Masters in Architecture /
Intimate Cities argues that capitalism's rapacious commodification of urban space has exiled the people and programmes that do not conform to the rules of the regulated city to the urban fringe. The atelier is concerned with hybrid and multi-layered space that recognizes the culturally diverse characters, situations and programmes that add richness to the contemporary city.
About the Atelier
There are two atelier themes 'edgelands' and 'displace/non-place'.
The edgelands theme explores evolutionary strategies and cultural programmes for topographies that have been abandoned, marginalized or isolated in opposition to the common cycle of short-term usefulness, abandonment or wholesale redevelopment. These topographies have been labeled 'wastelands, 'dead zones', 'terrain vague', etc. yet they are intriguing emergent sites of appropriation by humans and by nature. Examples are disused stations, abandoned military sites, sites of extraction or landfill, closed industrial sites, former sewage works, scrap yards, spaces at the edge of highways and railway lines or under bridges. These are spaces where sites of transgression co-exist with the legitimate, the ordinary and the everyday. The group will develop a positive dialogue between marginalized space usage and the bounded and protected space of the postmodern city. The relation of affluence to poverty and its manifestation by physical and social boundaries is central to this increasing urban phenomenon. Of equal significance is the interplay of dynamic body-space-time relations that regulated architecture and space of the commodified city inhibits.
The displace/non-place theme acknowledges our contemporary condition as one that is filled with inherent oppositions and contradictions which inform our everyday experiences. The group accepts the premise that place is defined physically by degrees of enclosure and metaphysically by those aspects deemed intangible in relation to the human beings [bodies] who occupy the space. Investigations question if it is possible to shift perceptions of residual spaces from non-places to places with the [re]introduction of the human [body] and through implementing non-conventional modes of cultural expression in architectural form and language. In order to properly question said cultural expressions, students are asked to step into the realm of the unfamiliar by employing the strategy of displacement as the means of enquiry. The sites are purposely chosen outside familiar Anglo Saxon contexts in Latin based Europe. Theoretical readings from a broad spectrum of intellectual positions within Latin societies are orchestrated so that the students may gain insight into the problems to be addressed. In the process, we ask if it is possible for memory and avant-garde strategies to co-exist.
Projects during 2011/12
Edgelands Year 5 are exploring and representing the legitimate and transgressive programmes and actions of marginalized or abandoned spaces in Manchester through layered mappings, based on on-site observations through the lens of the eye witness, ear witness, cartographer and interviewer. This empirical data is discussed in relation to contemporary critical theory. The ultimate aim is to recognize edgelands as real places that have context specific possibilities for hybrid and multi layered programmes.
The Year 5 study tour was to Marrakech. We explored border/boundary conditions of the gates to the medina wall and public space networks in the old city. We also explored the area's topography and land use through a transect that began with the medina, via the City's sewage works and refuse dump, ending in a Berber village in the High Atlas mountains.
Year 6 are developing their thesis designs. The students begin with macro landscapes and develop architectural propositions through a process that moves from strategy to detail. Macro sites include Kolkata waterfront and slum settlement, abandoned dockyards, quarries and coastal towns subject to rising sea levels.
Generally speaking, displace/non-place Year 5 & 6 students are jointly investigating the intersection of politics and culture through material investigations. More specifically, students have been investigating the body in relation to non-places, first in Manchester and then in Genoa, Italy. Students have been continuously placed into frustratingly unfamiliar situations through a series of seemingly disparate exercises that have been orchestrated so that they must confront their preconceived ways of designing. Culture, climate, use of space, and materiality have been set in opposition to the students' points of reference, their comfort zones.
A week-long study trip, a physical displacement into the cultural context of Genoa, Italy, became the means of setting up this oppositional framework. Students were asked to investigate the meaning of place versus its (perceived) opposite, non-place in the postindustrial parts of the city and the abandoned site, a grain silo in the port. Highlights of the trip included visits to the Fondazione Renzo Piano, the Wolsoniana Collection of 20th Century Propaganda Art, Galata Maritime Museum, Staglieno Cemetery (Genoa), and the MunLab Ecomuseo & Carena Brick Factory, Studio ElasticoSpa & Elastico Disegno (Cambiano, Turin).