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ADS11: Already There

Tutors: Renaud Haerlingen & Victor Meester (ROTOR) with Livia Wang

At a time when concerns about material resources are common, ADS11 are especially concerned with the quality and quantity of what is being demolished. Instead of speculating on the future, we engage with on-going transformations in London and demonstrating the changes in our ways of building – and deconstructing – that are now possible. Understanding these changes is essential.

While too many regeneration schemes are disappointing on both an environmental and societal level, these works are often produced by people who are not bad! Many of these building professionals would like to make the world a better place. Perhaps habits, decision-making processes, hierarchical structures and commercial demands lie in the way of enacting positive changes to this model of ‘business as usual’. Our aim in ADS11 is to set new agendas by reworking and redesigning these relationships, using reclaimed building materials and an allowance of these un-pristine conditions.

Grindbakken. Rotor, 2012. Photo: Johnny Umans
Grindbakken. Rotor, 2012. Photo: Johnny Umans

Rotor

ADS11 is framed by the work of Rotor.

Rotor operates like a lab at the periphery of architecture. Our objective is to see and revalue those elements in the construction industry that are typically overlooked by builders and designers. The sheer quantity of construction waste is deeply troubling. In response, we pay proper attention to buildings at their end of operable lifespan and to the deconstruction of feasibly reusable materials. As we are tackling uncharted territories, Rotor relies on collective intelligence and working methodologies that are similar to forensic investigation. 

At this point, the implications of Rotor’s work on architects is threefold. Firstly, when designing a project, the architect should consider a design in which the future possibilities of reclaiming materials is possible. Secondly, the architect should specify and use reclaimed materials, promoting the demand for these materials and supporting the reused materials sector. Finally, architects should be encouraged to change their view of architectural production, resulting in longer-lasting buildings and reduced cycles of remodelling or demolition.

Opalis Challenge. Rotor, 2015–present
Opalis Challenge. Rotor, 2015–present

Those implications can be contradictory and, therefore, cannot be reduced to simple solutions. Questions are raised about what remains? What evolves? What changes? What is discarded? And for what reasons? Possible answers to these questions need to be explored from multiple angles and come from many actors. These issues are urgent and each project should be seen as an opportunity to have a direct positive impact on our society. In itself, reuse is also interesting as it questions how the material economy works – because reuse is always complex, it obliges architects to reconsider how things are organised.

Despite the best intentions of policy makers, making re-use happen in practice remains a challenge today: legal frameworks need to be adapted; public authorities must be brought to modify their procedures; designers need to change in their working methods; and a network of new actors – who are ready to get their hands dirty – must be set up. In short, a whole new specialised economy needs to be developed. ADS11 will examine those challenges, discussing what pitfalls to avoid and the tips and tricks to develop in order to make re-use architecturally viable.

Salle d'expo. Rotor, 2017
Salle d'expo. Rotor, 2017

Deconstruction

For us, ‘deconstruction’ refers to a form of reverse assembly – the careful dismantling of the constituent parts of a building. Contrary to traditional demolition, which is destructive, deconstruction aims at the re-use of components. By using salvaged parts, not only do you reduce the quantity of demolition waste, but you also acquire quality building materials while having a negligible environmental impact. Diverting these elements from the waste stream is a form of preservation that is complementary to the efforts of established actors in historical building preservation.

Historically, it was just plain common sense not to trash sound material – most building components were re-used, often more than once. Today, the approach to matter in the construction sector is split between the preservationist stance, on the one hand, which carefully preserves entire buildings for heritage purposes, and, on the other, the unapologetic replacement of the existing with the new. In this context, dismantling and re-use have become marginal practices.

Lafayette, Paris, 2017. Image: Rotor
Lafayette, Paris, 2017. Image: Rotor

Regenerating London

In 2019/20, ADS11 will continue our investigations into the contemporary transformations of Greater London. Building on last year’s detailed research, we will further employ complex maps and catalogues that explain what governs specific trends in the current building industry and real estate markets. As a way to flesh-out our understanding of these complex relationships, we will engage in conversations with stakeholders around specific sites and projects. Underpinned by our concern for resources, we address issues around contemporary architectural practice and identify suitable contexts for relevant design projects.

London Demolition. ADS11, 2018
London Demolition. ADS11, 2018

Practice

ADS11 will examine practices of deconstructing existing architectures, working with a series of sites and collaborators to develop an understanding of the methods and design possibilities of dismantling and reuse. What are the logistics of deconstructing buildings? And the potentials and limitations of re-use? What is it to design architecture starting with the fragment, or the residue of past architectures? The studio will work with the recovery of materials, design and construction, as well as research and exhibitions. One common thread unites all these activities – we will begin with existing conditions.

ADS11 believes in working in collaboration. In 2019/20 we will collaborate with Rotor and a series of guests and partners. These conversations and practical and design explorations will inform our work. In a sense, the year will be a continuous immersion in the ethics and practice of deconstruction and re-use – examining the real-world impacts of our designs and constructions. Not only will ADS11 ask questions about sustainability and reuse, but also a different approach to history and historical production as a source of innovation.

Field Visit to Opalis Resellers, 2017
Field Visit to Opalis Resellers, 2017

Tutors

Renaud Haerlingen & Victor Meester are members of Rotor, a Belgium-based collective of architects and designers who share a common interest in the material flows of industry and construction. Through publications, lectures, and exhibitions, Rotor develops critical positions on design, material resources, waste and reuse. Rotor represented Belgium at the Venice Architecture Biennial in 2010 and, in 2011, curated the exhibition, Ex Limbo, for the Fondazione Prada, Milan, on the history of Prada’s catwalks. In 2011, they curated and designed OMA/Progress at the Barbican, London, and in 2013 they curated at the Triennial Architecture, Oslo, under the title Behind the Green Door, focussing on the consequences and paradoxes of sustainability as a dominant paradigm within architectural design and urban planning.