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ADS Themes 2020/21

MA Architecture

The core learning on the MA Architecture programme is project-based according to a unit system made up of 12 architectural design studios (ADSs), each with a unique set of concerns, methods and critical frameworks. Each ADS has approximately 14 students, with first- and second-year students working alongside each other. 

ADS0: Rooms and Windows – Framing the Everyday Catastrophe in a City of Interiors

Tutors: Steve Salembier (Bildraum) & Maria Páez González

ADSO explores catastrophe – a word that has many contemporary meanings. Boris Johnson says a second lockdown will be ‘disastrous’. Cornell West warns us that Trump v. Bidden is a decision between ‘disaster and catastrophe’. Such common uses of catastrophe allude to an event causing great suffering, in short, a disaster. The sudden change these disasters create not only shape our worlds, but also become essential modes for its governance and our formation as subjects the full description

Thomas Demand, Daily #5, 2008.

ADS1: Pomp & Circumstance

Tutors: Douglas Murphy & Andrea Zanderigo (Baukuh)

ADS1 will look to the past in order to reshape the future. This year begins in a moment of severe uncertainty in the UK. The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted normal social functioning, and an economic crisis of unprecedented form has been triggered. Political institutions are fragmenting, with polarisation, incompetence, demands for justice and revanchist reaction all gathering pace. The contradictions are extremely obvious and yet impossible to see clearly.

Our studio will once again look to the past in order to predict the future. We begin by studying architecture from two critical moments in the history of the UK – the work of Edwin Lutyens and Richard Rogers. We are not looking to them as heroes, or as geniuses, but as critical lessons in an ongoing culture of architecture, into which we will intervene the full description.

ADS1 Collage
ADS1 Collage

ADS2: Demonic Shores – Imaginaries of Indeterminacy in the Age of Logistics 

Tutors:  Dele Adeyemo, Ibiye Camp & Dámaso Randulfe

'There are doorways kept well-hidden that open into the monstrous formation of our world system. On the shores of Africa’s Guinea Coast, lie ruins from the earliest moments in the universe of global capitalism. At Elmina, the oldest and largest slave castle in the world, there’s a trap door from the courtyard of the women’s dungeon to that of the governor’s private quarters and bedroom. The intimate violence of an architecture weaving Europe’s plantations into the planetary network of modern capitalism'.—Dele Adeyemo, Field Notes 02/09/18, Cape Coast, Western Region, Ghana

ADS2 delve into the realm of the demonic. Dwelling in the unpredictable, we will examine the tension that lies between logistics and spaces of indeterminacy. The advent of modernity came with the violent imposition of thresholds that regulated the flows of our world system. Out of the circulations produced in transatlantic slavery, global capitalism coalesced into being – bodies, resources, finance, and commodities became orchestrated by logistics the full description.

Dele Adeyemo, The Cosmogony of (Racial) Capitalism, 2020
Dele Adeyemo, The Cosmogony of (Racial) Capitalism, 2020

ADS3: Refuse Trespassing Our Bodies – The Right to Breathe

Tutors: Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe (Cooking Sections)

The phrase ‘I Can’t Breathe’ has galvanised a political movement as never before. Despite its longstanding connection to police brutality, the phrase created global outrage after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, leading to calls for the end of deadly chokehold arrests and, more broadly, systemic racism. I Can’t Breathe mobilised resistance and fight, not only for the right to the city, but also the right to live on this planet. I Can’t Breathe exposed the extreme violence against racialized bodies and the slow violence behind residential segregation, exposure to polluted environments, the Covid-19 pandemic and many other related diseases. In 2020/21, ADS3 incorporates metabolic thinking into architectural discourse to generate critical spatial interventions that address how we are forced to live with refuse. At the same time, we also refuse to live within the structures and processes that have created the world we now inhale, absorb, lick, sweat, and digest the full description.

Protesters sprayed with pepper spray by officers after a rally against police brutality. Detroit, 29 May, 2020. Photo: Junfu Han / Detroit Free Press.
Protesters sprayed with pepper spray by officers after a rally against police brutality. Detroit, 29 May, 2020. Photo: Junfu Han / Detroit Free Press

ADS4: Legal Fictions

Tutors: Tom Greenall , Nicola Koller & Matteo Mastrandrea 

How do we make sense of a year like 2020? A year of profound social, medical, economic and environmental upheaval. A year defined by months of weirdness and grief, lockdown, catastrophe and contradiction. A year that, in short, felt impossible just 12 months ago. The consequences of poor planning (or no planning), broken social systems, and isolationist reflexes are explicit. We must be vigilent against the return to those dysfunctional norms after the coast is declared clear. Yet perhaps attempting to make sense of a year like this is actually part of the problem. It suggests we find ways to post–rationalise what felt like impossibilities into possibilities, to deny the ways in which our naivety regarding what is (im)possible fostered the normalities and pathologies that caused mayhem the full description.

Alan Warburton, Escape Velocity, 2015
Alan Warburton, Escape Velocity, 2015

ADS5: The Universal Campus

Tutors: Christopher Dyvik, Max Kahlen & Isabel Pietri

The Universal Campus will be our site for the year. ADS5 explores the spatial qualities of buildings through an intuitive process of enquiry into form and modes of inhabitation. We will work with the idea of the Universal Campus – a city within the city that is self-sufficient and self-regulating, hyper-local and centered around nature and community. The Universal Campus will initially be formed from an agglomeration of student-designed projects, with this composition being informed by an intuitive process that lies somewhere between the making of an exquisite corpse and the making of a city. We view the campus as a platform for working together, apart the full description.

Rachel Cronin, A House Between Two Floors (ADS5, 2019/20)
Rachel Cronin, A House Between Two Floors (ADS5, 2019/20)

ADS6: Body of Making 

Tutors: Clara Kraft, Satoshi Isono & Guan Lee

2020 has brought the corporeal into sharp focus. Questions related to race, gender, health and environment have been aimed directly at our bodies. We have been asked to reflect on how we are sites of reference, mediators of broader cultural and socio-political issues. How do we as architects respond to these issues? 

In ADS6, we have always encouraged a dialogue between the corporeal and theoretical. We ask students to place themselves, at times literally, at the centre of their research. Whether this is through ‘hands on’ material investigations in the workshop, or using film to explore how impressions are recorded. Inevitably, the body has become an integral tool to evaluate our findings. Over time these studies have created a body of their own. This year we want to revisit these themes by analysing how they are mediated within our bodies the full description.

Jade Tang, Spaces of Reciprocity (ADS6, 2020)

ADS7: Transboundary Geo-logics – Politics of the Atmosphere

Tutors: Elise Misao Hunchuck, Marco Ferrari & Jingru (Cyan) Cheng

We have entered the age of megafires. On the morning of September 9 2020, the sun rose—as it always does—but on that day the sky above northern California and Oregon dimmed to a dark orange hue as smoke from hundreds of fires in the Sierra Mountain range was carried up and out to the Pacific coast by the same heat-induced dry winds that encouraged the fires as they began. The katabatic Santa Ana winds in the north pulled air down from the high elevation deserts, while the Diablo winds to the south were pushed out towards the coast, the result of sinking air. The combination of these winds and the topography of northern California generously coated with fuel-loads of vegetation—at its driest after warmer and warmer summers—amplified wildfires into megafires the full description.

Forest loss adjacent to the Lena River (light grey) due to wildfires in the Sakha Republic between 2000 and 2018 (from yellow to bright red) and in 2019 (highlighted in cyan). Source: Global Forest Change/University of Maryland.

ADS8: Data Matter – The Gaming Edition

Tutors: Kamil Hilmi Dalkir & Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli with Rhiarna Dhaliwal

Since the mid 20th century, the digital revolution has depended on the simultaneous development of electronic hardware and software. The need for efficiency, speed, low latency and productivity in the execution of software has driven the push in hardware development, which is utilised within data infrastructure. In previous years, ADS8 have explored the spatial, environmental, social and political implications of data infrastructure across the globe. The 2020/21 edition of Data Matter will continue its investigation into the material impact of our digital world, constantly negotiating the physical / virtual exchange, while focusing on the digital environments these infrastructures form and maintain. We will look into the potential architectural agency of digital environments and game engines the full description.

Travis Scott’s Astronomical concert on Fortnite, Epic Games, April 2020

ADS9: My Garden’s Boundaries are the Horizon

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

ADS9 investigates architectures of openness. Ungraspable, immersive and fleeting. Breathing an immaterial architecture in a single collective gulp. Aura is a form of presence. It is tied to the phenomena of distance – the distance at which we understand presence emanating from objects, environment or people. It is a charged spatial quality that exceeds its subject. It defines the relationship between the subject and its observer, the space and its inhabitants. Aura is not exclusive to its subject, nor is it accidental. Aura is incomplete. It exists in a dynamic relationship with the bodies of the inhabitants it permeates, diffusing across a continuously expanding ground.  Aura is not restricted to a singular private experience. The studio imagines aura as a world of collective experience and perpetually constructed space, which might bring about a series of delights the full description.

Nelly Agassi, Bedroom

ADS10: Savage Architecture – Museums of the Everyday

Tutors: Gianfranco Bombaci, Matteo Costanzo, Francesca Romana Dell'Aglio & Davide Sacconi

Museums are mechanisms to construct a shared history. By selecting, preserving, displaying and making accessible a range of material cultures, museums not only address the public, but also define the perception of the individual in relation to the collective, the people relative to the territory, of the citizen in respect to the civic institution. Spawned from the urge to define a national identity, the museum has always operated as guardian of a collective memory – an architectural apparatus that can construct and manipulate common knowledge. ADS10 pursues the hypothesis of a 'Savage Architecture' – an architecture that empowers the emancipation of emerging collective subjects the full description.

2A+P/A and Gian Piero Frassinelli, Central Archive of Human Cultures, 2015, digital collage.

ADS12: Melee

Tutors: Benjamin Reynolds & Valle Medina

Until the end of the twelfth–century in Europe, a certain type of battlefield encounter – a confused, messy free-for-all fought at close quarters – was known as a melee. Extending our past explorations, in 2020/21 ADS12 will again be concerned with our ‘sensibilities to discern within the massive changes’ brought about by the perpetual flow of digital information. Recently, it has become increasingly obvious that a prerequisite of contemporary citizenship lies in the ability to perceive and react to inordinate amounts of information – forming responses that rapidly shift our shared traditions. Our opinions are formed in an online, global, forum in which all and every opinion can be heard simultaneously, creating a melee of beliefs. This year in ‘Melee’, ADS12 will explore what it means to encounter everything at once the full description.

Rating an island. Even landscapes are subject to the 5-star metric system. Source: Google