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ADS5: Ambiguous Architecture II

Tutors: Christopher Dyvik, Max Kahlen & Isabel Pietri

We believe in an architecture that transcends function.

This year we will continue our exploration into an architecture that is driven by the intangible qualities of space. An architecture open to interpretation and indeterminate in function. This architecture is not so much about being ‘multifunctional‘, as it is about a spatial presence with the ability for different readings. It is about ambiguity. The generosity of this architecture lies in its ability to be appropriated.

Similar to abstract art it draws attention to form and its internal rational. It sets the ground for a more intuitive discourse around the architectural elements, their literal characteristic, form, size, proportion, light, orientation, material and everything that ‘makes‘ a place in the absence of function. This is a discourse about form.

We are inspired in equal measures by Le Corbusier and DIY, the beautiful and the ugly, the purely functional and the strictly useless, the urban and the rural, marble and blockwork, the nomad and the sedentary, roughness and refinement, rational thinking and intuitive making, precision and indeterminacy, excess and frugality.

Le Corbusier 1933 Plan Obus
Le Corbusier 1933 Plan Obus


As part of our ongoing search for an ambiguous architecture, this year, we will explore the notion of ‘twins’, an architecture split in two locations, the urban and the rural, the virtual and the physical.

The fascinating thing about twins is that they introduce the idea of repetition without being a real repetition. Instead, it is about the dialogue between two apparently identical elements but you don’t know who spoke first and who spoke second. You become curious, compare them and – most importantly – begin to look more carefully. You are tempted to see the similarities as much as the differences in order to understand their individual characteristics. It is this strange duality that we are interested in.

In the spirit of indeterminacy, we will question notions of sedentarity and nomadism. We will imagine living between two extremes, how does the reading of one building affect the reading of the other? Will the existence of one place allow for a more radical approach for the other? Would you work in the city and live in the countryside, or rather the other way around, or both?

Model made of the I beams of Seagram building
Model made of the I beams of Seagram building

A New Order

'A great epoch has begun. There exists a new spirit. Industry, overwhelming us like a flood which rolls on towards its destined ends, has furnished us with new tools adapted to this new epoch, animated by the new spirit. Economic law inevitably governs our acts and our thoughts. The problem of the house is a problem of the epoch. The equilibrium of society depends upon it.' 
— Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture (1923)

In search for a new order, we will delve into the time and mind of Le Corbusier. Just like now, his work was formulated at a pivotal time where our relation to time and space, and therefore architecture, was undergoing a major shift. Advances in technology, aviation, mass production and construction redefined society as a whole. His words have an uncanny resonance at this moment in time, where technology is obliterating our sense of scale, objects and distances reduced in size, and the shift from physical to digital permeates every aspect of our lives.

Following his steps, we will speculate on a new spatial order. This new order will be derived from our own formulation of the definition of ‘house’, and from an understanding of its tectonic qualities.  Through an intuitive and methodical analysis, we will explore a case study of choice from Le Corbusier’s body of work in order to seek a deeper understanding behind the radical, pragmatic and sculptural tectonic forces that drove his thinking process.

Grey Render by Taewon Park (ADS5, 2017/18)
Grey Render by Taewon Park (ADS5, 2017_18)

Treading the Line between Raw Materiality and Virtual Reality

We like to speculate in a precise and direct language, in both physical and virtual form. We like to reduce representation elements to their essence, a process of natural selection that favours seduction over information as a way to communicate space.

The making of line drawings will be an exercise in reduction and refinement, like a slowly simmering stock, editing out redundant elements will reveal the essence of that which we are trying to communicate. Likewise, the making of images will be a rigorous and precise endeavour to create new memories of spaces we have only visited in the virtual world.

The findings from our case study on a selected aspect of Corbusier’s work will be translated into a large scale tectonic model, an object that will bear the qualities of a sculpture as much as a prototype. The model will be an expression of it’s own material properties and structural logic.

As a counterpart to this experiment, we will produce a 1:1 ‘avatar’ of the physical model in Virtual Reality. The two models will be seen in parallel, one as an object, the other as a virtual spatial sequence, using the power of the moving image to convey notions of time and space. One will express and explore the things the other cannot. Together they form the foundations from which our new order will emerge.

Floor Plan by Taewon Park (ADS5, 2017/18)
Floor Plan by Taewon Park (ADS5, 2017/18)


Max Kahlen is a founding director of Dyvik Kahlen Architects, a London based practice established in 2010. He studied at Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design and then at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, where he graduated with Honours in 2008. In parallel to practicing architecture, Max was a tutor at Architectural Association from 2009–15, running design units in the First Year, Diploma School and Media Studies and now leading ADS5 at the RCA.

Christopher Dyvik is a Norwegian architect and founding director of Dyvik Kahlen Architects in 2010. He studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London where has also taught various workshops and Media Study courses from 2012–14. Christopher is on the board of 2020 at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo.

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