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ADS9: (Y)Our Primitive Love - A Call for Open Architecture

Tutors: John Ng, Zsuzsa Péter & James Kwang Ho Chung

Love hurts. Love tears us apart.

The Open is both unbounded and precise. It does not mean ‘anything goes’, or a total absence of architectural elements. We have become dependent on walls to give us the ability to negotiate, share and reason with others. The idea of Openness rejects this compulsion to such familiar forms of division, destroys the power of the enclosure and wipes away historical orders. The Open destroys our reliance on architectural categories of type, context, scale, functions and style as aids in conceiving space. The Open is beautiful.

ADS9 envisages an architecture of Love that sponsors new kinship ties and sublime purposelessness. We aim to create architecture that is defined by its spatial qualities and ability to cultivate the relationship between people and space. We imagine new architectonic forms for the emerging now as a means to give form to what lies ahead.

In 2018/19 we will continue to imagine unfamiliar, giant, open architectures that allow a multitude of strangers to live, work and sleep together under one roof. The core design project will be to design a 10,000m2 space for an emerging subjectivity. Our architecture – these new, open ‘megahouses’ for the multitudes – will strive to be free of hard subdivisions, walls, programme, façades, doors and locks and any kind of privacy that builds dependency. This is an architecture that takes precedence over those aspects of personal life like comfort, luxury, order and intimacy.

We are inspired by primitive archetypes for their subtle spatial mediations and lack of subdivision. By primitive archetypes we do not mean the mythical origins of architectures, such as in Laugier’s Primitive Hut, or a simplistic crudeness in construction. Rather we mean architectures such as, the giant houses-as-village for tribes, original basilicas for the simple gathering of people, or the ‘natural landscapes’ – fields, clouds and caves, etc. – inhabited before buildings. These spatial forms existed before the invention of the architectural categories of programme, function, element and context.

‘Les Cols Pavilions’, RCR Arquitectes, 2011
RCR Arquitectes, ‘Les Cols Pavilions’, 2011

Emerging Subjectivities

ADS9 looks at the way we live, work, learn, play and love in the NOW.

Dreamhack: A Life of Competitive Play and Hedonism. Jönköping, Sweden
Dreamhack: A Life of Competitive Play and Hedonism. Jönköping, Sweden

Emerging subjectivities tend towards openness as a way to negotiate agreements that can only be reached by living with others. This tendency towards radical collectivity is to live a dialogical existence – one in which there is an absence of common ground, conflicts remain unresolved and no shared agreements can be reached. Through this process of indeterminate exchange we believe people become more aware of their own views and expand their understanding of one another.

In 2017/18, ADS9 looked at  a variety of conditions: how to live in new mega-families of strangers; how different generations can be ‘good neighbours’; how the young lead a second sexually-intimate life outside of the rigid familial structures of the home; new forms of work-life that are continuously lived, performed, filmed, edited and broadcasted; retired sun tribes whose living are governed by pure leisure; gender fluidity in male-only migrant labour camps; how to elevate mundane rituals in new secular mega-houses; and the Second Line pooling of collective resources as a means to construct new identities.

For ADS9 this rich ensemble of characters, communities and emerging subjectivities is the context. In 2018/19 we will continue to engage with these and other emerging subjects and the worlds they create. We will seek to understand the underlying forces of change brought about by social-economic realities and technological shifts, which are altering the way spaces and infrastructures are constructed and how we maintain our bodily needs and desires. Our topic is not just emerging social organisations, but also new forms of living, thinking and redefining social relationships.

Redeemed Christian Church of God, Lagos, Nigeria
Redeemed Christian Church of God, Lagos, Nigeria


ADS9 is concerned with designing spaces that provide open rational distribution and basic needs to collective labour, giving spatial qualities to collective play, scared practices, ceremonies, negotiations and enabling everyday life. Building on our previous studies of spatial organisations, in 2018/19 we will also experiment with spatial phenomena – asking how do we design an ‘Aura’ of openness?

Walter Benjamin famously defined the concept of aura in relation to the atmosphere of distance and receptivity that surrounds ‘original’ works of art. Aura is a spatial quality beyond the two-dimensional or immediate – it is the distance at which the impression emerges, giving form to the relationship between the subject and the observer, the architectural space and its inhabitants.

‘Distortion 19’, André Kertész, 1933
André Kertész, ‘Distortion 19’, 1933

The manipulation of the environment is one of the most fundamental acts of architecture. The idea of using the senses, environment, energy and spatial perception as materials for constructing a new aesthetic no longer seems absurd. Spatial phenomena often indicate a diffusive experience that is spatially immaterial or indeterminate. Using the notion of aura, ADS9 will focus on the structure of experience – a spatial experience that is not confined to a single moment. How can we design aura as a form of organisation? As fields of spatial variation and mediation? As inspiration, ‘Megahouses’ suggest an architecture that does not seek to simply frame life, but allows different spatial qualities and the possibility of cultivating new forms of spatial, cultural and social relationships.

ADS9 believes the architectural project is where Space embodies and expresses knowledge and ideas. in 2018/19 we will continue to experiment with large-scale drawings and models as spatial constructs that envisage a new aesthetic. These radical representations span from the spatial to the indexical and performative, embracing the connection of architecture to the world beyond.

ADS9 will imagine open primitive archetypes of modern life that embody a new and urgent beauty.

‘Air Architecture’, Yves Klein, 1961
Yves Klein, ‘Air Architecture’, 1961


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 (2005–09). Alongside teaching at the RCA, John has taught at the Architectural Association since 2011 in the Diploma and Undergraduate schools.

James Kwang-Ho Chung is an architectural designer at Hopkins Architects. He previously worked for Foster and 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.