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ADS9: One Room: Sleeping with Strangers

Tutors: Brendon Carlin and John Ng

With guest tutors James Kwang Ho Chung and Maria Paez Gonzalez.

'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, long to shed your possessions, have an urge to strip out the interior walls from your entire house, or simply desire to live in an open landscape. At which distance would you keep your enclosure or wall – are there walls at all?

David Greene cuchicle and shigeru ban tohoku quake shelter
Cuchicle by David Greene and Tohoku Quake Shelter by Shigeru Ban

As has long been alluded to, but now become glaringly obvious, economy and technology’s insatiable desire to achieve the total enclosure of our productivity and social relations, and to flatten the earth with a complete distribution and perpetually increasing flow of information and energy, has blurred once distinctly segmented time, space and spheres of our lives. Since the birth of institutional architectural education following periods of industrialisation (schools dedicated solely to Architectural education began in the UK as early as 1847), architects have struggled to project ideas for living together in a world where we increasingly find ourselves homeless – set free from fixed place and our historical communities and culture and therefore perpetually searching for identity. Despite this dissolution of historical structures, we remain enclosed in series isolated chambers. Space remains segmented by archaic hardware. At one and the same time, we move towards an openness – a freedom of time and space that promises incredible transformation - but that also simultaneously destroys everything we historically had, knew and were. [1]

A general tendency towards perpetual dissolution of what architecture and life was provokes constant resurgences of a past that never existed; simulated relapses of history flood back in a melange of styles, ideological masks and violent enclosures. Despite a nightmarish entrapment within this churning to and fro, a new reality, and a new socii continue to emerge from within perhaps the least expected of places: the fierce competition, ‘innovation’ and extending reach of the ‘free’-market. We now have in common that we are homeless, we share the experience of having turned to our own powers of thought, adaptation and basic social capabilities to survive a precarious journey into un-charted and shifting terrain, wrought with absolute danger.

Junya ishigami_ Kanagawa Institute and OMA_ Agadir
Kanagawa Institute by Junya Ishigami and Agadir Convention Centre by OMA

The dual progression of on the one hand, constantly tightening economic constraints, and on the other, the social nature of work and our need for emotional sustenance, means that we own less and less and are increasingly required or willing to share, live and work with common strangers. Giant, nomadic interiors (tech campuses, co-working warehouses) – the dominion of polemical speculation in the 1960s – are now emerging as realities often conceived of by architects for corporations who tyrannically endeavour to contain an entire world. Work, leisure, sleep, the city and nature might happen entirely within. The architect strives to obscure the hyper-intensity of this total enclosure with a semblance of lightness, softness, pleasure, escape and freedom (the modernist avant-garde of the early twentieth century seem never to have predicted that capitalism itself would tend to destroy opacity; first socially and psychologically and then physically). Despite all of this, urbanity remains spatially, socially fragmented and yet, increasingly homogenous. The notion that we need walls, doors and locks to dwell in a world where we carry access to recorded histories in our hand, where we move towards owning almost nothing and we live nowhere, simply divides us and makes us more vulnerable and dependent than ever.

Rolex Learning Centre models
Farshid Mousavi Architecture Gallery 2017 and Rolex Learning Centre models by SANAA

This year we will strive to conceive of architectures to tip the balance of dwelling towards the open: to re-appropriate the ability to make agreements that can only be reached through the experience of living together. To do so, we will trace the outlines; economic, spatial and material principles of emerging global models for the production of space that hide within them a possibility to accelerate openness and new architecture. We will identify emerging subjects, and forms of community (paradoxically constituted by the absolute impossibility of community). Through research we will develop a thesis-as-brief intended to strategically hijack technological devices, formal and aesthetic tendencies and redirect them towards economic and spatial sharing; towards giving form(less-ness) to emerging community; and towards the open. Destroying architectural types, scales, categories, and styles, because we accept that the domestic space, spaces of production and reproduction, and communication technologies permeate everything, everywhere, all the time and these categories have therefor evaporated. We will decompose established scalar-spatial paradigms to set free the dimensions of the human individual and open new collective scales; decompose programme to free basic activities of the everyday so that they can be recombined and can reinvent life; and we will strive to decompose binary oppositions like inside | outside; city | nature. We will choose a thematic device – ‘continuous interior’, ‘nomadic interior’ or ‘exterior as new interior’ and a spatial strategy – ‘field,’ ‘cloud’ and ‘landscape’ – for their agency to subtly mediate relationships through variable density and shift, without fragmenting and making dependent the whole. We will question at what scale the wall – as divider or enclosure - should operate in our new open; if at all. To tip the balance requires that we bring to bear latent forces of architecture and of architectural representation, inviting in new forms of appropriation and negotiation. Rejecting our own compulsion to nostalgia in all of its forms, we will inquire into how our technologies can transform us into 'completely new, loveable and interesting creatures. …Creatures [who] talk in a completely new language.' [2]

'… architecture [is] a way of negotiating the real […] whose primary task is the construction of concepts and subject positions… if ontology is the theory of objects and their relations - a structure within which being itself may be given some organization- then, i believe, art (generally) and architecture (especially) can and do operate ontologically. architecture is fundamentally an inquiry: into what is, what might be, and how the latter can happen. architecture is one way of attaining the verb "to be." '
– Michael Hays 

SO IL Curtain House and  Tomas-Saraceno,  Poetic Cosmos of the Breath
Curtain House by SO-IL and Poetic Cosmos of the Breath by Thomas Sacramento

[1] Berman, All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity.

[2] Walter Benjamin, Experience and Poverty.

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