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ADS10: Savage Architecture – Museums of the Everyday

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

Theatres of the Everyday

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. By preserving artefacts and constructing narratives, museums allow knowledge to be transmitted and accessed across generations. This process is never neutral, however, and needs to be continuously challenged from the perspective of today.

Stalker, Pranzo Boario, Ararat Centre of Art and Kurdish Culture, Roma, 1999, image credit: Romolo Ottaviani.
Stalker, Pranzo Boario, Ararat Centre of Art and Kurdish Culture, Roma, 1999, image credit: Romolo Ottaviani.

The histories these museums expose is rooted in human action. The material culture that museums display is the outcome of everyday activities that enabled a particular community to live – from hunting weapons to cooking utensils, garments to written or visual documents, art to technology. What we see in museums is a specific picture of an historical everyday. Because of the temporal distance between those rituals and today, artefacts and documents can be selected, organised and made accessible to the public with an illusion of objectivity – this distancing is at the core of the institutionalisation of knowledge. 

Fostered by the emergence of social networks, the current acceleration of information production and exchange is challenging the apparently stable, universal and coherent narratives proposed by the museum. Everyday culture has become a branch of the global financial market – a flow of information that requires smart communication and the managing of status for the manipulation of economic value, rather than aesthetic, ethic or historical considerations. From this perspective, museums still retain a powerful strategic role, which is reflected in the importance this typology has played in triggering urban renewals and consecrating the “starchitects” of the last two decades. However, the idea of the museum as an open public space within the city – and a catalyst of the collective production and knowledge exchange – is quickly declining, substituted by digital platforms that are more inclusive toward community networks and marginal practices.

Lina Bo Bardi, Museum of Art São Paolo, 1965, ink drawing.
Lina Bo Bardi, Museum of Art São Paolo, 1965, ink drawing.
Lacaton & Vassal Architects, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2002, digital collage.
Lacaton & Vassal Architects, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2002, digital collage.

Acknowledging this crisis and the urgent need to re-establish a civic role for the museum, ADS10 intend to challenge its institutional role – looking at how the museum can gain agency in the construction and representation of everyday practices in the city. The museum is not only an archive, a collection of object and documents, but also a cultural space, community centre, research facility and a school where archiving, preserving, exhibiting, curating and producing knowledge can be understood as actions, which enable diverse social groups to gather and participate in the collective life of the city. Rather than institutions for the preservation of the collective memory of a nation, the museum can give voice to the multitude of different lives that inhabit the contemporary city – a theatre of the everyday that stages the labour, work and action that are continuously and collectively performed in the city.

Approach 

ADS10 pursues the hypothesis of a Savage Architecture – an architecture that empowers the emancipation of emerging collective subjects.

As a response to the irrelevance of conventional design and building practices in the face of the tremendous planetary challenges, ADS10 believes in architecture as a fundamental need of the human species and as an instrument to propel political change. We need architecture – not as shelter or comfort, nor as display and reproduction of wealth, but rather as the material and symbolic basis of our need to come together and engage in collective rituals. As such, architecture exceeds a purely economic activity of resource management to become political. Savage Architecture occurs when need gives away to possibility, when the will to represent supersedes the necessity to survive, when the individual reproductive life acquires a collective dimension.

An architectural project is always about the definition of three fundamental aspects: how it is constructed, what it represents and which use it enables. Through these definitions, architecture engages with three spheres of the human condition. Architecture is labour, as the material effort of designing and constructing. Architecture is work, as an object that can represent something other than itself. And architecture is action, as the stage where human activity take place. Therefore, a project is the articulation of power in the forms of hierarchy or cooperation, exploitation or solidarity, individuality or commonality, which architecture establishes through its production and presence.

However, the most prominent character of our contemporary condition is the blurring of boundaries between the spheres of the human condition. Labour, work and action are melted in the continuous time-space of capital. No friction is allowed, no matter resists, no other rule is permitted. Our lives are captured within a continuous production line that trains our language, our capability to think, speak, remember and perform. Life circulates within the flattening horizon of growth, producing the endless interior of urbanisation. While building is everywhere, architecture is absent.

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

Within this flow without end, unexpected urban conditions and collective rituals surface as spaces of resistance. Other to the economic logic of urbanisation, these rituals of exchange and knowledge production of knowledge demand an architectural project that could present them as alternative examples of collective life. Savage Architecture is about imagining those museums of the everyday, which can stage the savage power of being human together.

Structure

The structure of ADS10 follows the organisation of the academic year. Each term is dedicated to the development of a specific component of the project, augmenting conceptual speculation with material experimentation. In the first term, students study and analyse a built example. Using drawings, images and especially a series of casting models, we will construct an archive of forms and rituals that constitutes the conceptual ground for the design project. The second term will focus on the architectural design of the project, with particular emphasis on the relationship between the proposed built form and the collective ritual. The final term will be dedicated to the elaboration of narratives and forms of representation, which translate the project in drawn and written form.

OMA, Netherland Dance Theatre, Den Hague, Fraser Ingram 1984-87
OMA, Netherland Dance Theatre, Den Hague, Fraser Ingram 1984-87

OMA, Netherland Dance Theatre, Den Hague, Fraser Ingram 1984-87
OMA, Netherland Dance Theatre, Den Hague, Fraser Ingram 1984-87

First- and second-year students each will develop distinct approaches. First-year students will be asked to develop a Museum starting from the main theme of food culture: cooking and eating are probably the most common practices in the contemporary city and they represent amongst the most secular forms of collective gathering. Second-year students will be free to propose a collective ritual and a community of reference, in response to the main theme of Museums of the Everyday. Albeit both years will start from the drawing of a perspective section of an assigned existing building, they will both develop a different research: while YR1 students focus on the perspective section, and group work required for the Live Project, graduating students, instead will produce videos and visual materials that, once eventually combined with the perspective section, will be the core of their design strategy.

Live Project

In 2020/21, our Live Project will involve a collaboration with ADS10 for the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2021. This collaboration embodies two types of contribution – the content, the material to be exhibited; and the ‘refuges’, temporary installations that are spread throughout Seoul, serving as prototypes where the content will be displayed. The content will be informed by a research on exemplary practices, which use architectural design to tackle the issue of ‘spatial justice’. These practices operate at the intersection of questions around inclusion, race, gender and class.

In Term 1, students in ADS5 & ADS10 will formulate a seminar that includes – and discusses – these exemplary practices. By means of interviews, or other forms of collaboration, the students will construct a map of examples, techniques, references and actions, beginning with the positioning of each of the selected practices and opening out into an expanded definition of the complex cultural field in which we all operate. The students will also simultaneously develop an architectural proposal for the ‘refuge’, which will both embody and display this body of research.

We view this cross-ADS collaboration as an opportunity for students to work with a larger group of colleagues, exposing them to different methods of curatorship and design, providing the instruments to participate in a richer and more inclusive debate within the School of Architecture.


Tutors

Gianfranco Bombaci is an architect. He studied at Sapienza University, Rome, and KU University, Leuven, where he obtained a PhD in Environmental Design. In 1998 he cofounded 2A+P magazine and was a partner of the practice 2A+P architecture until 2008, when he founded 2A+P/A Associates. The office works on architectural, urban and landscape design with a particular interest in the nature and condition of the contemporary city. It engages in a broad range of activities including public and private buildings, housing complexes, urban spaces, event pavilions, temporary installations and interior design. Since 2010, Gianfranco has served as co-founder and editor of San Rocco magazine. In 2015, together with Matteo Costanzo, Davide Sacconi and Luca Galofaro, he founded the gallery Campo in Rome as a space for debate, study and celebrating architecture. He has taught in the Faculty of Architecture of Ferrara, in the Master In/Arch in Rome and in the School of Architecture, University of Miami, Rome. He teaches and coordinates the Interior Design BA Course at IED Rome.

Matteo Costanzo studied at La Sapienza University, Rome, Oxford Brooks University, Oxford, and the Netherlad Architeture Institute). In 1998 he cofounded 2A+P magazine and was a partner of the practice 2A+P architecture until 2008, when he founded 2A+P/A Associates. The office works on architectural, urban and landscape design with a particular interest in the nature and condition of the contemporary city. He has been a visiting critic and run workshops at several architecture schools, including: Istituto Europeo di Design; Istituto Nazionale di Architettura, Rome; Nuova Accademi delle Belle Arti and Domus Academy, Milan; Syracuse University, London; Cornell University, Rome; University of Miami, Rome; San Rocco Summer School at the University of Genoa; TU Munich; University of Liège; and at the Everything Out the door workshop at Campo, Rome. He teaches on the RCU (Radical Cut Up) at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and publishes widely.

Davide Sacconi is an honours graduate of the Università degli Studi di Roma Tre. He founded Tspoon Environment Architecture in 2004 – a research practice that has received awards in national and international competitions for architecture, landscape, urban design and editorial projects. He completed his postgraduate studies at the Berlage Institute, Rotterdam, and is currently a PhD candidate at the Architectural Association, London. He has taught at the University of Liverpool, The Bartlett UCL and is currently Director of the Syracuse Architecture London Programme.

Francesca Romana Dell’Aglio is an architect and PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art. She is a graduate of the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV) and holds a Masters Degree with Distinction from the Architectural Association, London. Francesca has previously been a unit tutor at IUAV and Oxford Brookes, and is currently a teaching assistant in History and Theory Studies both at the Architectural Association and Royal College of Art in London. She has collaborated on the last three Venice Architecture Biennales and is editor of the academic journal Engramma. Her writing has appeared in Lobby, STUDIO Magazine, AAfiles and Engramma.