Each ADS has approximately 14 students.
ADS0: Umwelt – The environment as a pictorial stage in constant states of change
Studio Tutors: Steve Salembier & María Páez González
Guest: Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte
Pierre Huyghe “L’Expedition Scintillante, A Musical : Snow, Rain & Fog”, Kunsthaus, Bregenz, 2002
During 2021/22, ADSO will again reframe the subject of the studio’s ongoing research, building further on our specific approach and methodology. After last year's work on the renewed importance of the interior, which was forced on us by the pandemic, the studio will now shift its focus back again into the exterior world. This year, we will examine the living environment as a whole, and explore the environment as a ‘pictorial stage’ – a process that will allows us to speculate and narrate the constant states of change we are all living in.
Central to our year's work is Jakob Von Uexküll's theory of the 'Umwelt' – a biological idea that argues every living organism creates a highly unique, self-centred 'image', or 'model', of the world it inhabits. This mental image constitutes a partial, incomplete, and highly subjective representation of reality. Through the processes of communication, interaction and feedback-loops, all living organisms constitute their own 'Umwelt'. This theory considers the mind and world of every living organism as inseparable, because the mind interprets and creates the world for the organism. Consequently, the Umwelten of different organisms that live in the same environment will differ, with each organism having their own, unique interpretation. So in every environment there are as many 'Umwelten' as there are living organisms. Uexküll's theory challenges our common notion of reality – which can no longer be considered as an external 'objective' condition, but rather is reformulated as an internal and subjective condition. As such, the Umwelt cannot be detached from its creator and is autobiographical in every sense.
Pierre Huyghe Exomind Tokyo 2017
ADSO will explore the concept of umwelt as a spatial category that challenges our notions of architecture and space, demanding new forms of representation which employ multiple combinations of audiovisual, linguistic, and performative media. The studio will begin this exploration by introducing a similar, more tangible concept – the 'environment' as a pictorial stage. The 'environment' refers to the artistic practices of installation and performance art that originated in the 1960s. It can be defined as a coherent spatial system that articulates a partial and subjective view of the world through the establishment of its own codes and protocols. Similarly to Umwelt, the notion of 'environment' offers both a model for critical discussion and a platform for speculative design practice.
The studio explores the narrative and discursive capacities of architectural space in relation to art, photography, film, installation, scenography, and performance. We put the image and its construction at the core of our research, exploring the hybridity of using both analogue (models, drawings, printed media, collages, objects) and digital representational techniques (photo, film, rendering & animation). This approach displays strong affinities with art practice and responds to way our everyday living environments are formed from the merger of the physical and digital. The studio is transdisciplinary and produces research by practice and experimentation. ADSO is run as an artist collective — a group of individuals who each develop their own trajectory through proactive, communal discussion. Every individual student is guided into the development of her, or his, long-term practice and personal discourse. As a result, our projects offer a diverse body of work, providing a multitude of unique perspectives on the contemporary world we live in. Every year, ADS0 is composed of another temporary collective that shares the studio's underlying theoretical framework and history as a basis for continual design exploration.
Central to the ongoing work of ADS0 is the study of catastrophe – defined as the condition by which all preconceptions about the architectural and its practice might be reconsidered. In particular, we resist the conception of architecture as a positive emblem of progress. Being skeptical is crucial in compelling us to suspend our beliefs and engage with alternatives to the usual course of design practice. We consciously embrace change, conflict, instability, and ambiguity as the basis of our methodology. Etymologically, catastrophe has a conflicting set of meanings. Commonly used to refer to disaster or calamity, the word can also denote denouement, meaning the sudden change or overturning of events in the plot of a play. In the context of the everyday, catastrophe simply becomes an event that leads to sudden, or radical change. It can therefore be seen as a catalyst, and an unavoidable and integral part of life. Through this disruptive nature, catastrophe reveals the borderlines between the expected and unexpected, normal and abnormal, acceptable and unacceptable, comfortable and discomforting, and between progress and retrogressive. Catastrophes provide us with an opportunity to face change in new, more radical way. During 2020/21, the studio will examine the catastrophic through ideas of umwelt and environment.
Olafur Eliasson - the mediated motion - 2008 - Kunsthaus Bregenz.
Olafur Eliasson - the mediated motion - Kunsthaus Bregenz 2008.
Olafur Eliasson, Riverbed, 2014.
Pierre Huyghe - Roofgarden with aquarium - Metropolitan Museum NYC 2015.
Richard Venlet - Museum for a small City - SMAK Ghent - 2013.
Pierre Huyghe - After a Life Ahead - Skulpturprojekte Munster 2017.
Pierre-Huyghe - A Forest of Lines-operahouse Sydney 2008.
Rachel Cronin, Windows, 2021.
This year we are planning a field trip to the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea del castello di Rivoli in Italy, which contains a hugely important collection of contemporary art that is displayed amidst a constant flux of temporary exhibitions. Additional field trips to relevant exhibitions will be planned in coordination between the students and studio tutors.
The Live Project will involve the creation of a large-scale, collective illustrating the environments that the studio will produce in the first term. Working in collaboration with colleagues at KU Leuven, the performance will be staged as an immersive online experience.
Benjamin Mehigan, Golden State, 2020
Steve Salembier studied architecture at the Henry van de Velde Institute, Antwerp, before practicing with the office of Stéphane Beel & Lieven Achtergael in Ghent. In 2014, he left architectural practice to concentrate on his own, highly–personal artistic practice. In that same year, he realized his first major performance in collaboration with Charlotte Bouckaert. Their practice, Bildraum, won the Big in Belgium Award at Theater aan Zee in 2015 and, the following year, the Total Theater Award at the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh. Subsequently, Atelier Bildraum has been artist in residence at LOD muziektheater, an internationally–renowned production house for musical theatre. With LOD, Steve has developed several major projects, including in between violet & green (2017), refector (2018), icon (2019), and babel (2020). His work is internationally exhibited and collected.
Maria Paez Gonzalez
Maria is an architect and researcher. For over a decade, she has focused on architectural practice and construction, recently as a key member of several projects for Apple, including Apple Park, the company’s Headquarters in Cupertino, California. Following this subject area, her PhD in Architecture at the Royal College of Art is engaged with a critique of current forms of work through a discussion of the architecture of Silicon Valley corporate headquarters. Together with Brendon Carlin, Maria is co-director of the AA Visiting School, Tropicality – a nomadic research studio that studies domesticity through film, drawing, and writing. Maria is also a founding member of Foundation HCGB, which aims to promote and preserve historic and contemporary art forms in Santa Ana of Coro, Venezuela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte
Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte is an independent curator and critic. In the early 2010s, he worked for David Zwirner, Greenspon Gallery. and the Swiss Institute in New York. From 2010 to 2018, he was the director at Office Baroque in Brussels. In 2018, he was artistic director of the Brussels Gallery Weekend and curator of the first edition of Generation Brussels. Since 2018, he has been a curatorial advisor for the Rediscovery section at Art Brussels. In 2020, he was co-curator of the 7th edition of Currents in Z33, Hasselt, with Melanie Deboutte. He is also the founder and editor of the online interview series, ‘Drawing Room Play’.
ADS1: Life Unincorporated
Studio Tutors: Andrea Zanderigo and Matthew Blunderfield
'My idea of Utopia is not that it’s an elsewhere, a non-situated elsewhere to strive towards, nor that it’s contained only within an imaginative projection. Utopia could be instead considered almost in phenomenological terms as a sensed present.
I have the feeling that political transformation has to be situated in what we are already in the midst of experiencing. The repudiation of the present, of sensing and of relationship, which is the present, is uninteresting and flattened out. There’s a plenitude of unrepresented agency already existent. The present is materially infinite' – Lisa Robertson, Evening Will Come (2013)
When we reflect on the various crises that are defining our contemporary lives – social and racial inequity, environmental collapse, etc – we can’t help but feel we’ve been here before. In particular, an uncanny mirror of this present moment can be found in the cultural movements of the 1980s.
Indeed, we feel it is time to look back critically at the 1980s. A decade in which several processes that harked back to the sixties peaked, and new social and economic tendencies began to surface. Post-war corporate culture was still booming, producing an enormous quantity of spaces for white collar labour. Neoliberal policies, the real estate craze, and the financialisation of the global economy, bound the middle and upper classes of the western world into an endless cycle of work and consumption. This cycle was played out in the discontinuous space of downtown office towers and department stores, as well as suburban malls, corporate headquarters, and single-family houses.
While we might consider any number of typologies inherited from this mass of built form, we are drawn to two in particular – the office tower and the mall. Both are temples of collective production and consumption. They also share a genericness and disposability. They are each a product of – and accessory to – capitalist exploitation.
Although the office tower and mall emerged from the darkness of late capitalism, they now present themselves on more utopian terms. They are pragmatic accumulations of slabs and pillars, whose functioning is enabled by cores and installations of servicing infrastructures, with their hollow interiors now offering a plenitude of unrealised agency. The very same features that made them the perfect tools for perpetuating the economic cycles of the capital, now constitute an untapped abundance of available space, where our increasingly boundary-less lives might potentially flourish.
The scale and nature of this challenge is unprecedented. Transforming and re-appropriating these volumes requires an entirely new architectural and programmatic toolbox. What could kept and preserved? What might be dismantled or recycled? What will be added? How can we deal with these inefficient skins and toxic layers? How is it possible to turn these unapologetically energy-devouring beasts into acceptable, if not virtuous edifices? How to reassess their often obtuse relation with street life? How to gracefully combine the desires and needs of the individual with the level of collectivism, which is necessary to inhabit them?
These questions make it clear ADS1 will be facing a relatively untapped field of research. One we will support with investigations the studio has made in previous years into two tectonic archetypes – the cave and tent. This dichotomy could be understood as a critical tool to both decipher the architecture of the past, and tackle the environmental crisis. The question of whether we design for a lifespan of a year, a decade, or centuries, will remain fundamental in focussing our intentions and calibrating the ecological footprint of the material resources we use. This time though, instead of starting from scratch, we will apply this knowledge to architectures that already exist..
Amazon killed the mall. Google killed the office. Covid-19 buried them. And yet their shells remain as our newest ruins. Too cumbersome to be efficiently demolished, too expensive to be retrofitted in ortodox ways, these accumulations of built matter are here to stay. As such, we must find alternative strategies to deal with these buildings and to give them back to the city. How will we furnish them? How will we occupy them? And what life awaits for us behind their thin curtain walls?
ADS1 believe architecture is a project of investigating and intervening in the construction of lived experience. For the studio, making models, drawings and collages is as important as investigating reality and reporting on narratives. This year, we will focus more specifically on the fertile shared territory between architecture and photography, with contributions from Stefano Graziani and Bas Princen. 51N4E will join us in the Live Project, sharing the knowledge they accumulated while dealing with the complex and difficult transformation of the World Trade Center in Brussels.
Selina is an architect, tutor and curator, who has practiced in Africa and Europe. Selina joined Douglas Murphy and Andrea Zanderigo to teach ADS1 in 2020. Selina studied architecture at the ENSAP Bordeaux, the EPF Lausanne and the University of Stuttgart. After graduating in 2017, Selina tutored a design studio at the University of Stuttgart, together with Andrea Zanderigo. Selina has designed and taken part in various exhibitions, including the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale. Throughout her studies and professional career, Selina has been interested in vernacular architecture and, in particular, the use of local and renewable natural building materials, and responsible design strategies.
Matthew Blunderfield is a photographer and host of Scaffold, a podcast celebrated by Dezeen as “one of the best pieces of new architectural media.” He studied English Literature at the University of British Columbia and Architecture at the University of Toronto, before completing his RIBA Part III qualification from the Bartlett, UCL. He practices architecture at Henley Halebrown and leads an architecture studio at the Kingston School of Art with David Owen, having formerly taught with Simon Henley and Nana Biamah-Ofosu. Matthew’s teaching asserts lived experience as architecture’s organising principle, with an interest in the role architects play in both reinforcing and reinventing normality through the production of everyday environments.
Andrea Zanderigo is an architect, teacher, writer. He studied architecture at IUAV in Venice. In 2004, he founded the architectural office Baukuh together with 5 partners. Baukuh won international competitions like Europan 7 in Amsterdam and Budapest, Klein Seminarie in Hoogstraten and Student City in Tirana. Baukuh’s work was exhibited at the Biennale di Architettura in Venice, the Rotterdam Architectuur Biennale, the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Triennale in Milan, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Seoul Biennal and the Shenzen Biennal. In 2010, he founded the architecture magazine San Rocco together with a group of architects, graphic designers and photographers. He has been teaching at PUSA in Aleppo, Mendrisio Accademia, TU Graz, Columbia University, EPFL, Universität Stuttgart. He is currently teaching at RCA in London and at PBSA Düsseldorf.
ADS2: Black Horizons – Worlding within the Ruins of Racial Capitalism
Dele Adeyemo, Black Horizon, 2019.
'On the precarious watery edge of the lagoon of a West African megacity, fringing the modernist urban plan in a community dispossessed by generations of colonial and neocolonial extractions, a young man performs a ritual wearing his late father’s suit. Encompassing movement, spiritual practice and popular culture, he orients himself in an environment devastated by a regime of spatial production that began centuries ago. Though surrounded by a landscape ruined by economic collapse, his dance is nonetheless a practice of worlding amongst the ruins of an ever-ongoing catastrophe, rearticulating within his community social relations that reimagine geography, space and time'.
The young man comes from an oil-rich nation. Yet his community is not rich in the abundant energy the substance provides. The ruins that surround him might be the result of toxic corruption, but they do not flow directly from toxic spillages. Rather, the shattered landscape at his feet is a consequence of the indirect violence of an ongoing economic crisis engineered by a world–system, which has for centuries imposed abstract exchange-values onto geological bodies. Dancing in the footsteps of his ancestors, his physical expressions record the long decline of a sprawling modernist African metropolis. A city built with the hubris of the rising petro-dollar, on top of the failing infrastructures of slavery and colonialism. This geography embodies what Anna Tsing has described as "the history of making both humans and nonhumans into resources for investment", a cyclical process of alienation and the production of architectural ruins.
Metabolising energy into movement, the young man’s dance illustrates the interconnected geographies and uneven catastrophe of a world structured by 'racial capitalism'. It was this geography that supplied the first great natural resource to the world economy as gold was replaced by the more valuable commodity of human cargo. Beginning with transatlantic slavery, sustained through the global energy regime of carbon, planetary cycles of production and consumption have become organised around the logic of what Kathryn Yusoff has defined as 'White Geology'. The pattern of exploitation that views human and other-than-human bodies and our planet as inexhaustible resources for unlimited growth, upholding the biases first embodied by the figure of the white European male.
The geological legacy of Rivers State. Water No Get Enemy by Remi Kuforiji (ADS2, RCA 2020/21)
Ever since the plantation and new-world slavery crystallised the structure of racial capitalism, ‘whiteness’ — 'the ownership of the Earth forever and ever', to use W.E.B. Du Bois famous formulation — has dictated the production of global-world-space, with architecture acting as the instrument that gives form to this world. Before carbon replaced renewable forms of energy as the primary resource sustaining human existence, black life was the world’s inexhaustible resource for exploiting the produce of solar energy. The seemingly-endless supply of kidnapped Africans who were transported to plantations in the Americas drove Europe’s industrial revolution. In practice, black slaves were employed as intelligent machines, transforming relatively small amounts of energy derived from renewable food crops, into an array of complex and repetitive industrial functions. The enslaved black body became a powerful technology that possessed the ability to think and reproduce itself. Yet, as Cedric Robinson highlights in Black Marxism, a radical thought and practice produced by the oppressed emerged in the sites of colonial exploitation.
Ibiye Camp, Remaining Threads, 2021.
As the transition to the energy regime of carbon in the global north made vast amounts of solar energy available in the super condensed and mobile form of first coal and later crude oil, settlements in Northern Europe previously limited in size by their proximity to woodland were now freed from the rate of photosynthesis in plants to replenish their required energy. Mechanical power gradually replaced manual labour. A growing demand for raw materials responded to the ever–expanding energy capacity of the industrial machine, necessitating the intensification of agricultural production of colonial plantations in the periphery. For industrial democracies to be secured in the West, other parts of the world had to be secured through colonial possession — working through and against the other — in an unevenly structured system modulated by the colonial seaport.
The young man dances near the contemporary iteration of that colonial infrastructure space, the Free Port, amongst the ruins wrought by supply chain capitalism. We see him by the lagoon because his forebears, either by force or coercion, were drawn into this space by the forces surrounding the free zone of exchange. For him and the generations that came before, the social and ecological disaster has already happened.
Dámaso Randulfe, Electric Powers, 2017.
Yet the possibility of black life in this space of black death provides a regulating horizon to humanity for how we might live in the knowledge of environmental collapse and our premature death. In a world secured against the negation of black life, blackness became its foundation and horizon. The Black Horizon lent stability to the logic of whiteness and, to paraphrase Hannah Black, its violently upheld myth that safety is real. What would it mean to turn away from the pursuit of whiteness as a spatial typology of endless extraction and consumption and, instead, to set a course into the darkness of the Black Horizon?
Black Gold of the Sun by Michael Asante (ADS2, RCA 2020/21)
A New Paradigm for Architectural Production
In 2019/20, ADS2 explored the origins of logistical capitalism that grew out of the transatlantic slave trade. By focussing on contested notions of representation, the studio contrasted the violent world-making project of European cartography with the worlding–potentials of black, indigenous and other worldviews.
Renegotiation of the Contact Zone by Alexa Szekeres, (ADS2, RCA 2020/21)
In 2021/22, ADS2 will analyse the ruins of racial capitalism as a means to understand the role of modern production and consumption cycles in producing space. In departing from a study of the spatial logics of supply chain capitalism, each ADS2 project will seek to develop a spatial strategy for a specific territory, spatial product, or infrastructure of ruination. Learning from the global south and drawing on black, indigenous and other–than–human epistemologies, students will engage in the collective development of a new paradigm for architectural production, which explores the possibility of multispecies life through non-extractive practices of worlding.
Flood, Flow, Overflow: An Infrastructure of Wetness by Maya Patel (ADS2, RCA 2020/21)
Students will work with photography and photogrammetry, film, performance, sound, 3D modelling and fabrication to develop their projects. Throughout the year, ADS2 will collaborate with artists, researchers and scientists to understand the uneven geographies of dispossession that have been created by the industrial infrastructures of global cycles of consumption and production.
A seventeen-storey tower looming over Labadi Beach, La Beach Tower is not an isolated example of abandoned urban spaces in Accra.
ADS2 recognises the production of architecture as a social act. In the opening weeks of the academic year, we will run collective–workshops with the Camden Arts Centre and The Ugly Duck, Bermondsey. These workshops will evolve into our Live Project — a collaborative practice in occupying the ruins of racial capitalism conducted with Toronto-based magazine and platform for global youth culture, New Currency. The project will be published in New Currency’s second issue in April, 2022.
Dele Adeyemo is an architect, creative director and critical urban theorist. His creative and research practices interrogate the underlying drivers of architectural development and urbanisation, locating them in racialising logistical processes that orchestrate planetary patterns of life. Positioning slavery as the ghost in the machine of logistics, Dele explores how the circulations established in transatlantic slavery, at the foundation of modernity, live on in the contemporary production of space. By mobilising a trans-disciplinary black aesthetics, through the use of writing; film; movement; and aural sensations, Dele’s projects rupture the imaginary of logistical forms of power to uncover the indeterminate imaginaries of black life in Africa and the diaspora. Most recently Dele has presented at the 2nd Edition of the Lagos Biennial with Black Horizon (2019), and the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial with The Cosmogony of (Racial) Capitalism (2020). Dele is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Ibiye Camp is a multi-disciplinary artist, her work investigates technology, and the built environment. Ibiye’s practice uses architectural tools to create video, augmented reality and 3D objects. Her past projects in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ethiopia investigated the dynamics of technology as a means to explore the glitches and tensions between digital infrastructure and the landscape. Ibiye’s artwork has been presented at the Victoria and Albert Museum (2016), the Porto Design Biennale (2019) Sharjah Architecture Triennial (2019), Triennale Milano (2020), 5th Istanbul Design Biennial (2020) and 13th Shanghai Biennale (2021). Ibiye is a member of the all-female design collective Xcessive Aesthetics. XA investigates data networks, digital infrastructure, spatial design and digital technologies in unconventional and playful ways.
Dámaso Randulfe works across architecture, image-making, writing and installation. Their practice investigates the ecologies, territories, and technologies of contemporary regimes of circulation and visuality. Dámaso teaches ADS2 at the School of Architecture, Royal College of Art since 2020. They are also a senior lecturer in critical theory and cultural studies at The School of Art, Architecture and Design, London Met, and a lecturer at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Their work and various collaborative projects have been presented at the Oslo Architecture Triennale (2016), Venice Art Biennale (2017), Triennale Milano (2020), Design Museum and Tate Modern. Dámaso is an editor of Migrant Journal, a publication series on the spatial politics of human and non-human migrations.
ADS3: Refuse Trespassing Our Bodies — Fertility, Exhaustion and All that Matter/s
The Social Mirror, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, 1983.
We are running out of soil. Over millennia, productivity and reproduction had to grow hand-in-hand with agricultural, and later, urban, industrial, and digital infrastructures. The most fertile lands, which are usually found in valleys where sedentary groups originally settled, are now covered up by cities, factories, distribution warehouses, shopping centres, waste facilities, highways, and car parks. What is left, the non-urbanised, is rapidly being degraded.
While extractive land practices are one of the main drivers of our planet’s environmental transformation, the bodies that inhabit it – like the soils on which we depend – are becoming infertile. Millions of deep-sea minerals, not-so-rare earths, and a whole range of petrochemical substances from construction sites, textile factories, mines, 5G infrastructure, or blockchain mega-farms, are now flowing through humans and more-than-humans alike. Even buildings are literally becoming sick. Anthropogenic matter enters the air-soil-water-flesh cycle as waste particles that are increasingly becoming a part of our bodies. And we are becoming them.
But not all bodies or soils are equally exposed to these invisible waves of environmental disturbance, racial and social inequalities are very present in the different levels of bodily and soil exhaustion. In 2021/22, ADS3 will continue to explore architecture through metabolic thinking as means to generate critical interventions that strive to achive spatial justice. The studio will address how, while we are forced to live with refuse, we refuse to live with the structures and processes that created the world we now inhale, digest, absorb, lick, sweat, and excrete.
Neolithic marble figurine discovered in 2016 at Çatalhöyük, Turkey. Photo: Jason Quinlan / E-Flux Architecture.
Since the Neolithic era, the visual representation of fertile bodies and fertile soil has been inseparable. While the transition from nomadic hunter-gathering to agriculture is conventionally described as a linear episode of ‘human development’, archaeological evidence of ancient settlements in Anatolia and the Caucasian steppes demonstrate the opposite. Grain domestication brought about the displacement of nonstate peoples, who had to escape farming to avoid state control, slavery, bondage, and tax collection. These people possessed a very different understanding of soil and human fertility. Modern-day land use restrictions, which are dependent on financial and real estate agreements, mirror some of these histories, allowing the studio to explore soil as both a site of intervention and a sensorial entity.
Michelle Sin, RCA 2020/21, examined how to re-darken landscapes of food production, ecosystems subjugated to perpetual exposure to grow-lights that create melatonin disorder in labourers and species inhabiting greenhouses alike.
‘The Wonderful Range of Colours Derived From Coal Tar,’ 19th century. Photo Clive Boursnell / The Atlantic.
The tremendous effort to industrialise agriculture during the twentieth century, in efforts to extract ever–higher yields and profits (made in the guise of feeding the global population), has been profoundly marked by the discovery and use of agrochemicals. For example, the manufacturing of synthetic ammonia in 1908 gave birth to the international fertiliser trade and, ultimately, to the over–fertilisation of soils worldwide. Agrochemical dependencies became entangled with a series of modern buildings, storage facilities, ripening chambers, refrigerated containers, next-gen mega ports, as well as microscopic developments in the form of pesticides, anthropogenic pest-controllers, and genetically–modified crops. Modern technology, drones, and AI systems are now attempting to make farming even more ‘efficient’ through the targeted application of ‘novel’ substances, which open up new dependencies and waves of bodily exposure.
Settlement built by the Spanish Agrarian Colonisation Institute in Entrerríos, one of the 300 villages built during the Franco dictatorship as part of the national fertility project. Source: Mediateca SGT MAPAMA / El País.
The exponential extraction of value from the soil has resulted in a historic imbalance around people’s sovereignty over the fertility of their own territory, in both historically cultural and agricultural terms. From Palestine to Sápmi, the Amazon to Aotearoa, agrarian colonisation has been manifested through settlements and territorial organisations that seek to control populations, their bodies and their guts. Enormous amounts of fractured chemicals flow all over the world, becoming endocrine disruptors that affect the sex and reproduction of species along trophic cascades.
Removal of the Glines Canyon Dam to restore the Elwha River flow, September 2011. Source: US NPS.
The ever-growing economy of exhaustion requires new ways of representing interscalar conflicts. The critical value of these representations lies in rendering the future otherwise. Rendering refers to the mimetic act of making a copy, reproducing or interpreting the object in film, animation, architecture, or other media. In the history of industrial efficiency, however, rendering also refers to the mechanised boiling down of fat, or other animal remains. This year, ADS3 will use rendering as an expanded methodology to discuss waste — waste trading, waste dumping, and waste–landing — while also exploring new aesthetics that bring economies of representation back into, or away from, market metabolisms. Students will also look at case studies that untangle and refute the infrastructures of ‘modern productivity.’ These new ecologies that have emerged out of the divestment from extractivist industries will be used to develop critical research, visualisation, and design tools.
Absorption, Asad Raza, 2019. Installation view at Carriageworks, Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sydney. A team of 'cultivators' works through almost 300 tonnes of materials sourced from the region, including sand, clay, spent grain, silt, coffee and green waste, to whip up a whole new earthy concoction of neosoil. Photo: Pedro Greig.
Toxicity and the Built Environment
Through the concept of toxicity, ADS3 will investigate how environmental racism, ecocide, slow violence and class inequalities can operate invisibly – and therefore blatantly – in space. The studio is inspired by the work of Vanessa Agard-Jones, Arun Agrawal, Robert Bullard, Elizabeth Hoover, Hannah Landecker, David Naguib Pellow, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Julie Sze, and Kathryn Yusoff, among others. Drawing on these references allows us to understand this toxic drift, unlearn whiteness and the structures that support it, start decolonising spatial knowledge, and become aware of how gendered exposures are intimately connected to non–productive sex, reproductive justice, and queer futurity.
Seed Rematriation: Scott Shoemaker, from the Miami tribe, worked as a curator at the Science Museum of Minnesota to grow out Native American heirloom seed varieties and return them to the communities from which they were collected. Photo: Elizabeth Hoover / E-flux Architecture.
Led by student research and inquiry, each ADS3 project will choose a specific substance that has been extracted, released, or manufactured by human action in the UK and beyond. The aim is to understand how this substance has been absorbed by different bodies and spaces. Following its chemical and metabolic pathways across multiple scales, these substances — such as testosterone, glyphosate, microplastics and PFAs, to name a few examples — will be studied, mapped and transformed into a site-responsive project and intervention. Students will choose a site that is connected to the brief, where they will bring together its ancient and contemporary time constraints. ADS3 also considers juridical frameworks and the tremendous potential of the law as a field for critical spatial practice and action through the design of frameworks of legal resistance.
The Politics of Reverse, Henry Valori, RCA 2020/21 (film still). The project examined waste brine from desalination plants to reveal how the metabolisation of liquid pollution has generated ecological catastrophe and political upheaval around the Mar Menor.
Expanding the research to envision a new metabolic order in architecture, ADS3 will continue to collaborate with the Serpentine Galleries through General Ecology — a platform that researches complexity, more-than-humanism, climate justice and environmental balance. General Ecology manifests through publications, exhibitions, study programmes, radio, symposia and live events as well as structural and systemic initiatives, bringing together practitioners from the fields of art, design, science, literature and anthropology, among many others. Following previous iterations, students will form and develop a collective response to their programme in close conversation with its founder Lucia Pietroiusti.
Metabolic Selves, 2020. “To ingest in a post-industrial world is an inadvertent act, no longer a process of definitive input for desired output. Rather, ingestion in the Anthropocene reverses this lens, subjugating bodies to the same chemical influx as we have exerted on our environment.” Metabolicselves.com
Throughout the year, ADS3 provides a diverse set of skills to guide and support students on how to establish an independent/collective professional practice – through self-initiating a project, establishing resource development and funding tactics, applying to different opportunities or open calls. As part of our working methodology, a series of meetings and discussions are organised with independent practitioners that relate to the different projects and provide an insight into possible forms of future collaborative practice after graduation.
Daniel Fernández Pascual holds an MArch from ETSA Madrid, MSc Urban Design from TU Berlin, MArch from Tongji University Shanghai and a PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University. He has run Cooking Sections with Alon Schwabe since 2013.
Alon Schwabe holds an MA (Hons) in Research Architecture from Goldsmiths University. He has a background in theatre, performance and architecture. He has run Cooking Sections with Daniel Fernández Pascual since 2013.
Cooking Sections are shortlisted for the 2021 Turner Prize.
ADS4: Party Animals
Attempt #0014 from the project, Chromopolitics, 2021, by Gabriel Beard (ADS4)
Party; from Latin partire/partiri 'to share, part, distribute, divide,' from pars 'a part, piece, a share'
Animal; from Latin animale/anima/anima-tion 'living being, being which breathes'
Part I — A Year Apart
During the pandemic, partying and sex with strangers were outlawed. We sat, day after day, at our computers, shoehorned into lives that approximated a neoliberal, heteronormative ideal. We worked. We were atomised in private households. Parties took place virtually. Our sex lives, unless you were the UK Secretary of State for Health, were limited to 'established relationships'. Domesticity and monogamy were not just legally sanctioned, but legally mandated by the state.
Some welcomed this new mode of existence and pilloried those who longed for the return of fun. These critics claimed – while often also promoting reactionary, misogynistic, and slut-shaming views – that mourning the loss of parties in the middle of a pandemic was frivolous, selfish, or dangerous. Yet most of us found ourselves deeply unfulfilled, even depressed, by lives limited to our homes and our work. As lockdown lifted, spaces of collective joy and joyful defiance were the last to return. With some events, like Notting Hill Carnival or Glastonbury, still unrestored.
This has meant that, despite their sporadic reappearance, many of us have forgotten what good parties are? What they require from us? And how they can be saved from the ascetic tendencies our pandemic lifestyles instilled?
This year, ADS4 will seek to better understand the logic and political potential of parties — how they are an affront to capitalism, a form of opposition, a collective escape from drudgery, a sanctuary from oppression, and a chance to transcend. When one class, or ethnic group, or gender, rules over a population of subordinates, it comes to fear the empowering rituals of those subordinates as a threat to civil order and social hierarchy. The history of raves, free parties, festivals, and carnivals is therefore a history of resistance. Conversely, the essence of the Western mind – in particular, the Western male, bourgeois, heterosexual mind – lay in its ability to resist the contagious rhythm of drums, to wall itself up in a fortress of ego and rationality against the seductive wildness of the world. Enemies of festivity foster inequality and suffering. We must not suppress the urge to transform our appearance, dance outdoors, mock the powerful, and embrace perfect strangers. We must not forget how to party.
Peter Fischli and David-Weiss, Rat and Bear Sleeping, 2008
Part II — Body Parts
Parties are made up of body parts; a crowd is the raw material for festivity—and this crowd is never one, but always ‘as one’.
The reason crowds gather and move ‘as one’ is likely a defence mechanism. At some point in the history of our species, early-humans may have learned to synchronise their stampings and stick-waving in the face of a predator. In her book Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich speculates that predators might have been tricked by this synchronous behaviour into thinking it faced a single, very large animal, rather than a group of singularly weak and defenceless humans. When sticks are being brandished and feet stamped in unison, accompanied by synchronised chanting or shouting, it would be easy for an observing animal to conclude that only a single mind, or at least a single nervous system, is at work. From the predator’s point of view, is is preferable to wait to catch a human alone, than to tangle with what appears to be a noisy, twenty-metre-long, multi-legged beast.
Various features of prehistoric dancing that are revealed in rock/cave art are consistent with this hypothesis. The prehistoric dancing figures often sport high headgear, or head-expanding masks, in the form of animal faces. They wave branches above their heads. As Ehrenreich notes, 'One can imagine danced rituals originating as re-enactments of successful animal encounters, serving both to build group cohesion for the next encounter and to instruct the young in how the human group had learned to prevail and survive.'
Through rhythm, people learned to weld themselves into a single unit of motion, projecting their collective strength and terrifying the animals they hunted, or that hunted them. Taken individually, humans are fragile, vulnerable, clawless creatures. But banded together through rhythm, turned into body parts, and enlarged through the artifice of masks and sticks, the group can appear — and perhaps feel — as formidable as any nonhuman beast.
Humans in synchronicity — Still from Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 1, 1995
Part III — The Party Animal
Through the staging, costume, and performance of a party, a new form of collective ‘animal’ can emerge. Such beasts are far larger than any individual invited to a party. They have a presence, logic, sentience, and agency all of their own. The New York DJ David Mancuso once said he felt all parties are just a local expression of the ‘one big party’ taking place everywhere, all the time, which we occasionally tune into or express through our own gatherings. Yet we constantly fail to understand the potential of this collective, or recognise how this appearance invites the self to rethink itself beyond singularity. In 2021/22, ADS4 will call these collective animals party animals. By studying and documenting the behaviour of various forms of collective/party animals, we will develop a more nuanced design vocabulary regarding questions of scale, group life, and the design of spaces for collective action.
At present, party animals suffer from synecdoche. Our tendency is to try to understand the whole from the parts. To infer something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true for some part of the whole. Although parties are made up of many parts — parts we play, parts we hear, (body) parts we touch, see, and move with — a party animal, as the whole, cannot be understood through an analysis of these partygoers, the parts, alone. A party animal is something different. Something related and informed by those parts, but not entirely defined by them. A party animal is a different species to the species who make it up.
Party animals emerge throughout the animal kingdom. The swarm behaviour of many animals, such as flocks of birds, or shoals of fish, are identical to human forms of rhythmic gathering. The synchronous movement of the group offers a collective defence. There is a long tradition of recognising the ways animals behave differently as a party/group. The impulse to capture something essential about a species exists in the desire to assign it a collective noun. What, actually, is a parliament of owls? A murder or crows? Or, a pod of pelicans, herd of elephants, conspiracy of lemurs, tower of giraffes, caravan of camels, cete of badgers, business of ferrets, fever of stingrays, or shrewdness of apes? How can we understand these species in their own right? How can we design for these collectives? And how can we approach design and architecture through this lens to reveal something about the nature of human kithship and collectivity?
Interspecies collaboration — Cohen Van Balen, Life Support, 2008
Part IV — Missing Parts
Alphonso Lingis argues that animal multiplicities 'exert a primal fascination on us' because they echo and mirror ‘the multiplicities in us.' Party animals charm. They also provoke unease and anxiety, even terror. Though avian flocks may exalt the spirit, they also threaten, as Hitchcock demonstrated, to swoop and attack. In political theory, hordes, packs, and swarms are figures for dangerous crowds, ‘fringe groups, nomad armies, raiding parties, gangs, cabals, crime societies.’ ADS4 will seek to better understand what makes a party animal beneficent, or nefarious, and how these characterisations can be used as a form of political resistance.
For example, the creation of party animals through interspecial collaboration is rare. Swarm behaviour is invariably monospeciall. A single species, the parts, come together to create a new party animal, the whole, but several species rarely do this together, and when they do it is in limited numbers. The forest is perhaps the best example, where mycorrhizal networks connect individual plants together, transfer water, carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients and minerals, and behave in ways entirely consistent with the logic of a party animal. By finding a synchronous rhythm and resonating with one another, fungi and trees generate a resilience to predators unlike any other organism on earth. Thought of as a party animal, the forest shines a light on the potential of partying with other forms of life. ADS4 will ask whether interspecies collaboration like this can foster new, more productive party animals — animals as yet unseen/missing/non-existent/uninvited.
Maurizio Cattelan, Bidibidobidiboo, 1996
Part V — Part(Y) Animation
The dust raised by the animal spreads across the stage
—Eugène Ionesco, stage direction in Rhinoceros
On May 30, 1878, the first electric streetlights were installed on the Avenue de l'Opera in Paris to celebrate the opening of the Universal Exposition. The emergence of nightlife was the unanticipated consequence of this technological innovation. New forms of entertainment then sought to utilise electric light in increasingly novel ways. Before the end of the nineteenth century, the film projector was invented. The projector relies on the phenomenon that the human brain will perceive an illusion of continuous movement from a succession of still images exposed at a rate above 15 frames per second. In other words, it is an animation.
Last year ADS4 proposed that our world is best understood as a cartoon. This year, we want to continue our research into animation, but with a narrower focus. We will concentrate on the relationship animation has with animals, and how the history, ontology, and medium of animation can help us to foster new, more inclusive ways of understanding the world. Understandings that are sensitive to the agency of all living things, expand our definition of humanity, and foster greater transspecies empathy.
Animation is, of course, the creation of movement/rhythm through the combining of parts into wholes. Since Eadweard Muybridge, animation/zoopraxography has shown us that carving the world up into parts allows us to perceive more-than-human processes. This interest has evolved into the medium of animation that consistently promotes transspecies empathy and relationships. (Albeit through the construction of fictional worlds and societies where the presence of anthropomorphised animals is key). Through both observation and construction, animation has the capacity to teach us about the nature of party animals. More specifically, it is able to hint at how transspecies forms of collective emergence might start to take place in reality.
Animation is critical to the work of ADS4 as a theme and a methodology. As a research theme, it will offer a rich history and theory of inclusive, diverse and transphilic environments for us to study. As a method, it offers — through the inherent logic of frames (in analogue animation) or key frames (in digital animation) — us tools for designing, representing, and critically evaluating architectural parts (elements, fragments, details, rooms) and wholes (buildings, towns, cities, planets). No prior animation skills are expected, or required, and we will not prescribe animation as your final output.
Party Animation — Still from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Part VI — Conference of the Parties
The Conference of the Parties (COP26) will take place this year in Glasgow between October 31–November 12. For nearly 30 years, the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits. In that time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year will be the 26th annual summit, with the UK as President. In the run up to COP26, the UK is working with every nation to reach agreement on how to tackle climate change. World leaders will arrive in Scotland, alongside tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses, and citizens for 12 days of talks. A collective response will be sought from the fragmented post-pandemic political entities of our planet.
COP26 is not just another international summit, however, it has a unique urgency. It is now clear that the commitments laid out in the COP21 Paris Agreement did not come close to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, and the window for achieving this is closing. The decade to 2030 will be crucial. As part of the Live Project, ADS4 will work with the New York Times Climate Hub at SWG3 in Glasgow during COP26, exploring how other–than–human voices are being considered at the summit.
Cai Guo-Qiang, Heritage, 2013
Part VII — After the Party
As the pandemic wanes and collective gathering has been relegalised, we have an opportunity to rebuild civic life in more egalitarian ways. Ways that involve parties who are not usually invited. Ways that overcome the ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, classism, ageism, and speciesism that have defined mainstream partying historically.
In her seminal essay, A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway urges a rejection of rigid boundaries, notably those that separate human from animal and human from machine. Instead, she encourages coalition through affinity, using the figure of the cyborg to urge feminists to move beyond the limitations of traditional gender, sexuality, and politics. The pandemic’s heteronormative effects have rolled back progress on many fronts. We need to remind ourselves of Haraway’s extended definition of humanity as we approach the notion of the party animal.
A party is made up of parts. Humans and other–than–nonhumans, music, colour, rooms, lights, cakes, balloons, dancing. Through the medium of animation, we will explore architecture through its constituent parts in order to question whether buildings, the city, or even the planet can be understood by extrapolating the properties of the parts through which it is composed? Or whether each level/scale of architecture requires a whole new conceptual structure? Each student will develop their own brief, agenda, critical position, and project.
ADS4 has pioneered the use of Critical and Speculative Design in architectural education. While the scenarios we develop are speculative in nature, we are mindful of the pitfalls of ‘forecasting’, or ‘future gazing’. For too long, however, the role of speculation has been held by the powerful few, often with the gender, race and class privileges to match. Decisions about how the future will look, how environments are designed, and how social decisions are made, have been taken by a small elite. This year, ADS4 will again work to shift the power relations of speculation and enable the democratisation and decolonisation of it as a form of design practice.
Transspecies Empathy — Still from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, 1980
Tom Greenall has completed award-winning buildings with DSDHA, whose Christ College Secondary School was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2010. He has taught Architectural Design Studio 4 (ADS4) at the RCA since 2011. Tom studied architecture at the University of Sheffield and the RCA, qualifying as an architect in 2011. Tom was made an Associate Director of London-based architectural practice DSDHA in 2013. His work has been published in over 20 languages, he has exhibited internationally, and has written for both Building and Building Design magazines.
Nicola Koller is a designer working for acclaimed fashion designer Sir Paul Smith, designing and commissioning retail spaces worldwide and running design projects of special interest to Paul. Nicola heads an in-house multidisciplinary studio of furniture designers, interior designers, industrial designers and architects. Nicola has overseen and completed over 300 projects from concept to completion with Paul Smith in 24 countries. Including major flagship projects in London, Paris, New York, Antwerp, LA, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai. She graduated from Oxford Brooks University with a BA in architecture in 2000. She continued her education in architecture at the RCA, graduating with an MA in 2003.
Matteo Mastrandrea is a designer and researcher who works as an associate at Es Devlin Studio in London. He has taught Architectural Design Studio 4 (ADS4) at the RCA since 2016, and studied at the University of Cambridge (2010), University of Oxford (2013), and the RCA (2016).
ADS5: Joining, Binding & Completing – What Do You Mean?
Studio Tutors: Amin Taha, Jason Coe & Peter Rae
15 Clerkenwell Close – Groupwork
In 2021/22, ADS5 will concentrate on building elements, their origins, carbon sequestering materials, and how they can be joined, bound, and brought to completion. We intend to provoke the construction industry and apply ethical purpose to our architectural skill sets. Through investigation and experimentation, we will learn where stone, timber, and other sequestrating materials can replace standard building elements. We will empower ourselves as architects in order to regain our role as ‘Design Team Leader.’ This role is currently in the hands of Quantity Surveyors and Project Managers, figures who are understood to have the ‘behind the curtain’ knowledge of costs critical to determining the forward momentum of a project. Simply substituting one material for another based on cost alone does not anticipate, or acknowledge, the knock-on consequences to embodied carbon, social interaction, or the textural and poetic outcomes to the design, Furthermore, these substitutions potentially increases the price tag through more complex interfaces of building products and systems. We believe that only the architect is trained and suitably skilled enough to predict and control these variables. Assisted by structural and sustainability engineers, cost consultants and specialist stonemasons and builders, ADS5 intends to equip all students with fundamental knowledge of material, structural, and sustainability costs. This will allow our students to enter practice using this knowledge and these consultant relationships, informing any project their practice is working on. We will demonstrate this way can be cheaper, quicker, and far greener to build. In short, our students will be the vanguard sent out to change the industry from a net contributor of atmospheric carbon to a carbon capture industry.
It's Old School – A Quick Jaunt through History
To understand the origins of our approach to 'joining, binding and completing', we take ourselves back in time. We will examine a historical fissure in the lineage of neo-classical architectural thinking and its ties to the classical language of architecture. While on a tour of Britain during the beginnings of the industrial revolution, Karl Friedrich Schinkel found himself standing in front of towering mills, dockyards, and bridges, which he avidly sketched, specifically emphasising their construction details. After a lifetime of mastering and developing his drawing techniques to the neoclassical language, Schinkel questioned what he had been drawing all that time. Why one detail, or motif, over another? How did they come about? What did they mean? And what relevance did the classical architectural language have in an industrialising world?
Schinkel encouraged Karl Bötticher to find the etymology of all the applied arts and architecture, focussing on the tectonics and bringing together of materials to act as structure (kernform) and decorative envelope (kunstform). Bötticher subsequently explained that many classical motifs, which were originally made of timber, metal and stone, had become abstracted over time and represented in more permanent fixed materials.
Greek Doric Order from Timber Construction – Auguste Choisy
Auguste Choisy and Gottfried Semper further defined this process as 'joining, binding and completing', with joining and binding comprising the choice of materials and methods of holding them together, and 'completion' referring to how the resulting architectures become emblematic of their time and culture. Otto Wagner, a former student of Semper, focussed on expressing the mechanics of building construction – making evident the nuts and bolts that held together facades, columns, and roofs – while also allowing the formal, tectonic vocabulary of classical architecture, with symmetry, colonnades, porticos, entablatures, and friezes.
Postsparkasse building and Façade Detail, – Otto Wagner
In many respects, these efforts to constitute a modern architecture were already too late. By contrast, other artistic disciplines had moved on from a monolithic sensibility, fracturing into a more atomised forms of modernity. This drive was more confidently asserted among several Latin–speaking nations, including Spain, Brazil, and Puerto Rico, in which the day-to-day normality of cultural crossovers illustrated the limits of monolithic dogmas and styles. Following this logic, Federico De Onis and Oswald de Andrade helped define the “Postmodern Condition” by combining ethics with a freedom of expression. For example, in architecture, ethical parameters would include building lifespan, structural and fire integrity, and thermal and sustainable performance, while the expressiveness of a building would be represented by its “dress”, or what it looks like.
Post Modern Parisian Housing Estate of Noisy-Le Grand, Ricardo Bofill, 1960’s, alongside a recent photo of a resident, Image © Laurent Kronental
Completing the Thought
Just as Schinkel questioned the relevance of classical language to a rapidly industrializing world, we may now ask what relevance do tectonics, style and expression have in the era of the Anthropocene? Can we build better and cheaper? What will our new patterns and processes look like? Can our influence on the planet and society be positive, as well as spatially enriching? What responses will it take, and where does it lead? What are the parameters guiding the ethics of our works, and how are these ethics reflected in a building’s freedom of expression?
During the Live Project, we will work with structural and sustainability engineers, along with quantity surveyors, to examine a selection of newly completed buildings, or those about to break ground. This examination will result in a report on our greener, faster, and cheaper doppelgängers of these projects. The studio will then have a menu of different building elements, which can then be deployed one their design projects throughout the year. Our selection of projects will include, but are not limited to, the following typologies:
- Office/Residential/Hotel/Mixed-Use Tower
- Midrise urban blocks
- Houses – terraced, semi-detached, or detached
- Public Institutions
We will then evolve our research and address our findings within a variety of parameters. We will test our findings in urban settings, as well as rural locations, and explore how these materials might be systematised and applied to a wide range of scenarios. Graphic representation will play a key role. Both in terms of visually depicting the building elements from our research, and how we draw and represent the joining, binding and completion of our design projects and underlying ideas.
Amin Taha was born in Berlin, moved briefly to Baghdad, then Southend-on-Sea, before settling in London, where he is currently chairperson of GROUPWORK an employee ownership trust. Before establishing an independent studio, Amin worked in the offices of Zaha Hadid, Wilkinson Eyre, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, and Richard Murphy. He has 25 years of experience in practice on various typologies – from single houses, through housing, mixed-use towers, masterplans, galleries, museums, and transport infrastructure. He continues to teach, write, and lecture on architecture, while also advising pension and investment property funds on sustainability.
Jason Coe is a project architect at Groupwork. His experience includes delivering the RIBA National Award-winning remodel of 115 Golden Lane and the cast terracotta monument of 168 Upper Street. Jason specializes in the design and delivery of niche projects with complex and innovative construction methodologies and has taught at several universities across London. He is currently leading several Groupwork projects including private houses, a mixed-use development, and a community arts space. Before joining Groupwork, Jason studied at University College London and the University of Brighton.
Peter Rae is an architect at Groupwork. He has led a broad portfolio of international projects in several design–driven studios in the UK, US, and Spain. He is currently a professor at the Escuela Universitaria de Diseño, Madrid, and previously taught at the University of Brighton in the UK. Peter studied at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received the American Institute of Architects Henry Adams Medal, and Arizona State University.
ADS6: Make Film Place
Salomé Jashi, Taming the Garden, 2021
This year in ADS6 we are starting a series of briefs under the umbrella: Make Film Place.
‘Hands are a complicated organism, a delta in which life from the most distant sources flow together surging into the current of action.’ — Bernard Leach
The current global pandemic has highlighted, and perhaps irreversibly changed, some key aspects of our home and work life. What does it mean to do something ‘in-person’? How much of what we do requires direct, physical engagement? For an architect–maker, how can we progress without bench-work that involves direct engagement with tools and materials? How can a material- and place-based practice conduct itself virtually? And how far are we, as makers, removed from our reality by remote access and communication? There are no definitive answers, especially given the pandemic arrived so suddenly and still has unknown consequences. While not everything can remain the same, our very way of working might be at stake. Looking forward, we are even more convinced that hands-on working is essential. Manual work questions the outlooks, anxieties, and unspoken rules about the makers’ environment and our behaviour within it. In ASD6, this is a critical departure for design and learning.
Image taken during the ADS6 trip at Granits Barbany, Stonemasons Workshop, Barcelona, 2015
What can we grasp with our hands? We can make with our hands and, for the most part, our hands leave indelible marks on the objects that are made by hand. But material and making processes teach us in return. Knowing and making works together, tacitly and with enduring results. How is manual competence in our post–industrialised society still relevant today?
In his A Potter’s Book, Bernard Leach noted how 'the Japanese knead their clay by a two-handed rotary movement with the weight of the shoulders coming down rhythmically on the right wrist'. He started with how to knead, then explained the necessity of kneading to pottery practice, before explaining why Japanese potters knead in the opposite direction to English potters. In reference to this practice, Michael Cardew (a prominent student of Leach’s) once said, 'the classification I don’t like is the one division into ‘donkey work and real work,’ once ‘you’ve learnt it you never forget’ kneading maybe become mechanical after a while, but ‘there is a lot going on while you are doing it'. Has manual making inadvertently become mostly donkey work, the poor cousin to mechanisation, industrialisation, and technological innovation? What is really ‘going on’ while the hands are making something? When is it shaping with intent? And when is it just going through the motions?
Leach’s knowledge of ceramics is detailed and sumptuous. He articulated his embodied practices with carefully chosen words and phrases, made visible microscopic elements folded within the clay body, and, most importantly, omitted aspects of the making processes that makers need to discover for themselves. Leach outlined for his readers everything one needs to know about how to make a ceramic pot, but not a pot that he himself is able to turn and to fire. Could it be that the pots themselves are the vessels for the potter’s depth of craft? The clay mixture that us handled and shaped is then incinerated, ossified, and vitrified. How can design and architecture transcend the dichotomy between intellect and manual competence? For ADS6, working with a material enacts a play between soft aesthetic and hard evidence, smooth utility and granular novelty, plain necessity and articulate luxury, unequivocal sustainability and straightforward doubts. For us, speculative and intuitive approaches to material manipulation for their own sake is as important as the demand for practicality and functionality. The need for an elevated knowing is, for a maker, different and unique to the material and place.
Keranie Theodosiou, 1to1 CNC of Parthenon Frieze, Rough and Final Cut, 2018
'What fascinated me about making films was not so much the possibility of altering or affecting or directing something, but simply watching it'.— Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders makes a film by setting-up the camera, pointing it in a particular direction and at a specific object, and then just letting it run. Knowing how to be receptive with a camera and microphone takes time. It requires empathy, which in its German origin, einfühlung, literally means ‘feeling oneself into another body, or environment’. As a filmmaker, when you encounter a new site or subject, you use the camera to project yourself onto the object of perception. This requires looking forwards and backwards at the same time. Forwards, to observe what you are documenting and backwards to recognise your own vision for it. Simultaneously revealing the thing and our desires toward it. Can one be a mere observer when making a film? Or does the medium demand active participation? One might say that the basic desire to ‘haunt’, to experience without touching, or being touched, pervades the act of filming. In his essay, “The Logic of Images”, Wenders argues we have forgotten how to watch through a lens. We are so concerned with capturing images we have forgotten how to receive them. To receive is nuanced with a sense of passivity that is thought to be impossible while operating a camera. But there is a difference between being receptive and simply watching.
A film is an act of seeing, which makes itself seen, an act of hearing that makes itself heard . While we make films that reflect our embodied experiences, the mechanics of how we see with our eyes and look through a camera are quite different. Our eyes are physical muscles, automatically adjusting to focus and react to light, turning these stimulations into readable electrical impulses. The retina and brain work together to ensure that, regardless of where we are and what we look at, our world is lit and in focus. By contrast, the camera is a mechanical device that has to be adjusted by its operator. Before it can see, a series of decisions need to be made, governing aperture size, shutter speed, and focus. Creating an optical system capable of delivering the clearest image has long been the ambition of emerging film technologies. Filmmaking is not about an ultimate truth, but ultimately about a measured point of view. The difference between an individual viewpoint and a film is that it becomes a shared viewpoint.
Jade Tang, Scan of Can Lis, 2021
'I think a creative person still needs a peripheral sensitivity because you can find new things in the periphery, not in the centre.' — Juhani Pallasmaa
To make films, you have to be able to put yourself into a state of intense ignorance and curiosity, yet see things in advance . Wenders argues that if we are open to what the camera sees, it allows us to grasp a place for the first time, or see that which is familiar, with new eyes. As a means of exploration, film can make the arrival – or return – to a place possible. As a consequence, the reproduction of images has become increasingly sharpened. But has this fixed–perspective influenced how we engage and interact with our environment? If we insist on directing our gaze to what lies at the centre, are we disregarding what occurs at the edges of our vision? Juhani Pallasmaa argues how while architecture requires peripheral, unfocused ways of understanding it, our reliance on precision instruments has led to knowledge associated with sharp, focused, and precise seeing. Can architects learn without tactile, hands–on engagements with the materials of architecture? How can materiality be a part of our thinking that is rooted in a place?
We make for a place and what we make is of a place. We make films to interrogate our environment, but our goal is not to depict reality in its most accurate form, but rather to provide sensory measures that question reality. If a location is where we are, and a place is the perceived image that we see of that place, then to make a place is to develop a focused understanding, which is on the edges of how we see placeness. ADS6 invites you to enquire, establish, and explore the value of a site-specific making/filming practices that involves an intimate engagement with materials. Make, Film, Place – these are themes that can be explored through personal, or collaborative design projects. What impact will this form of practicing architecture have on your design decisions? How can the making of architecture be a way of seeing? Your ADS6 design project will evolve over the year, providing the material to establish critical positions in architecture that not only occupy the centre, but also the periphery. Illuminating both the place and what is out of place.
Emily Wickham, ADS6, Reframing the Pitch, Play Like a Girl, 2021
Guan Lee is a practicing architect, lecturer and director of Grymsdyke Farm. He undertook his architectural studies at McGill University, Montreal, the Architectural Association, London, and Bartlett School of Architecture, where he completed his PhD on the relationship between architectural craft, making and site. In addition to his extensive experience as an educator, his own practice explores digital fabrication in relation to hands-on building processes in a range of materials, including clay, concrete and plaster.
Clara Kraft Isono is an architect, academic and filmmaker. Since 2013 she has been running ADS6 with Guan Lee and Satoshi Isono. She is director of Kraft Isono, a multidisciplinary film and architecture studio. Currently she is a PhD Fellow at the London Film School were she also completed an MA in filmmaking. She is a fully qualified and registered architect and has been teaching since 2000.
Satoshi Isono is an architect, furniture and interior designer and an associate at the London-based creative design consultancy Universal Design Studio. He studied Furniture and Interior Design in Tokyo before graduating from the Architectural Association, London. During his study, he has been awarded several scholarships, including the Alvin Boyarsky Scholarship, as well as grants from the EU-US Government Fund for research projects in Europe and United States.
ADS7: Out of Thin Air – Politics of the Atmosphere
Transmutations and Transgressions: A Case Study
Detail from “Geological Chart” from Levi Walter Yaggy’s Geographical Portfolio. Source: C. F. Rassweiler & Co., 1893., from the David Rumsey Map Collection.
I build my language with rocks. Édouard Glissant 
In the early morning hours of January 23, 1973, on the small island Heimaey, part of the volcanic archipelago of Vestmannaeyjar just off the south-eastern coast of Iceland, a previously unknown crack in the surface of the Earth – a fissure – opened, quickly, to a length of just over two kilometres. Outlining subterranean planetary forces normally hidden from view, the effusive eruption cut across the island. Within two days, a cone rose that would come to be known as Eldfell – Icelandic for 'the fire mountain'. Initially ejecting a combination of lava, tephra (volcanic materials such as ash and bombs that are first airborne), and poisonous gases, it was the massive lava flow that threatened not only the physical existence of Vestmannaeyjar, but the economic well-being of the nation, too, for Vestmannaeyjar was also home to Iceland’s most important fishing port.
A two-fold experiment was devised and deployed by Icelandic geologists and geophysicists. Using a combination of field-based observations and theoretical calculations on the possible cooling effect of water on molten lava, an extraordinary and continuous amount of seawater would be sprayed onto the lava, hypothetically increasing its viscosity, thereby slowing it down, using its own chemico-physical properties to create internal lava barriers; barriers to itself. It grew to become one of the most ambitious and coordinated efforts to control volcanic activity to this day, and by the time the operation ended on July 10, 1973, six million cubic metres of seawater converted the once threatening tongue of molten lava into just under four million cubic metres of solid basalt rock.
One hundred and seventy-seven kilometres to the west of Vestmannaeyjar lies a parallel fracture system: the Reykjanes Ridge and its namesake peninsula. The same tellurian forces that opened the fissure on Heimaey – water, lava (molten rock), and earth (basalt rock) are today being leveraged to mitigate, if not eradicate, an existential threat to humanity: the disruption of the carbon cycle that we know and understand as the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, measured in parts per million (ppm).
Carbon is a foundational element of our universe. Here, on Earth, where most carbon is stored in rocks, it moves and is exchanged through the biogeochemical cycle we call the carbon cycle. This cycle elucidates the ways in which carbon atoms move and flow from the atmosphere to the Earth and back into the atmosphere; carbon can be released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned, fires burn, volcanoes erupt, and organisms die. Substantive changes in the carbon cycle that move too much carbon from one reservoir into another can have significant if not catastrophic effects; too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere results in a changing climate on Earth.
This cycle, like other biogeochemical cycles, is not yet fully understood, and its complexity eludes complete modelling. Still, we know that it is comprised of both fast (less than 100 years) and slow (greater than 1000 years) processes. The faster processes include movements between the atmosphere, the terrestrial biosphere and shallow ocean reservoirs while the slower processes can take thousands or hundreds of thousands of years and include geological reactions and deep ocean dynamics. 
On the Reykjanes Peninsula, we find a paradox – a glitch in time – in the carbon cycle in the form of a joint venture between the Zürich-based Climeworks and the Reykjavík-based Carbfix: the world’s largest direct air capture (DAC) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) project. Like the geologists and geophysicists of Vestmannaeyjar who sought to imitate and accelerate natural processes before them—to make rocks—Climework and Carbfix are looking to imitate and accelerate biophysical processes found within the carbon cycle, conflating slow and fast, rapidly pulling carbon dioxide molecules out of the air, dissolving them in water, injecting them deep underground, into the subsurface where it meets basalt rock (flowing molten lava in a previous life), reacts, and in the moment it mineralises into solid carbon minerals, generates net-negative emissions. Out of thin air, carbonate rock.
Carbon Matter: Accelerating the Carbon Cycle
In order to generate net-negative emissions, both the DAC and CDR of Reykjanes require an array of suitable siting conditions. For the CDR (Carbfix) technology to work, the site needs to have favourable geologic conditions (basalt rocks), water source (freshwater, in this case, piggybacking on the reinjection of spent geothermal fluid), a source of heat (geothermal), a source of carbon dioxide (Climeworks DAC). For the DAC to function as intended, the site needs to be paired with a carbon storage strategy (Carbfix) and a sustainable source of power (geothermal). By strategically coming together at the site of the geothermal Hellisheiði Power Station, 'a geothermal energy – sorbent-based DAC–CO2 sequestration in basalt CDR system' is formed, and net-negative emissions are generated. Within the carbon cycle, a new carbon reservoir has been proposed – and formed.
The management of such newly stabilised reservoirs needs to be understood in the context of their local landscapes. How can landscapes and architecture meet to encourage and maintain these reservoirs to avoid carbon’s premature release in the near and distant future? How might we delineate and communicate risk factors connected to different environments and their carbon sinks? What other technologies – legal, political, social – are needed to cope with the remarkable scalar range of this challenge?
This year, ADS7 focuses on CDR approaches and systems alongside the requirements of each to successfully operate within their chosen contexts. Our inquiries are not limited to radical and extensive infrastructures: each student is invited to choose a CDR approach (existing or experimental) and a site of their interest that highlights dependencies and entanglements across political, social, ecological domains. Documenting and mapping their scales and temporalities will allow us to understand the ways in which vast areas of the planet are being transformed through the combined action of climate change and these new forms of infrastructure. Together, we will examine different sites and methods and agents of carbon dioxide removal in an effort to expand our understanding of what carbon removal opportunities are: afforestation and reforestation, improved forest management, biochar, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, building materials, carbon mineralisation, direct air capture, increasing ocean alkalinity, soil carbon sequestration, coastal blue carbon, and marine biomass management and cultivation. Each of these are different kinds of so-called technological solutions, and each may be required, on their own or together, to avoid the most extreme effects of global climate change, especially in those areas where the effects are most uneven and most devastating.
The studio will seek to establish relationships to carbon that are not based on the capital logic of the balance sheet, oscillating back and forth between additions and subtractions, emissions and offsets, or placing blind faith in yet another carbon footprint scheme. We may even find that those approaches that first appear to be simple are even more radical, more complicated, more extensive – and more productive— than we dared to imagine.
Grounded Speculations: Research Framework and Methodology
Still frame from Re Worlding Mirny by Agata Nguyen Chuong (ADS7 2020–21). Source: A. Nguyen Chuong, 2021.
I think collaboratively, scavenger that I am. Lauren Berlant 
Politics of the Atmosphere is a multi-year, transdisciplinary investigation into the relationship between the air and the ground. As the domain where different vectors of the current climate crisis meet and interplay and where conflicts around its policing are emerging, the atmosphere also produces multiple localities where these transformations can be observed and understood—and sites of intervention can be imagined. Far from being understood in all of its complexity, the atmosphere eludes our ability to model its dynamics or compute future scenarios.
We began, in 2019/20, in the troposphere above the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, examining the testing site of China's Tian He (Sky River) project where a confluence of water vapour conveyance channels – sky rivers – have been identified. Sky rivers are a conceptual model of water vapour transport that can, hypothetically, be turned into precipitation through the Sky River Project, a distributed infrastructure of ground and orbital machinery. While a constellation of satellites observes and monitors atmospheric conditions, a network of automated and remotely operated stoves is placed strategically on the ground to modify the spatio-temporal distribution of precipitation above this pilot region: to make it rain. We then moved from the troposphere, down, to the ground of the Siberian Arctic. In 2020/21, we continued our inquiry into the modification of large-scale ecosystems and their relations with global climate dynamics. Primarily, we considered Pleistocene Park, a testing site to maintain and rebuild permafrost – our planetary storehouse of ancient organic matter, where, locked underground, there is two times the amount of carbon than there is in the atmosphere. Our enquiries traced the various interconnected and overlapping flows of migration driven by the climate crisis: the boundary of permafrost, moving boreal forests, indigenous communities forced to relocate with the collapse of ecosystems, and damage to infrastructure and buildings from melting permafrost. All of these flows ADS7 consider extended sites of spatial investigation and intervention. And all of these embody and articulate the planetary feedback loops that defy and challenge our comprehension.
This year, ADS7 continues to question and drift from current understandings of planetary-scale ecosystems and their metabolisms as we situate ourselves within these flows and (extended) sites. We find our point of departure within the Reykjanes Peninsula, a region in southwest Iceland, where we find both the ongoing eruption (and formation) of Fagradalsfjall alongside the recently-opened and largest DAC and CDR project on the planet at the Hellisheiði Power Station.
ADS7 will outline the ways in which vast areas of the planet are being transformed through the combined action of climate change and new forms of infrastructure. We will work closely with cartographic and statistical datasets, historical documentation, engage in conversations with scientists and members of environmental agencies, study the perspectives of indigenous communities and the work of activists and local researchers that document the impact of these decisions on the territories they inhabit. The studio will aim to produce new ways of visualising ecological processes both through mapping and detailed design outputs, all the while maintaining a speculative and rigorous approach.
Our developing understanding of the atmosphere and its dynamics will guide us as we determine sites of intervention: how can the local be produced in continuity with the understanding of planetary systems? From the numerical modelling of climate predictions to the analysis of underground traces of past climates (worlds), the atmosphere will be studied as an architectural domain where the issue of scale – both across time and space – will be central. The studio will map the main components of the atmosphere by questioning the very nature of the spatial structures and metaphors that are used to represent it; by considering the ways in which data are collected and models are designed to visualise its multiple dimensions; by analysing the infrastructure through which it is sensed and measured. The atmosphere will be studied both as a physical and infrastructural space, both up, in the air, and down, into the ground. Observatories, sites of data collection, weather modification facilities and their operational networks will be investigated as tools to advance – or subvert – political and economic agendas.
Studio Output: A New Cartographic Imaginary
Detail from “Timeline” from Nico Alexandroff (ADS7 2019–20) Indexical Ice. Source: N. Alexandroff, 2020.
It is worth telling the story of a small, local, singular element, that of an atom, a grain of sand [a raindrop, a rock], a thin layer of fluid somewhere in the middle of this violent zone where various flows intermingle. Michel Serres 
The instability and unpredictability of ecological processes – increasingly amplified by the current climate crisis – fundamentally question established frames of political, economic and spatial agendas. The climate crisis can be considered an architectural problem in as much as it is a crisis of representation. Representation is thus central to the development of the studio's methodology and will be used as a primary form of enquiry. ADS7 aims to produce new ways of visualising ecological processes through mapping, detailed design outputs, and other media, all the while maintaining a speculative and rigorous approach. Our developing understanding of the atmosphere and how various CDR experiments relate to its dynamics will guide us as we determine sites of intervention – and how the local might be produced in continuity with the understanding of planetary systems.
Employing tools of spatial design and visualisation in architecture and landscape architecture, the studio investigates material atmospheric dynamics through their physical embodiments, from devices and infrastructures simultaneously tuned to the scale of the molecular and the planetary. From the numerical modelling of climate predictions to the analysis of underground traces of past and future climates (worlds), students will investigate the ways in which data are identified and collected, infrastructures built and modified, models envisioned and designed, all in order to visualise the multiple dimensions of the atmosphere. By seeking to understand and explicate various CDR projects, ADS7 will imagine and make legible these experimental assemblages, unfolding and revealing relations between natural dynamics, biophysical and anthropogenic technologies and the closely related – if not entangled – systems and policies of national and planetary governance and the management and measures of economic activities.
Installation view of Yang Ah Ham’s video installation “Undefined Panorama 3.1” after Hieronymus Bosch’s The Haywain. 12-metre panorama screen. Cupola, silent green Kulturquartier, Berlin. transmediale 2021–22. Source: L. Girardini, 2021.
In tandem with the academic year at the RCA, the student’s studio work will inform and be presented in the form of a research and film-based exhibition, workshop and collaboration with transmediale, and its annual festival for art and digital culture (February, 2022) held in Berlin, Germany. Now in its 34th year, transmediale has developed an international, transversal platform with an extraordinary community and network that facilitates regular publications and year-round activities including commissions and artist residencies.
Integral to ADS7's approach is our growing, diverse network of external contributors (artists, designers, researchers, scientists, theorists, and former students). Together, through conversations and workshops, lectures and external reviews, we will share the lenses through which we will look together at this set of issues – if not the world – in different ways. Some of this year's external contributors will include: Agata Nguyen Chuong, Andreas Malm, Andri Snær Magnason, Ben Evan James, Dehlia Hannah, Geocinema (Solveig Qu Suess and Asia Bazdyrieva), Henry Valori, Julian Charrière, Jussi Parikka, Leena Geerts Danau, Lindsey Wikström, Lorraine Daston, Lukas Likavcan, Nora O Murchú, Peter Galison, Robert Gerard Pietrusko, among others.
- Édouard Glissant, from Poetics of Relation. Translated by Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1987.
- For an in-depth understanding of CDR, see Carbon Dioxide Removal Primer, eds. Jennifer Wilcox, Ben Kolosz, and Jeremy Freeman. https://cdrprimer.org/
- Lauren Berlant, from “A Properly Critical Concept of Love: Three approaches in ten pages” in Cultural Anthropology, Volume 26, Issue 4 (2011).
- Michel Serres. Atlas. Berlin: Merve Verlag, 2005, translated in Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain, Vapor, Ray Manual, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014.
Elise Misao Hunchuck (b. tkaronto/Toronto) is a transdisciplinary researcher, editor, writer, and educator trained in landscape architecture, philosophy, and geography. Based in Berlin and Milan, her research practice—with sites in Canada, Japan, China, Europe, Russia and Ukraine—employs cartographic, photographic and text-based methods to document, explore, and archive co-constitutive relationships between materials, resources, infrastructures, natural processes, humans and more-than-humans. She is a senior researcher and lecturer at The Bartlett School of Architecture in London, an editorial board member for the journal Scapegoat Journal: Architecture / Landscape / Political Economy and the editorial curator for transmediale, the festival for digital art and culture in Berlin. Her writing has been featured in The Funambulist, The Avery Review, and Flash Art. Her editorial work has been published with Sternberg Press, Archive Books, and Edinburgh University Press. Most recently, she co-edited Electric Brine (2021) alongside Jennifer Teets and Margarida Mendes. Forthcoming titles include texts with Topos, Art in America, Jovis Verlag, Routledge, Duke University Press, Journal of Visual Art Practice, and, co-authored with Jussi Parikka, the Minnesota University Press series Art after Nature, on the work and legacy of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson.
Marco Ferrari is an architect, co-founder of Studio Folder, an agency for visual design and spatial research based in Milan, Italy. Since 2012, the studio has been developing projects both for cultural institutions and private clients, working across the editorial, digital and exhibition domains while pursuing autonomous research paths that explore the politics of representation and the visualisation of information. Together with Andrea Bagnato and Elisa Pasqual, he is the author of A Moving Border. Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change, a book based on Studio Folder’s long-term project Italian Limes, jointly published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City and ZKM Karlsruhe in Spring 2019. Between 2011 and 2013 he was the Creative Director of Domus magazine and served as a regular graphics editor for Abitare magazine from 2007 to 2011. He has been teaching Methods and Tools for Representation at ISIA Urbino since 2010 and led an Information Design studio at IUAV University in Venice between 2013 and 2016. He is an adjunct visiting professor at Columbia GSAPP.
Jingru (Cyan) Cheng is a transdisciplinary design researcher, whose practice traverses architecture, anthropology and visual art. The wide-ranging themes include, non-canonical histories and socio-spatial models, diverse ways of cultural knowing and being, aesthetic agency, and modes of co-existence and affinity between human and non-human. Currently, she is working on a documentary-fiction filmmaking project, Ripple, Ripple, Rippling, exploring the marginal everyday. Cyan holds a PhD by Design and an M.Phil Projective Cities from the Architectural Association (AA) in London, and was the co-director of AA Wuhan Visiting School 2015-17. Her work received commendations by the RIBA President’s Awards for Research from the Royal Institute of British Architects, in 2018 and 2020, respectively, and has been exhibited at Critical Zones: Observatories for Earthly Politics (2020-21), Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism (2019), Venice Architecture Biennale (2018) and Beijing Design Week (2016 & 2015), and included in the Architectural Association’s permanent collection.
ADS8: Data Matter
MINES MINERALS MAGNETS. Rhiarna Dhaliwal. 2019.
6 hours and 42 minutes is the global screen time average per person each day. In this time, 18.7 billion text messages are sent, 500 million tweets are published, and 2.85 billion hours of video content are streamed. By January, 2021, there were nearly 2.8 billion video game consumers worldwide — almost 40% of the global population.
Electronic Arts, an American based gaming company, processes approximately 50 terabytes of data each day, equivalent to streaming 12,500 high-definition movies. 99.6 million unique viewers watched the League of Legends 2018 World Final through streaming services such as Youtube and Twitch, reaching a peak audience of 44 million and beating viewer statistics for the Super Bowl of the same year. As the demand for digital services and emerging technologies increase, so does the rate of energy consumption needed to support the networked infrastructure.
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ecosystem consumed 9% of the global electricity supply and accounted for 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2016, equaling the carbon footprint of the aviation industry. With the influx of 5G data infrastructure and faster internet speeds, the amount of data produced and processed has skyrocketed. Africa, the planet’s second-most-populous continent, has been experiencing the fastest growth of internet users with a 13,058% rise from 2000 to 2021. Asia, on the other hand, has the highest number of internet users worldwide — over half its population.
New forms of information services and digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and IoT devices, heavily contribute to the rise in data production and consumption. 6.1GB of data was created every hour for every person globally in 2020. This figure is growing exponentially. In fact, 90% of the world’s data was generated over the last two years, with 66% of the global population being digitally active, the continued growth and commodification of data is expanding steadily.
Algorithmic Intelligence regulates this transborder flow of information through sophisticated tracking and surveillance systems, generating immense amounts of real-time digital personhood, identities and architectures. While our datafied existences are progressively evaporating into bytes and remote connections, the material and spatial consequences of data production and consumption remain largely unanticipated.
Global digital infrastructure is entangled. It coexists with, and struggles against, different layers of the material world, from the vast ranges of corporate and state sovereignties that regulate its operations, to the availability of energy, resources, and space. We cannot understand contemporary media culture without looking at the material realities that precede media themselves — geological formations, minerals, and the energy on which media depends. A new geography has emerged, one that knits together the infrastructure of networks, the mesh of fiber-optic cables, data centers, electromagnetic waves, our portable or domestic devices, and the extraction of resources. Data mining goes hand in hand with the mining of minerals to keep the system running.
Stretching thousands of kilometres and connecting continents and users at the speed of light, a planetary mesh of fibre–optic cables is laid out offshore before penetrating inland and dictating who has access to ultra-fast broadband capacity. In this way, it defines the geographies of opportunity, but is still largely based on old colonial ties and pre-war power structures. The global digital divide reflects the persistent extractive relationship between Western countries and the rest of the world, where some critical areas bare the environmental, social, and political burden of mineral extraction and toxic waste dumping, which is needed to support our contemporary lives.
As software and hardware take command, our intimate, social, productive and urban landscapes are mutating rapidly, posing urgent questions around the relationship between the private & domestic and the collective and public spheres. This highlights frictions between the corporeal body and the extractivist logics of platform capitalism, opening other scenarios in the way cities are inhabited.
For instance, approximately 2% of EU adults derive their main source of income from what is being called the ‘gig economy’, and up to 8% earn occasional income from these work alternatives. The boom of “platforms” such as Uber and Deliveroo provided the private sphere with powerful market mechanics, enabling the fluid commodification of life. Flexible, web-scale human resourcing drew “app freelancers” into the gig economy. This is an unprecedented economic reactivation of latent human assets. A new labor force has emerged, one obliged to hire itself out for ever-smaller jobs with no safety net, as big-tech companies profit handsomely.
Behind a click of a mouse, or a tap on a phone, lies huge frictions. A complex system where political, bodily, chemical, and synthetic regimes are entangled in fractions of a second and are kept together by a close knit-system of smoothly designed interfaces, which unfold through our daily spaces.
Charlie-Gibbs: Conserving the More Than Human Through Off-shore Financial Data. Jade Blanchard-Mckinley. 2019.
The Digital Dream: Faustian Pacts at the New Frontier of Tech. Grace Schofield. 2019.
Since its inception, ADS8 has attempted to formulate what a 21st-century institution of humans, other organisms and machines could be and what would be its architecture, across both digital and physical realities and everything that sits in between. Through the 2020/21 edition, we expanded this question to encompass the role that digital environments such as video games have assumed as alternative forms of collective sites, regulated by complex algorithmic architectures.
In 2021/22, ADS8 will work across a vast spectrum of the multiple forms through which data and, more broadly, digital environments manifest within the material world. We will start with the analysis of the architectures of data: their technologies, configuration and design; their environmental implications in terms of resource supply chains and energy impact; their spatial, and safety requirements and normative rules; as well as their intersection with politics, culture, and everyday life. We will undertake a journey from these enclosures where almost no human is present except in the form of stored data, to the infrastructures and territories through which information circulates – data centers, bit-coin mines, transoceanic fibre–optic cables, switch-points, cellular towers and the like – and the new forms of sovereignty triggered by their activity. Navigating across geographies, scales and architectures, we will also see how these constructions are connected to other automated architectures, such as greenhouses, ports, logistic centres, and factories, and by extension to every aspect, space and device of daily life.
As digital environments progressively become our social and political forums — creating new sites in which other forms of institution making, subjectivities and ecological realities are tested — the studio will expand its investigation into those spatial forms where such environments are created and engineered. This ranges from bodily and environmental scanning companies, to video-game producers and game engine developers. We will dive into the processes, politics and biases of data and image acquisitions, dissecting the architectures, geographies, histories, power structures and economies underlying this rapidly growing industry.
Monsters and Ghosts of the Far North. Andra Pop-Jurj. 2021.
On Behalf of the Voice. Meera Badran. 2020.
The fourth edition of Data Matter will set a framework, but not an output. We aim to document and reflect on five entangled strands of research. (1) The environmental cost of Data, or the implications of data infrastructure for energy consumption, environmental disruption, spatial planning, socio-economic and geopolitical conditions, as well as the agents involved in these stage. (2) The possibility of Data Permaculture, or the potential for alternative ways to conceive the space of data based on the unstable trajectory of our climate, and/or on stronger alliances with other-than-human agents. (3) Bodies of Platform Capitalism, or the progressive exploitation and exhaustion of human bodies by tech platforms, and the repercussions that a transition towards a full automation might entail in terms of design and labour. (4) Fortnite and other political arenas, or video-game spaces as sites for self and collective expression across digital and physical domains. (5) Glitch and Dissent, or the space of freedom, resistance and representation provided by system failures, and the potential of independent temporary networks in terms of communication and political agency.
From the diverse repertoire of research avenues outlined, each student is asked to focus on a single strand as their main area of interest, combining and intersecting with other areas as the year unfolds. With an expansive understanding of design, ADS8 aims to challenge conventional architectural representation in exploring and developing the practice led by each and every student. Each student will focus on a particular case study located in different coordinates, regions, areas and settings, with the aim of the ADS discussing a more nuanced approach that might be able to transcend Western perspectives and epistemologies and engage with different geopolitical contexts. In previous years, students have conducted research in Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, UK, USA, and the EU, as well as the arctic and international waters.
The ultimate aim of ADS8 is to investigate a possible architectural agency in: (1) the way the material infrastructure of digital environments can be developed, explored and manipulated, and how we can coexist and cooperate with other-than-human agents; (2) the way virtual arenas are utilised as testing grounds for new worlds, new institutions, new forms of restitution and representation.
Memory Encoding. Nour Al Ahmad. 2021.
Data: The New Black Gold. Ibiye Camp. 2019.
Seminars, Workshops & Lectures
Over the past years, we have developed the studio as a seminar, weaving in voices and perspectives from architects, scholars, designers, artists, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, technologists, writers, philosophers and musicians. This has allowed us to explore and expand the theoretical, political, and aesthetic dimensions of the students’ architectural proposals. This framework will continue throughout 2021/22, with regular workshops and presentations running across the first and second terms. Our previous guests have included Alice Bucknell, Anna Puigjaner, Armin Linke, Christina Varvia, Christopher Schlaeffer, Davide Rapp, Eva & Franco Mattes, Federico Campagna, Ivan L. Munuera, Legacy Russell, James Westcott, John Gerrard, Nicolas Jaar, Marina Otero Verzier, Matthew Shaw (Scanlab Projects), Ramon Amaro, Richard Vijgen, and Nicolay Boaydjiev, among others.
Case Study, Live Project & Field Trip
As part of our ongoing research into the relationship between data, technology and their spatial manifestations, whether they are digital or physical, for the 2021/22 edition, the case study, live project, and ield trip are all intertwined. The Live Project will be a collaboration with artist, photographer, and filmmaker Armin Linke in the production of a documentary film, which speaks of the industrial complex of our digital world. This collaboration is part of Image Capital (http://image-capital.com/), a larger research initiative coordinated by Armin and Estelle Blaschke, from the Department of Media, University of Basel (Basel, CH). This long-term project will exhibit at MAST Foundation (Bologna, IT), Centre Pompidou (Paris, FR) and Folkwang Museum (Essen, DE) in spring/summer 2022.
In conversation with Armin, ADS8 will aim to dive into researching the Scandinavian context as a case in point, exploring practices and companies that are directly involved in the construction of digital worlds and video games, and which rely on vast physical infrastructure to maintain their presence and existence. As a subregion of Europe, Scandinavia has a concentration of tech (both hardware and software) companies. And in particular, Sweden is home to nearly 25,000 software developers, 14,000 big data experts, and around 10,000 development specialists – showing the intensity of exchange and specialisation in the region. We will examine the array of subsidiary companies owned by game-engine giant Epic Games, which produces content and fuels the construction of their metaverse through image acquisition and game development.
MANIFESTA 12. Palermo, Sicily, Italy. 2018
Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli is an architect and curator based in Milan. He is the founder of the interdisciplinary agency 2050+ whose work moves across technology, environment, politics and design. Ippolito most recently curated Open, the Russian Federation Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennial, and co-edited the accompanying collection Voices (Towards Other Institutions), which puts forward alternative forms of constituencies and collectiveness. In 2018, he co-curated Manifesta’s 12th edition, The Planetary Garden: Cultivating Coexistence, taking place in Palermo. Between 2007 and 2020 he worked as an architect and partner at OMA/AMO, where his work focused on preservation, scenography and curation. Ippolito has been teaching at the Royal College of Arts since 2017.
Kamil Hilmi Dalkir, is an architect and researcher, currently part of the interdisciplinary agency 2050+ based in Milan. Previously, he held architectural positions at Studio Fuksas in Rome and Balmond Studio in London prior to working as a freelance designer, model maker and fabricator for several years. Kamil’s personal research, pursued through his PhD studies at the Royal College of Art, centres around migration studies, non-western epistemologies and the human body. He explores these themes with architectural models, digital reconstruction and installation. In his time with 2050+, Kamil was part of the curatorial and exhibition design team of Open - the Russian Federation Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennial.
Rhiarna Dhaliwal is a British-Indian Architectural designer and researcher based in London. She is currently completing a five month research residency at V-A-C Zattere as part of the Non-Extractive Architecture exhibition and conference series curated by Space Caviar. She is a founding member of Xcessive Aesthetics: an all-female interdisciplinary design collective exploring data and alternate realities. Rhiarna took part in the inaugural edition of Sharjah Architecture Triennial (2019), assisting on the project ‘The Sacred Forests of Ethiopia’. Her master's thesis project MINES MINERAL MAGNETS, dissecting the link between global data usage and mineral extraction was published in Flash Art International (July-August 2019) and Cosa Mentale - Dixit #02: A Matter of Data (2021).
ARORA, P. (2019). The next billion users: digital life beyond the West. Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press.
BLUM, A. (2019). Tubes: a journey to the center of the Internet. New York, Ecco.
BRATTON, B. H. (2016). The stack: on software and sovereignty. Cambridge, Mass, MIT Press.
BRIDLE, J. (2019). New dark age: technology and the end of the future. New York, Verso.
EASTERLING, K. (2014). Extrastatecraft: the power of infrastructure space. New York, Verso.
HARAWAY, D. J. (2018). Cyborg manifesto. Victoria, British Columbia, Camas Books.
LATOUR, B. (2005). Making things public: atmospheres of democracy. Cambridge, Mass, MIT Press.
MOROZOV, E. (2014). To save everything, click here: the folly of technological solutionism. New York, PublicAffairs.
PARIKKA, J. (2016). A geology of media. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
PARKIN, S. (2017). Death by video game: danger, pleasure, and obsession on the virtual frontline. New York, Melville House.
PARKS, L., & STAROSIELSKI, N. (2017). Signal traffic: critical studies of media infrastructures. Urbana, University of Illinois Press.
RUSSELL, L. (2020). Glitch feminism: a manifesto. New York, Verso.
SRNICEK, N. (2020). Platform capitalism. Cambridge, Polity.
BARICCO, A., FARRAUTO, L., & NOVALI, A. (2019). The game. Torino, Einaudi.
WANG, X. (2020). Blockchain chicken farm and other stories of tech in China's countryside. New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
ADS9: Sun in my Mouth and Leap into the Ripe Air
Atomised passenger aircraft engine, Roger Hiorns 2008
ADS9 investigates the architecture of openness. The studio imagines a boundless architecture, where there is no separation, or distinction between walls and space, building and site, bodies and environment, earth and sky. An architecture of openness that exists as a single continuum of everyone, everywhere, and everything.
Such an architecture of openness challenges our fundamental notions of architecture as a shelter. Of ownership and power. And, ultimately, of how we live our lives. How much physical presence do we need? Architecture does not exist where the surface of walls ends, and the space in-between begins. The Open is a realm of spatial possibilities, enabling both a productive ambiguity and generosity of space.
ADS9 envisions an architecture in which the barriers between a vast spectrum of scales, material physicality and spatial phenomena, artificiality and ecological matters, architectural presence and the territorial, completely dissipates. For us, these are unseen materials for the construction of a new architectural language that will empower our emerging ways of living. The projects of ADS9 do not end at the edge of its site. The architecture of Openness extends and expands across cities, landscapes, and territories. The Open implies the fitting together of the odd, the curious, the possible. The Open is both unbounded and precise. The Open is beautiful.
Canto V, Arcangelo Sassolino 2016. Physical limits of material form driven by immaterial forces.
This year, ADS9 puts spatial experimentation at the forefront of the studio’s methodology. To experiment is to embrace the desire and beauty in the act of creating itself, regardless of where it might take you. The studio is searching for risky minds, who are ready to leap, to develop a personal process of inquiry, and work with iterations and failures, physical prototypes and digital simulations.
The relationship between the material and the immaterial is the focus of our spatial experimentation. The material comprises the physical matter of space and the presence of our bodies. The immaterial, the invisible energy, data, and environment, which permeates space and our perception of it. This relationship is one of continuous transformation and conversion between them. How can the exchange and embodiment of different forms of energy, from one medium to another, reorganise and reconstruct space? Can we imagine an architecture that is as subject to unpredictable fluctuations as the environment itself? ADS9 see our bodies, the imperceptible droplets of moisture suspended in streams of air, the waves of bits and bytes, and the embodied energy within the molecular fabric of physical walls, as a single continuous medium for creating architecture.
At the core of this approach, ADS9 asks students to devise a year-long highly personal process of inquiry that works with physical and digital media and other tools to create a tectonic, material, experience, which can be experienced first-hand. Each design projects will achieve a high level of design resolution. Our reconsideration of the relationship between the material and immaterial seeks to create new spatial possibilities and offer a new reading of space and how we might live speculatively in the future. Projects will create an architecture of openness that fosters a designed, dynamic relationship with the inhabitants it accommodates and the site on which it is located.
Stone quarry pavilions in Rajasthan, India. Rudimentary stone pavilions constructed by quarry labours to escape from heat, dust and noise. Studies by Studio Mumbai.
Search for the Un-translatable
Words, untold stories, numbers and data, songs and poems, markings on landscapes, architecture without architects, and things that cannot be simply translated, or uttered in the English language. In establishing a personal field of interests, the work of ADS9 asks students to look outside the canons and conventions of architecture. We examine both from the past and the emerging. Acknowledging what is un-translatable allows us to glimpse other ways of seeing. We seek to recover and absorb these forms of knowledge into our design project, empowering new spatial inventions and forms of occupation.
ADS9 looks at the emerging ways in which we live, work, learn, play and love in the NOW. In particular, we are fascinated by the collective forms of co-existence that tend towards openness through the constant redefinition of lifestyles, traditional kinship ties, and values system. The distinctions between living, labour, and leisure have become increasingly impossible. Today, we are asking deeper questions around the reproductive labour that sustains our physical, mental, and affective well-being. Is it suitable – or regressive – that architecture seeks to construct space with a reliance on walls, façades, doors, and locks in an era of new emerging forms of living? By contrast, can we design spaces that have an emancipatory character and can cultivate new kinships and intimacy?
We will each select and delve into a deep reading of an emerging way of living. This is allied to a physical site for the project. We operate both as architectural designers and also by considering the gaze of others, whose intuitive perception of a place may be entirely different from our own. Our process operates in three stages. Firstly, we intimately study an emerging way of living and the forces that led to its becoming. Secondly, a reading of a site through the relationship between the material and immaterial. And thirdly, an investigation into a site’s unique spatial typologies. These three studies set up individual field of interests and the raw ingredients for our spatial experimentations and design projects. Through our experiments, conversations, and reexamination of the relationship between the material and immaterial, how can we imagine untranslatable typologies that have a new, contemporary relevance?
Kishangarh Marble Dumping Yard. An unnatural lake with walls of marble.
How do we Experiment and Design?
ADS9 has a deep commitment to designing spaces and architectures that are imbued with an urgent beauty. Space does not simply frame our lives – it is inseparable to how we express, embody, and enable knowledge, form ideas, and live life.
In 2021/22, ADS9 will experiment with large-scale media, tools, and prototypes that are spatial constructs in their own right. Our highly creative, iterative way of working critically questions design. Our design projects go far beyond a representation of the subject by embracing a hands-on, direct engagement with each student’s topic of spatial experimentation. As part of the development of the design project, ADS9 encourages students to reach out to the full arsenal of knowledge, expertise, and tools at your disposal across different departments at the RCA.
For YR1 students, the design project will focus on a multi-storey urban block that fosters emerging ways of living, working, learning, playing, and loving. The spatial experimentation will be accompanied by technical investigation. In ADS9, YR2 students have always pursued deeply personal subjects and obsessions in their work. The design project is open to the ambitions of our students. YR2 students will develop their own personal critical framework and design methodology to produce a project that has a high level of architectural resolution.
Iodized spindrift, skyline of ultraviolets. A Winter Beach, Philip Rahm 2008.
John Ng received an AA Diploma from the Architectural Association, London. John practices architecture in London and in 2011 founded the multidisciplinary practice Elsewhere, focusing on architectural competitions. Several of Elsewhere’s projects have been awarded honourable mentions and first prizes in international competitions. He has previously worked with PHASE3 Architecture and Design (2013–present), vPPR Architects (2011–13) and DSDHA (2005–9). Alongside teaching at the RCA, John has taught at the Architectural Association since 2011 on both diploma and undergraduate programmes.
Zsuzsa Péter graduated with Diploma Honours from the AA in 2018. She has previously work with CRAB studio and Farshid Moussavi Architecture.
James Kwang-Ho Chung is an architectural designer at Hopkins Architects. He previously worked for Foster + Partners and NEX Architecture in London on projects of various scales in the UK, China and Kuwait. He has lectured and taught at the AA, RCA and Leeds School of Architecture.
ADS10: Savage Architecture — Theatres of Common Life
Studio Tutors: Gianfranco Bombaci, Matteo Costanzo, Francesca Romana Dell’Aglio & Davide Sacconi
Lina Bo Bardi, SESC Pompeia - Study for the canteen, 1977-1986.
In 2021/22, ADS10 continues to explore the idea of a Savage Architecture – an architecture that is not merely shelter and comfort, nor display and reproduction of wealth, but rather considered as the material and symbolic basis of mankind’s necessity to come together and engage in collective rituals. Savage Architecture occurs when need gives away to possibility, when the will to represent supersedes the necessity of surviving, and when the individual reproductive life acquires a collective dimension. Recognised as a fundamental need of the human species, architecture can exceed building as economic activity – as the sheer management of labour, material and financial resources – to become an unrivalled instrument for political change.
This year, we will focus on the theatre as a fundamental material and symbolic form in the social and political structures of the city. At the origins of the theatre lies mankind's ancestral need to visualise the world of imagination, connecting the physical and spiritual realms. This link is evoked and translated through the performance of dance, or choreographed movements, which make legible the foundations of collective life. What differentiates theatrical performance from other public activities is the completeness of the collective ritual within the scenographic. A simulated perfection that elevatea ordinary gestures to paradigmatic acts, exemplifying what a community has in common. The participants of these events engage in an emotional mimetic process of social identification – a catharsis – that allows them to recognise and elaborate on the behaviours, social structures, and rules which define their community.
As such, the theatre is not just a space for performances, but rather a form of construction and representation of a community, which uses sacred, ludic, or dramatic representation of conflicts as didactic tools to form social practices. By explicitly exposing the common structure of life in the performative act, the theatre defines a truly political space. One in which individual existence acquires a meaning in relation to collective needs, desires, and actions. This relationship between stage, performance, and audience extends to the scale of the city. Which is understood as the stratification of theatrical spaces that constitute and represent a multitude of collective subjects. The political life of these unstable subjects demands the permanent stage of architecture in order to be simultaneously recognised by the community and represented in the public sphere.
ADS10 will consider the space of performance as the key form for the construction and representation of collective subjects. We propose to challenge the canonical understanding of theatres as cultural institutions, or programs of entertainment, that populate the city. Students will be called on to identify, document, and collaborate emerging collective subjects in the city, with the ambition of designing architectures that can represent their collective needs and desires in the public sphere. Understanding the space of performance as a space of political action, rather than as a genre of leisure that restates existing social hierarchies, we will imagine theatres of everyday life that can stage the savage power of being together.
Over the last four years, ADS10 has developed a specific teaching methodology that brings together anthropological and design questions, considerations around narrative and representation, in order to construct a rich and meaningful ground on which the project of architecture can be positioned in relationship with the city. During the first and second terms, our consideration of this field of inquiry will be accompanied by lectures by the studio tutors and invited guests, focussing the themes of the studio. In the third term, students will focus on their project narratives and forms of representation, translating the design into written, drawn, and modelled form.
Students are encouraged to use a variety of means – including, but not limited to, different kinds of drawings to models, videos, book editing, and curatorial strategies – in their investigation and representation of the design project. Beyond the studio work, ADS10 organises specific workshops, focusing on book editing, model–making, and exhibition curatorship, which allow students to acquire a specific skill set that informs the outcome of the Live Project, WIP show, and Graduation show.
In 2021/22, the Live Project will offer a unique opportunity to delve into the long–term research project of ADS10 on the notion of Savage Architecture. Building on five years of ADS10 work, students will be called to produce and organise an exhibition at the Fondazione Pastificio Cerere, one of the most important art and architecture galleries in Rome. The exhibition will open in April, 2022, and is accompanied by a catalogue-archive, gathering a curated collection of the materials produced by ADS10 since its inception at the RCA. The preparation of the exhibition will be accompanied by specific workshops in curatorial strategies and book editing involving guest tutors. Second-year students with a strong interest in the ADS10 research project will be welcome to participate.
2A+P/A, Davide Sacconi, Rome East. A city of collective Rituals, 2019
Seminario Cavart, Monte Ricco, Monselice (PD), 1975
Lina Bo Bardi, SESC Pompéia, São Paulo, 1977-1986.
Patrick Bouchain, Théâtre du Centaure, Marseille 2001-02
ADS10, Casting models, 2019-20
Gianfranco Bombaci is an architect. He studied at Sapienza University, Rome, and KU University, Leuven, where he obtained a PhD in Environmental Design. In 1998 he cofounded 2A+P magazine and was a partner of the practice 2A+P architecture until 2008, when he founded 2A+P/A Associates. The office works on architectural, urban and landscape design with a particular interest in the nature and condition of the contemporary city. It engages in a broad range of activities including public and private buildings, housing complexes, urban spaces, event pavilions, temporary installations and interior design. Since 2010, Gianfranco has served as co-founder and editor of San Rocco magazine. In 2015, together with Matteo Costanzo, Davide Sacconi and Luca Galofaro, he founded the gallery Campo in Rome as a space for debate, study and celebrating architecture. He has taught in the Faculty of Architecture of Ferrara, in the Master In/Arch in Rome and in the School of Architecture, University of Miami, Rome. He teaches and coordinates the Interior Design BA Course at IED Rome.
Matteo Costanzo studied at La Sapienza University, Rome, Oxford Brooks University, Oxford, and the Netherlad Architeture Institute). In 1998 he cofounded 2A+P magazine and was a partner of the practice 2A+P architecture until 2008, when he founded 2A+P/A Associates. The office works on architectural, urban and landscape design with a particular interest in the nature and condition of the contemporary city. He has been a visiting critic and run workshops at several architecture schools, including: Istituto Europeo di Design; Istituto Nazionale di Architettura, Rome; Nuova Accademi delle Belle Arti and Domus Academy, Milan; Syracuse University, London; Cornell University, Rome; University of Miami, Rome; San Rocco Summer School at the University of Genoa; TU Munich; University of Liège; and at the Everything Out the door workshop at Campo, Rome. He teaches on the RCU (Radical Cut Up) at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and publishes widely.
Davide Sacconi is an honours graduate of the Università degli Studi di Roma Tre. He founded Tspoon Environment Architecture in 2004 – a research practice that has received awards in national and international competitions for architecture, landscape, urban design and editorial projects. He completed his postgraduate studies at the Berlage Institute, Rotterdam, and is currently a PhD candidate at the Architectural Association, London. He has taught at the University of Liverpool, The Bartlett UCL and is currently Director of the Syracuse Architecture London Programme.
Francesca Romana Dell’Aglio is an architect and PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art. She is a graduate of the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV) and holds a Masters Degree with Distinction from the Architectural Association, London. Francesca has previously been a unit tutor at IUAV and Oxford Brookes, and is currently a teaching assistant in History and Theory Studies both at the Architectural Association and Royal College of Art in London. She has collaborated on the last three Venice Architecture Biennales and is editor of the academic journal Engramma. Her writing has appeared in Lobby, STUDIO Magazine, AAfiles and Engramma.
The ultimate deprival: a momentary glimpse of the sun’s death. 11 August 1999. The total eclipse. immortalised by French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré from the Mir station. Source: cnes.fr.
Last year, ADS12 used ‘overabundance’ as a deployable phenomenon for the creation of architectural spaces. Our projects were considered as 'plentitudes', which were constituted through a minimum of 2000 'acts' – species, subjects, objects, processes, and so on. This year, projects will be enacted through the possibilities of strategic omissions, wilful refraining from excess, and deliberate absence. Architecture typically conflates acts of removal, or reduction, through an aesthetic. Instead, we will explore the productive potential of loss, of development without growth, and whether forms of deprivation might allow new vantages from which to address the widening gap between our biological shortcomings and the violence of information – a long-term goal of the studio.
In the World, but Not of It
The deprivation of pleasure is rooted in many cultural traditions. At designated times of the year, usually in preparation for an event, or purification, these traditions encourage some form of abstinence, or asceticism. In the case of Christian monastic ideals, the angelikos bios, or angelic life, formed the code of monastic life. The angelikos bios was considered the highest form of living because angels don’t sleep, eat, or love.
Angels refuse sleep, eat, and love. The angelic life is the code of the Vardzia Cave Monastery, Georgia. Source: maxpixel.net.
Only Six Left in Stock
Now, we are seeing forms of asceticism that have emerged as a reaction the affluence of modern life. The ever-perfecting union of computation and logistics continues to generate ever more things, ever more quickly. Which, due to the seamlessness of trend and production, we keep buying. We create endless fictional demands, wants where there were no wants. The result of which is the triumph of ‘fast-and-insincere’ as the prevailing culture. The possession of things has been split from necessity, material integrity, sensible manufacturing, or even geographic legacies of production. A thing now lasts as long as social media deems it relevant, or until the idea of the thing has been exhausted and replaced by the next.
Radical acts of retreat, removal, or deprivation, are becoming ever more necessary as a way to confront such accelerated patterns of consumption and the loss of free will. This rising asceticism has been decoupled from its religious origins and, instead, is used to attain, among other things, the goal of ‘personal satisfaction’. The rise in voluntary fasting, celibacy, seclusion, infliction of pain, abstinence from intoxicants, and renunciation of worldly goods has been aided by the fact these practices are now offered as consumable ‘wellness’ services.
May 2017 saw the birth and death of the fidget spinner (L), the first flint tools were made sometime during the Lower Paleolithic period 3 million years ago in Africa (R). Source: self.com and 163.com.
Just like a foodstuff, media is consumed in a diet – we binge, we stomach, we regurgitate. We continue gorging because we’re told it is good to ingest more and more, but clearly some information is less palatable than other forms of information. This relentless ingestion of information has created a digital membrane that overlays the material space of architecture. (Dispelling the romanticism of considering architectural as plain material.)
Especially in leisure infrastructures, the overlay of spatial pleasures with the digital analytics of behaviour is especially evident in leisure infrastructures. Consider, for example, the mechanics of a casino. Most casinos offer a rewards scheme, enticingly labelled as a "gold card", or maybe it’s platinum. With this card, the casino can track your tendencies and make calculated assumptions about your behaviour. They know you choose 23 on roulette (you’re superstitious). You normally stop when you’re £300 in the hole (you’re somewhat responsible). You take greater risks on Fridays (you’ve been drinking). You once assaulted a dealer (because you have anger management issues). You usually stay for five hours (because you have children). You eat the lobster (you’re a Taurus). You stay alone (you’re divorced). You go to your room at 2am in the adjoining hotel (you don’t have custody of your children). You come roughly every three weeks (if not, they email you a reminder). It takes you 40 mins to get there (you’re middle class).
The Wynn Red Card (L) and the Wynn Casino (R), Las Vegas. The lobster and “23”, everytime. The gold card constitutes as much spatial information in tandem than the walls of the Wynn casino. Source: Wynn Casino.
Such a saturation of information results in spaces that are not only material, but also containers informed by our predictive behaviours. It is no wonder then that we seek to purge. Take-Away will explore emerging movements to erase behaviours, histories, and cultures at the personal and social level. Part of that exploration is to consider whether such erasures have negative consequences – for example, does it eradicate the meaning of a place, as with Rio Tinto's destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site in Pilbara, Western Australia. Or might these erasures have positive outcomes – for example, liberating someone to ‘start again’, as with the Witness Protection Program.
As the imminent decline of nature dawns upon us, part of our shared reality will be to accept living with its absence. Organisms under changing conditions – like the dangers of flooding or rising temperatures – make adjustments to their own constitution. Changing its temperature, systems of protection, proportions, and so forth. Similar to the way organisms seek balance with their context, the projects within Take-Away will seek to adjust to given contexts given speculative scenarios of absence.
We are often reminded that a lack of health, safety or comfort are threats we need to address. But could we create unexplored scenarios in which deprivation is celebrated? Lack is already naturalised within the social sciences. For example, geography considers a variety of lack – periods of drought, corresponding infrastructures (such as the construction of silos as premonition of a future shortage), changes to UV radiation away from the tropics, and changes over time.
Often promoted by 'cleansing gurus', the removal of excess is said to provide healthy growth, such as the pruning of trees, or may even be culturally integral, such as the ritualised cleaning of gravestones in Japan.
Kukulkán Pyramid, Chich'en Itza, Mexico, prior to the unearthing of its base (L). In Ghadames, Libya, an oasis was constructed for women to be able to move across roofs while men would lose visual access to their activities (R). Source: stringfixer.com and ancient-origins.net.
In western cultures, loss has always been something to be mourned. In the nineteenth century, which has been called the 'Golden Age of Mourning', lavish funeral rituals and funerary architectures commemorate a time when rituals of private lamentation coincided with a public grieving process. During the twentieth century, these rituals slowly changed to hide the realities of death, ceasing to devote time to the process of coming to terms with loss. In 2021/22, ADS12 will address how the act of taking-away first requires the identification of what is lacking, wasteful, defective, or of no use or worth. We will explore how taking-away can take place violently, or through a gradual replacement over time. We will also learn strategies to remove and refuse.
Upon scanning your IC card, your relative’s urn is automatically retrieved from a storage rack, and presented at this private worship room (L). A remote-controllable webcam to inspect your loved-one’s grave from afar at Nichiren Buddhist Temple, Minobu Town, Japan (R). Source: Daifuku Logistic Solutions and honkokuji.jp.
Less Towards Nothing
ADS12 resists scenarios that are governed by a single, dominant characteristic. In the case of competition, such scenarios would result in a monopoly, in the case of species, a monoculture. As Michel Serres has argued, such singularities create a sense of terror, in which the 'world is a barbarous wasteland, unlivable'. ADS12 also resist promoting ideas of 'living simply', thriftiness, or aesthetics that aspire 'minimalism'. Instead, our projects will begin by identifying – and then depriving, or impairing – the biological, social, meteorological, material, or other essential conditions of a precise location. In doing so, we will create new contexts that possess heightened social, political, and ecological relations from which the architectural projects will emerge.
In 2021/22, 'Take-Away' will again be hosted within High Holdings (http://ho.ldin.gs/) — an environment for the generation of architectural discourse. High Holdings addresses the seemingly unrecognisable aspects of our world that are actually products of our terrestrial occupation of the planet. By prioritising the sovereignty of architectural ideas, High Holdings continues to explore the growing distance between information and (over)looking, complexity and (mis)understanding, contribution and (non)participation. Previously in 'CHRONOCOPIA' (2018/19), the studio explored how to characterise time within the architectural project in order to perceive the speed of the present. In 'Sight/Seeing' (2019/20), we put the frequency and omnipotence of the Image on trial. And in 'Melee' (2021/22), we developed projects that, as plenitudes, challenged the shortcomings of our own perceptions.
The work of Pa.LaC.E (Benjamin Reynolds and Valle Medina) often comprises numerous discrete décors that access ideas and possess an architectural character. Their works play out through exhaustive 'idea surveys' that stem from their interest in large acts of human endeavour — encyclopaedic projects, expeditions, taxonomies, etc. — which naturalises their work within the shifting contexts in which they operate.
Benjamin Reynolds received a diploma with honours from the Architectural Association, London.
Valle Medina is a graduate from the Laboratory for Applied Virtuality at ETH Zürich D-ARCH (summa cum laude).