Design Studio – 2015/16
Oxford Brookes University
Andrew Dawson and Igea Troiani
Technology - Francesco Miniati
In Turbulent and Mighty Continent: What Future for Europe? Economist Anthony Giddens (2014) argues that Europe no longer seems so mighty, nowadays unable to impact upon world affairs because it is struck by turbulent and unstable conflicts. With divisions arising all over Europe, issues of social inequality, increased unemployment, inescapable debt and unmanageable immigration many Southern European countries are shifting from sites of historical power to powerless. In Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain, the architectural and urban landscapes are showing signs of deterioration and stagnation due to economic crises inside and beyond Europe and are experiencing problems associated with modernity. Expanding on the DS1 2014-2015 studio entitled 'Unfinished Athens' which mapped and examined the architectural possibility of incomplete buildings in and around Athens - most a consequence of the economic crisis – the DS1 2015-16 studio will focus on the mapping and interrogative study of the consequences of the shift from luxury to austerity in Spain exemplified by its unfinished buildings, and fringe ghost town urbanisations. The studio will engage with the critical spaces occupied by a contemporary European leisure class. The studio aims to use the mostly incomplete designs and concrete building skeletons for the purpose of urban reuse, repurposing and social regeneration. Using urban exploration, ethnographic and visual fieldwork methods students will visit the 'ghost cities' or ‘ghost urbanisations’ which now pervade the outskirts of Madrid. Incomplete housing developments, including Valdeluz and Sesena, will be the sites from which students will produce architectural proposals. The fieldtrip will contrast our visit to these dead townships with visits to examples of former opulent Spanish architecture. The studio encourages the use of concepts of permanence/impermanence, formal and informal occupation of sites, long and short building life cycles, long and short building procurement strategies, new material use versus material reuse, the expensively hand crafted to the mass produced, the ornate to the minimal, the costly to the frugal, the modern to vernacular, the autonomous design/er to the work of collective/co-operatives/community engagement. In the space between luxury and austerity each student will develop one major large-scale urban and architectural design project. The precise programme for the major project will be developed after the site visit and be unique for each student. Investigating alternative methods of ownership and public funding, questioning the very relationship the architect can have with their client and with the economy at large is fundamental to the studio’s agenda. The social responsibility of property development examined in relation to capitalist motives for gain will underpin the studio and the issue of the architect’s relationship in building economies is a key area of focus.
The studio methodology encourages experimentation with the intersection of representation and design thinking/practice and will encourage students to work using innovative modes of representation and model making. Studio projects will emerge from experimenting with the space between luxurious and frugal modes of drawing and making/technological production, the uniquely handcrafted to the economically mass-produced. We will examine the luxury of time to make by hand, luxurious drawing materials and the range from opulently coloured, gold paintings to mass produced black and white and scarce drawings.