ADS5: The Universal Campus
Rachel Cronin, A House Between Two Floors (ADS5, 2019/20)
ADS5 explores the spatial qualities of buildings through an intuitive process of enquiry into form and modes of inhabitation. In 2020/21, 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 be our site for the year. In Term 1, the Universal Campus will be formed from the agglomeration of student-designed buildings, 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. It will embody moments of complexity and surprise, as well as those of coherence and simplicity. Our site will be collective, virtual and ‘live’, a platform to reflect on the building as ‘object’ and the building as part of the city to inform the evolution of each individual project. In turn, the campus will also serve as a space dialogue between the students, a collaborative virtual model or ‘common ground’. We view the campus as a platform for working together, apart.
Our studio is driven by a process of learning from buildings we like, understanding their underlying logic, proportion, materiality, composition and tectonics. This process of learning relies as much on meticulous formal analysis as it does on intuition and pure observation, free of preconceptions and an eager to reveal the unseen/essential qualities of form. In this process thinking is inseparable from doing.
We like to work ‘backwards’, designing buildings in Term 1 that are devoid of context and program, then, in Terms 2 & 3, contextualizing these buildings in relation to programme and site. The underlying idea is to focus on the architecture itself – to explore and discuss form and spaces without resorting to abstraction, or narrative devices. The important thing is to learn from other buildings and, especially, to follow and be confident in our intuitions. While this is subjective, that is the beauty of this approach – each student searches for core spatial qualities, without knowing what will happen inside. These buildings have a clarity, universality, generosity and resilience.
We are interested in modes of eye-level representation that convey the first–hand spatial experience of architecture. We like to understand how a building is constructed, its essential components, tectonic and logic. The project is as obscured by the obvious as it is evident in the ambiguity of architecture.
Camping in the Campus
ADS5 asks questions around how we inhabit architecture? Continuing to take inspiration from the temporality of camping, we will speculate on ways of living on campus. We will approach the building as a landscape where potential uses are defined through the pragmatic placement of an incremental infrastructure – circulation, ventilation, water, electricity, thermal comfort – that enables function. As temporary occupants, as campers, we surround ourselves with objects. Some have meaning, or represent memory, while others are there simply to fulfil a function, like making coffee, or reading a book. How we position these objects has the potential to alter our perception of architecture. These appropriations alter the landscapes of our buildings, changing with each of the temporary ‘guests’ – furniture, nature, events, people – who inhabit the campus.
In order for architecture to preserve its integrity and remain resilient in the context of an uncertain future, we believe the purpose of a building needs to be ‘universal’. This purpose is defined less by a pre-determined function, than it is by the potential to be appropriated for different uses and desires over time. Its value defined through character, generosity, atmosphere, proportions, beauty, ambiguity and the degree to which its spaces can be loved, re-used or mis-used over time.
Our architectural practice is driven by a process of collecting ideas for spaces, a series of images – without logic or hierarchy – that we like. For us, within this collection there is no distinction between the plan of a Palladian villa, or a photograph of a camping stove. We have a tendency to misread historic references, the logic of a plan, or the use of the rooms in a Palladian villa. We appropriate what we see in the image and find our own intuitive way of reading these references. It is a way of looking at things that becomes a methodology of design – a constant accumulation of fragments, details and moments.
Following this methodology, we propose a large atlas of references as
the starting point for this year’s exploration of spaces and forms. This atlas
will provide a source of inspiration and also challenge students to develop
their own sensibility and reading. We will invite various architects and
artists to join us and in conversations around some of the images from the
atlas in order to hone our critical thinking.
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.
Christopher Dyvik is a Norwegian architect and founding director of Dyvik Kahlen Architects, established in 2010. He studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London, where he has also taught various workshops and Media Study courses from 2012 to 2014. Christopher is on the board of 2020 at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo.
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 the Architectural Association from 2009 to 2015, running design units in the first year, diploma school and media studies, and now leadsADS5 at the RCA.
Isabel Pietri has been a key collaborator with Dyvik Kahlen, leading their UK projects since 2015. Isabel graduated from the Architectural Association in London, receiving a RIBA Silver Medal Commendation and the Paul Davis + Partners award. She has worked with Rijke Marsh Morgan and Foster + Partners in London, and Barkow Leibinger, Berlin.