RCA MRes Architecture Announces International Seminar for Contour Biennale 9

Students joining the MRes RCA: Architecture Pathway in September 2018 will have the unique opportunity to take part in a cross-disciplinary international seminar – contributing research towards a presentation at the Contour Biennale, Mechelen, Belgium in 2019.

Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, curator of Contour Biennale 9, invited the RCA’s School of Architecture to participate in this year-long research programme, which will inform and complement the ninth edition of Contour Biennale – an event dedicated to the moving image, which stimulates dialogue between contemporary art and architecture in the city of Mechelen.

The seminar will bring together an alliance of different departments of academies and universities from across Belgium and further afield including: Thomas More University of Applied Sciences, Mechelen; Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp; École de recherche graphique, Brussels; École européenne supérieure d'art de Bretagne, Rennes; and School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong.

MRes RCA Architecture, along with the other university programmes, will be actively involved in shaping the collective curriculum which will be shared and activated across each of the programmes. At three points the group will convene: a launch event in September at the Swamp Pavilion at the Venice Biennale; a meeting and symposium in January 2019 at the RCA; and in May 2019 at Contour Biennale 9 in Mechelen, Belgium. MRes RCA Architecture students will be supported by the School of Architecture to attend all events.

‘For students joining the MRes RCA Architecture programme this is a great opportunity to join a globally leading transnational seminar with Contour Biennale,’ explained Dr Adam Kaasa, Head of Programme for MRes RCA Architecture. ‘With students from around the world, they will debate fundamental concerns about the relationship of architecture, design and art to structural issues of race, gender, class and decolonisation. This kind of interdisciplinary and collaborative working is a core aspect of the MRes RCA Architecture programme, which welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to apply research methods from architectural practice and theory to tangible, pressing issues.’

Dr Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture, commented: ‘The School of Architecture at the RCA leads an emerging discussion on the rights of future generations, environmental architecture, and the future of housing in city design. This collaboration between our MRes programme and the Contour Biennale opens our research to crucial public debates about the future of architecture and cities around the world.’

During the seminar students will work collaboratively in each of their institutions on a proposal for sustainable approaches in relation to cultural institutions and their own practices, looking at sustainability through a self-reflexive, anti-capitalist and anti-racist lens. They will broadly respond to the themes for Contour Biennial 9, which Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez has defined as ‘a continuum of projects and events that will span across the next few years and address the current critical political and ecological moment through the lens of the particular urban, social and political conditions of the Mechelen region. Above all, topics such as ecological debt, environmental racism, decolonising social relations, hope, care and solidarity will represent not only the content within which to work, but also the material and technique of that work.’

The seminar will include students from graphic design, visual arts and architecture backgrounds. This multidisciplinary environment will provide MRes RCA Architecture students the opportunity to both challenge and develop their research approaches and methods, which will be exemplified in a mid-term meeting at the RCA focusing on exchanging positions and views on their work in progress.

The final presentation at Contour Biennale 9 will exhibit the outcomes. Based on some of the proposals, a charter for sustainable and decolonial practices for the institutions and for the practitioners themselves will be written, with the help of a Belgian legislator.


MRes RCA Architecture is a one-year, full-time programme in the School of Architecture, which offers training in practice-led and practice-based research methods for critical studies of spatial design. The pathway has a strong emphasis on practice-led and experimental research, preparing graduates for diverse careers in academia, architectural and urban design practices, human rights organisations, and social and environmental coalitions.

Find out more about the MRes RCA: Architecture Pathway and how to apply.