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ADS9: My Garden’s Boundaries are the Horizon

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

ADS9 investigates architectures of openness. The studio is concerned with designing spaces that give distinct forms and spatial qualities to modes of co-existence. The Open implies the fitting together of what Richard Sennett called, "the odd, the curious and the possible". The Open is both unbounded and precise. The Open is beautiful.

ADS9 looks at the emerging ways in which we live, work, learn, play and love in the NOW. In particular, we are fascinated by the collective forms of co-existence that tend towards openness by constantly redefining lifestyles, traditional kinship ties and values systems. The distinctions between living, labour and leisure have become increasingly impossible. Together with deeper questions around the reproductive labour that sustains our physical, mental and affective well-being, is it suitable – or regressive – that architecture seeks to construct space with a reliance on walls, façades, doors and locks in an era of new emerging forms of living? By contrast, can we imagine the possibility of spaces with an emancipatory character that can cultivate new kinships and intimacy? The Open is an act of resistance. The Open resists against assumed social hierarchy reinforced by a static spatial order.

Nelly Agassi, Bedroom
Nelly Agassi, Bedroom


Ungraspable, immersive and fleeting. Breathing in 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 restricted to a singular private experience. The studio imagines aura as an interior world of collective experience and perpetually constructed space, which might bring about a dynamic relational delight.

ADS9 envisions an architecture in which the barriers between a vast spectrum of scales, material physicality and spatial phenomena, artificiality and ecological matters, architectural presence and the territorial completely dissipates, producing an immaterial architecture where walls and roofs are made from senses, environment, colours, information, energy and spatial perception. For us, these are unseen materials for the construction of a new architectural language.

Philippe Rahm, Winter Beach
Philippe Rahm, Winter Beach


Environment’, ‘setting’, ‘surrounding’, ‘ambience’.  In the 1950s, Ernesto Rogers wrote an editorial for the Italian magazine Casabella Continuità against Modernist Architecture’s suspension in its own standalone uniqueness, against its indifference with l’ambiente. (Ernesto Rogers, ‘Continuità’, Casabella Continuità, 1954.) In subsequent translations and writings on the topic, l’ambiente has been misleadingly translated into the English word ‘context’. This static word is deprived of its original nuances. Context has since then entered into the architectural lexicon and has continued to prompt an uneasy relationship with the conception of space. 

Using Roger’s emphasis on continuum, a never-ending historical process constructed by our collective experience of the city and the natural surroundings, l’ambiente can be distinguished from context. This opens the possibility of constant reinterpretations informing new spatial expressions. (Adrian Forty, ‘Context’, Words and Buildings, 2000.) How do we go beyond our assumptions of site as a context?  Site is not merely an inert space construed as an inventory of rationale for architecture. Rather, ADS9 looks at how the site and the project can become a single boundless continuum.

Christo, Floating Piers
Christo, Floating Piers

We will each select and then delve into a deep reading of a site. Not solely as architectural designers, but also through the gaze of the others, whose intuitive perception of a place may be entirely different from our own. Extending Roger’s understanding of l’ambiente as a continuum, we will focus on two particular areas of study and experimentation. Firstly, a reading of the site through its immateriality – its environment, energy, data and perception. How can we design spatial phenomena that can be embed within its immaterial surroundings? Secondly, what is the potential of an investigation into a site’s unique spatial typologies? Typologies that have yet to enter into the architectural canon, typologies whose names are untranslatable, borne out of the practices of everyday life. How can we reimagine these untranslatable typologies as a form of immaterial architecture that acquire a new contemporary relevance?

The projects of ADS9 do not end at the edge of its site. The architecture of openness extends and diffuses inextricably across expanses of cities, landscapes and territories. Ours is a planetary architecture.

How do we Experiment and Design?

How do we design an ‘Aura’ of openness? ADS9 has a deep commitment to space and creating architecture that is imbued with an urgent beauty. Space does not simply frame – it is inseparable in how we express, embody and enable knowledge, ideas and life. How can space and its representation capture an immaterial architecture that is spatially indeterminate? What kind of beauty and aura of openness can you imagine? 

ADS9 experiments with large-scale line drawings and models, which are spatial constructs in their own right. It is a highly iterative process that critically questions design. In 2020/21, the studio will extend this medium using the vast array of digital tools and programmes on our laptops, internet, phones and the game consoles already at our disposal. Can you imagine and design a spatial construct as a dynamic digital medium? A construct which may enable us to remotely travel to places when we are currently so far apart, or to experience the invisible conditions that build up your spatial phenomena?

Christo, Running Fence
Christo, Running Fence

First-year students, the design project will focus on a multi-storey urban block that fosters emerging ways of living, working, learning, playing and loving. This design will be accompanied by technical experimentation and prototyping. Second-year students in ADS9 have always pursued deeply personal subjects and obsessions in their work. The design project is open to the ambitions of our students. Second-year students will develop their own personal critical framework and design methodology to achieve a high level of architectural resolution.


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 (2005–9). Alongside teaching at the RCA, John has taught at the Architectural Association since 2011 on both diploma and undergraduate programmes.

Zsuzsa Péter graduated with Diploma Honours from the AA in 2018. She has previously work with CRAB studio and Farshid Moussavi Architecture.

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