Home is not a House, Art in America, 1965
- Inaki Abalos. The Good Life: A Guided Visit to the Houses of Modernity, Editiones Gustavo Gili, 2001
- Reyner Banham, The Architecture of The Well-Tempered Environment, University of Chicago Press, 1969
- Reyner Banham, Los Angeles, Architecture of Four Ecologies, Harper & Row, 1971Y
- Joachim Krausse, Claude Lichtenstein (eds.) Your Private Sky, Buckminster Fuller, Lars Müller Publishers, 1999
- Mark Pimlott, Without And Within: Essays on Territory and the Interior, NAI Publishers, 2007
- OASE no.64, Landscape and Mass Tourism issue
- Alison and Peter Smithson, AS in DS, An Eye on the Road, Delft University Press, 1983
- Nick Hayes, The Book of Trespass, Crossing the Lines that Divide Us, Bloomsbury, 2020
Studio image: James Payne’s tent on the shores of a Scottish Loch. Banner: Hans Op de Beeck, Staging Silence (3), video still (detail), 2019
Dissertation Studios 2021–22
Studio 01: Another Place
Out of a direct treatment of place, whether subjective or objective, emerges another place. It is neither new, nor fixed in time, but it has remained unexplored, scarcely documented – piles of lime and useless cicadas.
Studio 02: The Critical Thinker’s Guide to You: Making Sense of Writing in Creative Cultures
This studio focuses on the relationship between creative practice and criticism – and how theories and cultural and social networks help shape and define the creative process.
Studio 03: Fashioning the African Diaspora
Elli Michaela Young
Exploring the fashioning of the African diaspora and with a particular focus on the Caribbean Island of Jamaica, this studio aims to think through how fashion and dress is used to grapple with ideas of self.
Studio 04: Meaningful Work
This studio will consider the value of making in itself, independent of the product or outcome, exploring the idea of craft as meaningful work.
Studio 05: Thinking with Ruins
Thinking With Ruins begins with the idea that to think about ruination allows us to approach subjects that are of interest materially, aesthetically and politically and it allows us to work across scales - from dust to debris to object to landscape.
Studio 06: The Practice of Space – Writing Atmospheres in Art and Architecture
Nico de Oliveira
Dissertation Studio 06 looks at space as practice, since each location is a mutable entity framed as a moment in time, populated by individuals and shaped by their actions as artists, musicians, curators, designers, architects, writers and spectators.
Studio 07: Suck it up
This studio takes a sideways looks at the intersection of youth culture and late capitalism considering the impacts and influences of desire, the cartoon, consumerism and cuteness in shaping our lived contemporary experience.
Studio 08: The Conquest of Joy
This studio encourages dialogues around the cultural production at a time when narratives founded on certainty have ceased to make sense.
Studio 09: Paths of Desire
“Design needs to be plugged into human behaviour. Design dissolves in behaviour.” Naoto Fukasawa
Studio 10: The Hammer without a Master
Studio 10 explores the strange space between individual and collective, ecological action. It embraces the idea that we think, remember and decide ‘in the world’, rather than in our heads; that we are connected in unexpected ways; and that this connection may be a key to navigating life in an increasingly paradox present.
Studio 11: Sport and Aesthetics
Dissertation Studio 10 will examine the concept of aesthetics as applied within that most everyday activity: sport.
Studio 12: Curating Interiors: The Studio Becoming Museum
This studio explores key concepts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – from questions of knowledge, history and nationhood, through to authenticity, agency and value – by means of an exploration of the particular interiors worked in by artists, makers and other practitioners.
Studio 13: Visualising the Future
Cultural history, from high art to kitsch, is littered with visions of the future; some inspiring, some ridiculous, almost all of them wrong.
Studio 14: Technical Pitches: Outside is free
Outside is indeed free, but you need the skills, the kit, the knowledge and ideally ‘the look’ to fit into this world. This Studio will investigate how architecture, furniture, clothing and product design shape the work, living and leisure cultures they support. How these have influenced our relationship to our environment and indeed how this relates to resources at a local and geo-political level.
Studio 15: The Voice of Things
This studio will offer a challenge to the idea that objects are unruly things and need to be brought to heel by labelling, categorising, taxonomising. Instead, it offers an invitation to give voice to the mute and invisible, by listening to objects and treating them as allies.
Studio 16: “If I stay silent nothing will change”: Identity, Politics, Social Change and Creative Culture(s)
This cross-disciplinary studio considers how power, culture, politics, identity, representation, activism, social media, and mass culture theory intersect with a range of arts practices, including photography, architecture, design and fine art, film studies, fashion and music, sound, pop art, and theatre.
Studio 17: A History of Efficiency
There is nothing inevitable about the way we organise our societies, and we now recognise that transnational and historically embedded structures of economic efficiency are killing the habitable planet. This Studio explores the trade-off between efficiency and creative flourishing in structures of extraction, production, property, commerce and law; and asks where these efficiencies sit in our bodies, behaviours and feelings as both long-standing cultural legacies and contemporary harms.
Studio 18: A Material World
The Studio will consider how textiles in fashion, furnishing, art, and beyond are embedded in our cultural traditions and give us insight into ourselves and our society. We will ask about their relevance in terms of the environment, gender issues, wellbeing and consumption.