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

Tutors: Steve Salembier (Bildraum) & Maria Paez Gonzalez

Rooms & Windows

Thomas Demand, Buro, 1994
Thomas Demand, Buro, 1995

In 2020/21, ADSO will continue to explore 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. Michel Foucault described the relation of space and governmentality through the convergence of two distinct medical disasters – leprosy and plague. The reaction to leprosy was governed by rejection and exiles. Lepers were ‘placed outside’ the city, enacting a division between one set of people and another, the healthy inhabiting the city, the diseased outside the city walls. While leprosy gave rise to rituals of exclusion, the plague gave rise to disciplinary projects. When a city is plagued, it is not possible to move the plague victims outside, rather, they must be controlled and surveilled from within. The city is first divided into quarters and streets, which are then governed by a syndic who “comes to lock the door of each house from the outside”, and “calls upon the inhabitants to appear at the windows” in order to be inspected and counted. Bodies are checked, houses purified, events recorded. The plague is met by order. For Foucault, the exile of the leper and the arrest of the plague don’t offer the same “political dream”, nor is the same power exercised over them. While “the dream of a pure community” and a “disciplined society” created by leprosy and plague are different, they are enforced by similar spatial elements walls, rooms and windows. These elements lie at the centre of our provocation this year.

Thomas Demand,  Ruine, 2017
Thomas Demand, Ruine, 2017

The room and the window will act as two elementary devices for studying radical and sudden changes within our living environment. The room is put forward as the elementary scenery or container of our daily life. It is a condensed universe, which illustrates our social, cultural and economic patterns of living, our customs and daily habits, desires and guilty pleasures. As the room constitutes a fundamental spatial archetype of enclosure, it offers a basis from which to offer broader reflections about how processes of change can be directed. While the room can be considered as a pictorial stage, the window is an intermediary device that not only links the interior of a room with the exterior world, but also, crucially, links architecture with photography and film. The window will be employed as a photographic frame, optical device, or lens through which we can observe the world as a city of staged rooms and interior sets. In 2020/21, rooms and windows will be ADSO’s main architectural tools and our principal narrative devices.

ADSO will discuss the impact the Covid 19 pandemic had on renewing the relevance of the interior within spatial discourse. We are, above all, interested in portraying the world's ongoing changes and states of emergency. but chooses to do that from within, as the articulated desires for privacy and comfort that gave origin to the notion of the interior in the 19th century, the consolidation of gendered and familial roles, its domestic practices and customs of consumption and self-representation, are suddenly under pressure and put on review. As we all witnessed living rooms getting turned into camping grounds, bedrooms into offices, kitchens into phone booths and toilets into escape-rooms, the all containing interiority, convincingly revealed an implosion of urban life resulting in condensed and shifting forms of spatial use. It immediately opened perspectives on other possible modes for living and working. Perhaps in the end we might find hope in catastrophe itself? In the reversal of our expectations? Perhaps true catastrophe is merely its continued containment?


While the term, catastrophe, can commonly refer to disaster, or calamity, it can also denote 'denouement', in the mid-16th century definition of the word, stemming from the old Greek katastrophē; meaning the sudden change or overturning of events in the plot of a play. In the context of everydayness, catastrophe simply becomes an event that leads to sudden or radical change. It can therefore be an unavoidable, integral part of life – a catalyst that determines outcomes which are a reversal of the expected. Through its conflictual and disruptive nature, everyday catastrophe reveals and unpacks the borderlines between the expected and the unexpected, the normal and the abnormal, between the acceptable and the unacceptable, between comfort and discomfort, between progress and regression. Catastrophes undoubtedly challenge our prevailing value-systems and in doing so present us with an opportunity to face change in a more radical way.

Thomas Demand, Filiale, 2012
Thomas Demand, Filiale, 2012


ADS0 engages in exploring the narrative and discursive capacities of architectural space in relation to photography, film, installation and performance. The studio's work is transdisciplinary by nature and is situated at the intersection of different analogue and digital representational techniques. We position the image and its construction at the core of its approach that focusses on research by practice through experimentation. ADS0 is run as an artist collective – a group of individuals, who each develop their own trajectory, practice and personal discourse. As a result, the studio’s projects display a diverse body of work, offering a multitude of unique perspectives on the contemporary world in which we live. Every year the studio constitutes another temporary collective that shares the studio's theoretical framework, resulting in a continuous basis for its explorations and debate.

ADS0 framework consists of studying catastrophe as a forceful condition by which all preconceptions about the architectural discipline and its practice can be questioned. In particular, we are suspicious of architecture as a positive emblem of progress. Skepticism is instrumental as it compels us to suspend our beliefs and provoke us to engage in constructing alternatives worlds. We embrace change, conflict, instability and ambiguity as a basis for our methodological approach.

Thomas Demand Daily #5 2008
Thomas Demand, Daily #5, 2008.

Atelier Bildraum, In Between Violet & Green, 2017. Photo: Kurt Van der Elst
Atelier Bildraum, In Between Violet & Green, 2017. Photo: Kurt Van der Elst

As a studio, ADS0 is framed by the work of AtelierBildraum – the interdisciplinary practice of artist, performer, director and architect Steve Salembier. Founded in 2014, Atelier Bildraum creates and directs performances, installations and exhibitions at the edges of visual and performative arts – architecture, photography, video, music, performance, scenography and theatre. For Atelier Bildraum each project constitutes an artistic research into the narrative or emotional capacities of space and the relationships between spatial experience and its representation in imagery and sound.

Live Project

The Live Project will comprise a comprehensive group-exercise in which room and window are the two essential features of the research into radical change within our living environment. Running parallel to a Bildraum exhibition in Rotterdam, ADSO will launch an experimental process in which all students will be introduced in working with hybrid techniques of representation combining model making, photography and video. Within this exercise, every student will design and construct a set of room-models that depict a series of 'charged' interiors  that have either housed particular events, or record a particular form of ongoing changes is being staged. The exercise will culminate in an immersive performance.


Steve Salembier is an artist, performer, director and architect and founding partner of Atelier Bildraum. Founded in 2014, Atelier Bildraum creates and directs performances, installations and exhibitions at the edges of visual and performative arts – architecture, photography, video, music, performance, scenography and theatre. The work of Atelier Bildraum has been exhibited and published.

Maria Paez Gonzalez is a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art. Her research studies the Corporate Campus in Silicon Valley, using a historical and biopolitical framework to advance an architectural critique and design possibilities for this expanding working class. Maria is also a founding member of Foundation HCGB, which aims to preserve historical art forms in Santa Ana of Coro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an Associate Partner at Foster + Partners, London.

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