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ADS Themes 2017/18

MA Architecture

The core of learning on the programme is project-based according to a unit system made up of seven architectural design studios (ADSs), each with a unique set of concerns, methods and critical frameworks. Each ADS has approximately 16 students with first- and second-year students working alongside each other. 

ADS1: Groß, or A Room at the Size of a City
Tutors: Nicholas Lobo Brennan, Douglas Murphy & Astrid Smitham


Last year, ADS1 began by addressing the question of dwelling in London. Projects included fields of elevated slab blocks, huge bridge buildings, tiny clusters of houses for impossible sites, communal dwellings in gardens, and scattered networks of new industrial infrastructure. We remain interested in this question, which can be understood variously on everyday, constructional, systematic and existential levels, from proposals to numerically ease the housing crisis, to spaces that suggest entirely new ways of living together.

Furthermore, this year we will be investigating the condition of the ‘very large’. We do not see this as necessarily a question of size, but rather a question of quality. It is not ‘bigness’, where architecture breaks down as it approaches infrastructural programmatic complexity, but rather a particular and peculiar condition of scale that is architecturaly, typologically and tectonically ambiguous.

We are interested in buildings that define their own territories, that confuse boundaries, that may be simultaneously room, garden, landscape, and monument. These include big sheds, large-span roofs, buildings-within-buildings, courtyards, walled gardens, and inhabited ruins the full description.

ADS3: Obectivist
ADS3: Objectivist

ADS2: Conservation
David Knight, Diana Ibáñez López & Finn Williams

It is 70 years since the creation of the UK’s Listed Building system. Since then, our built heritage has sprawled to half a million statutory listed buildings and 8,000 Conservation Areas. The buildings we list are getting younger, more diverse and more contentious. A building’s future heritage potential or risk is now even considered at the start of development. Our past is catching up with us. 

The issue is a global one. AMO estimate that 12 per cent of the Earth’s surface is subject to conservation. UNESCO-designated World Heritage now encompasses not only physical but also intangible heritage – social practices and their legacy in the built environment. In the context of immense pressure for growth and development, conservation would seem to be a growing constraint on the practice of designing and building the future. the full description.

Place Faking: 40 Years of Barking heritage, from wasteland to world heritage site. A mockumentary set in 2047 looking back at how Barking Riverside came about, and what became of it. ©Finn Williams 2007
Place Faking: 40 Years of Barking heritage, from wasteland to world heritage site. A mockumentary set in 2047 looking back at how Barking Riverside came about, and what became of it., ©Finn Williams, 2007

ADS3Financially Built Environments: The Architecture of Carbon Discredits
Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe

Increasingly constructed by financial calculations, the built environment is subject to complex mechanisms quantifying space. This studio investigates how architecture is entangled with land grabs, carbon offsets, biodiversity credits, and real estate speculation as part of the global production of neoliberal space. The construction of cities and infrastructure not only disrupts the ecology of spaces and species, but it also offsets that damage through the conservation of the environment ‘elsewhere’. In response, students will identify loopholes and tactics to operate in this context and develop counter-scenarios to existing ‘mitigation schemes’. Through a range of architectural practices, the outcome will include different tools to advance the knowledge on the role of architecture in queer understandings of climate and ecology. the full description.

Loggers holding a crosscut saw next to a giant Sequoia Tree, California 1917, A.R.Moore
Loggers holding a crosscut saw next to a giant Sequoia Tree, California 1917, A.R.Moore

ADS4Postproduction: Manual for Redesigning Reality
Nicola Koller, Tom Greenall & Matteo Mastrandrea

Much of this brief was written in our living room. It was written whilst eating food ordered via an app, from a restaurant recommended by an algorithm, delivered by a self-employed bicycle courier who we tracked using the location services enabled on his phone. We paid in advance using a 'hot coral' coloured cash card produced by a 'digital, mobile-only' bank that was founded in 2015, before eating on a table cut using a CNC milling machine, based on an open source design. And while not a single aspect of this situation would have been possible a decade ago, none of it will seem particularly remarkable to you today. This is simply the shape of the normal in our time. 

We now stand at a juncture where there is no pursuit that cannot in principle be undertaken by an automated system. But the requisite integration of smart technologies into our devices, buildings, streets, and public spaces that makes this automation possible is consequently enabling the internet to leave the screen and manifest materially. Images, sounds, buildings, and even entire cities are now routinely transitioning beyond the screen and into a different state of matter, forcing us to critically assess what this might mean for the environment, the economy, our societies, and indeed our own psyches. the full description.

Mark Leckey, See, We Assemble, 2011
See, Mark Leckey, We Assemble 2011

ADS5: Ambiguous Architecture
Max Kahlen & Christopher Dyvik

ADS5 will explore an architecture that transcends function, an architecture that removes the comfort of the pre-defined space and instead becomes a landscape to discover. This architecture is not multifunctional, but about a presence with the ability for different readings. It is about ambiguity. 

This ambiguity is ambitious, it is real and precise and yet simultaneously vague, intangible and unclear. It is rooted in a careful composition and articulation of structure, form, materiality, object, furniture, scale, place and infrastructure – a process that questions every spatial element we know but yet must also disassociate from our preconceptions of these very known typologies.

The interest in ambiguity is two-fold. The first and most obvious is a rather pragmatic consideration: technology, software, capitalism and an increasingly cosmopolitan mindset change our life-styles rapidly, such that during its life-span, buildings will face many changes in function and use. This state of flux makes the building typologies as we know them obsolete, asking for an architecture much less defined by its particular function and instead with the potential to be re-appropriated. Can we understand typology through space rather than use? This problem is not new. Many others have already explored the discrepancy between form and function and yet it remains the fundamental driver of processes of design and evaluation of success. the full description.

Virtual Reality Screenshot, 2017, Dyvik Kahlen
Virtual Reality Screenshot, Dyvik Kahlen 2017

ADS6The De-industrial Revolution: Landscape of Making
Clara Kraft, Satoshi Isono & Guan Lee

When Italo Calvino introduces the city of Valdrada: ‘the traveller, arriving, sees two cities: one erect above the lake, and the other reflected, up-side down.' 

‘Landscape of Making’ focuses on the notions of fabrication, not for the making of objects devoid of context, but uses the environment itself as the means of production. This approach is also an invitation to reject object-orientated tendencies in design practices, associated with research in fabrication techniques and technologies. By explicitly asking design questions around ideas of place, we are framing ‘Landscape’ against the constructed world. Like pioneering Land Artists of the 1960s, we are looking for new settings for architecture, shifting where, when and how spatial interventions register with the public, bring meaning from the inner core to the surface. Engaging with land-based materials will inevitably pose questions of sustainability and conservation. As highlighted by Dutch photographer Bas Princen about his imagery of contemporary landscape; ‘the relation between the man-made and the natural is a given condition and not one versus another, they are basically one.’ Perhaps it is not about the right or the wrong answer, but about prioritising design resolution and not reconciliation. ‘Landscape’ as a theme can afford a direct and unambiguous grounds for design proposition. 

The theme invites exploration of potential contradictions and inconsistencies of landscape ecology in relation to craft and making. Physical processes such as cultivation of land or making of tools, at different scales, can be set against investigations of cultural meaning. How can we engage the environment we inhabit beyond the pastoral argument or naivety of political correctness? Can we approach research in architecture with strategies employed in other fields of study? How can we explore definitions and traditions of this well-trodden territory? Conversely, consider terms such as ‘political landscape’, ‘social landscape’, or ‘psychological landscape’, the literal meaning of landscape can act as a linguistic device to contextualise a broad and abstract area of research. ‘Landscape’ is an evocative word. The pairing with making can generate discussions around craft, vernacular and architectural territory not yet defined. the full description.

Shopping mall parking lot_ Dubai_ Bas Princen_ 2009
Shopping mall parking lot, Dubai, Bas Princen 2009

ADS7: Ecologies of Existence: Radical Municipalism
Platon Issaias & Godofredo Pereira

ADS7’s main research question is what kind of architecture could emerge if we consider ecology, subjectivity and living, as indispensable political and architectural categories. To do so, ADS7 proposes a way of thinking and designing architecture as a collective political practice. 

In 2018, we will focus on the relation between governance, social movements and architecture, what we define as 'the architecture of urban revolutions'. The city has historically been the centre of politics, of social transformation and of the constitution of problems, claims and demands. The very idea of the city is defined by conflict, not necessary located in dialectical oppositions but on a field of forces, interests and power relations. This is why the question of governance, inside, outside, in opposition or in parallel with any official or institutional structure, is not only crucial but formative for the definition of an ecological project: each revolution projects a transformation of modes and ideas of governance. Contrary to resistance, every revolutionary process carried implicitly a different distribution of powers in the city. And we argue that within revolutionary conceptions of governance lie as well fascinating architectural and design problems. the full description.

Kazuyo Sejima, Kitagata Apartment Building, Gifu, Japan, 1998
Kitagata Apartment Building, Kazuyo Sejima, Gifu, Japan 1998

ADS8Domestic Institutions
Anna Puigjaner, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli & Marina Otero Verzier

ADS8 proposes to look at temporary, communal spaces for food preparation and consumption as a testing ground for alternative models of domestic institutions. From the material, and social transformation of street markets, to collective kitchens and shared cooking facilities, to larger, culinary infrastructures, these apparently transient architectures are mobilized here to trace future modes of inhabitation and action. the full description.

Renato Guttuso, La Vucciria, 1974
La Vucciria, Renato Guttuso 1974

ADS9: One Room: Sleeping with Strangers
Brendon Carlin and John Ng

'Reliance on walls builds dependency. Independence is acquired through the experience of living together. Agreements are indispensable in a one-room space, acting selfishly will only make life confusing.'
– A summary of lessons from a family of five living in a one-room house designed by Makoto Masuzawa and Kazuhiko Nanba. 

To those who find themselves moving towards the open, either by force, by will, as a choice or in retreat from saturation or claustrophobia: whether you feel the need to clear out your room of clutter and furniture or shed your possessions; that you want to strip out the interior walls from your entire house, or that you simply desire to live in an open landscape. The scale of your open depends on your personality and circumstances. Ideally, at which distance would you keep your enclosure or wall – is there a wall at all? the full description.

Superstudio_ Life Without Objects and ernesto neto
Life Without Objects and ERNESTO NETO, Superstudio

ADS10: Savage Architecture or The City of Collective Rituals
Gianfranco Bombaci, Matteo Costanzo & Davide Sacconi

ADS10 departs on a journey toward the very reason of architecture, guided by an anthropological gaze in questioning the relationship between architecture and man. The Studio has the ambition to verify whether architecture, as a discipline, can still challenge norms and behaviours imposed by the present urban condition and thus reclaim a meaning for contemporary practice. 

If architecture is a form of knowledge in its own right rather than a problem-solving practice, the design method turns into an epistemological problem. In other words to formulate an architectural project is to construct and represent a body of ideas and meanings: a world and a specific system of understanding it. In a time in which we are subject to a relentless and ubiquitous flow of images and information, where anything and anyone is constantly accessible but also imminently replaceable, the problem of selecting a specific and meaningful set of objects or ideas becomes the crucial battlefield for architecture. 

ADS10 proposes propose the Archive as a conceptual and methodological tool to construct constellations of forms and information to which the architectural project is called to give form, representation and organisation. Archives are systems of meanings which correspond to collective rituals, codified systems of actions that allow human beings to live together. Ultimately ADS10 investigates the potential of architecture to give form to collective rituals, challenging the current organisation of life and opening the tremendous and troubling possibility to reset social conventions and reimagine the savage need to live together. the full description.

Federico Fellini, 81⁄2 (still frame from the movie), 1963
Federico Fellini, 81⁄2, 1963
(still frame from the movie)