© Kristyna Sevcikova

AMBIGUOUS ENVIRONMENTS

Designing about architecture

MArch Studio: Ecology Sustainability Conservation

Hannes Stiefel

So might we begin by asking what message would you convey to the young architect and architecture student?
GM: Look, the important thing is to know nothing.
(Giovanni Michelucci, in conversation with the editors of Perspecta 27, 1989)

When Toyo Ito, as the juror of the 1988 Shinkenchiku Competition, appropriated Peter Cook’s competition brief, Comfort in the Metropolis, from a decade earlier, and when in turn Peter Wilson appropriated the site of Toyo Ito’s Tower of Winds in Tokyo for his own contribution to that competition, a promising case study was set up. A case study with regard to questions about the relational origins of an architectural project, its potential roots in an inspiring academic and educational environment, and the formative aspects of an architect’s critical mind in general.

Peter Wilson’s winning entry formulated a highly speculative and truly poetic project on the physicality of architecture and the ephemerality of the then contemporary city: a call for the discussion of environmental issues by means of architectural design. 

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AMBIGUOUS ENVIRONMENTS

Designing about architecture

MArch Studio: Ecology Sustainability Conservation

Hannes Stiefel

One component of the project was the Glove, or Ninja. This “boxless black box” borrowed its shape from an object found at a beach. It reminds one – due to its natural heritage, its otherness and stunning beauty – of the objet ambigu in Paul Valéry’s dialogue Eupalinos ou l’architecte. Valéry introduces us to a young Socrates who is torn between the urge to describe and classify the mysterious object he has found (and thus relate it to the sciences), and the alluring delight to enjoy it aesthetically (and thus placing it in the field of the arts). This balancing act on the ridge between the humanities and the natural sciences is one of the crucial constants in architectural education throughout cultures and time.

Both of Peter Wilson’s contributions to the topic Comfort in the Metropolis (1978/1989) are clearly anchored in their times – and firmly rooted in the milieu of the Architectural Association in London during Alvin Boyarsky’s era as chairman: an influential place of radical investigation, where young architects like Koolhaas, Tschumi, Krier, Cook, Hadid, Wilson, Coates and Salters were teaching and studying.

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AMBIGUOUS ENVIRONMENTS

Designing about architecture

MArch Studio: Ecology Sustainability Conservation

Hannes Stiefel

As part of the studio we will look closely at buildings, teachers and schools – famous and unknown, certainly auspicious. We will try to understand in what sort of environments seminal work could emerge. We will design towards contemporary forms of such environments and we will ineluctably call for an, as yet, unknown change of paradigm in architectural practice and teaching, an intensified investigation of other spaces and thus of concepts of diversity and difference. This is the future of an architecture upon which some of yesterday’s exceptions have already cast their shadows.

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