In USE each student is encouraged to form an individual concept based on a thorough site analysis. The projects follow a (personal) narrative that is born out of the site’s history and its inherent potential which is developed through all design stages. The Atelier is exploring the boundaries of architectural practice and utilizes the techniques and working methods of other creative disciplines in particular fine art. As a result USE also creates ongoing collaborations between the MArch Course and the Fine Art Department and organises yearly symposia between the two disciplines as well as international workshops. This year, the Atelier’s activities included: a field studytour and workshop at Venice Art Bienale with Hochschule Mannheim, Fachhoschule Dortmund, Hochschule Coburg, EASD Ourense, Freie Universität Bozen, Marmara University, Manchester School of Architecture; a lecture by Kirsten Scott of Foster and Partners; and another on Art and Architecture by Sans Facon.
The topic for MArch 2 this year was to develop projects and spatial strategies that explore the nature of “Islands”. We asked: What defines the existence of an Island, when is a piece of land considered an Island and when does it stop to be an Island? What are the inherent qualities of an island, spatially and mentally? Is the surrounding of water or other elements essential to define an island? In times of growing tendencies to revert to nationalism and closing borders it is of vital importance to explore what drives this development and its derivation. Islands of different nature have been explored; starting with the investigation of the archipelago of Venice, where we investigated the whole archipelago as well as exploring the Art Biennale and participating in a 5 day International Workshop. Mixed groups of students developed and presented ideas as part of the Biennale Sessions at the Arsenale. The theme of the Biennale, May You Live in Interesting Times, acted as a guiding theme for the workshop and as a kick start to the Atelier Topic of islands. The primary site for most projects was the abandoned Pomona Island, a stretch of land in Manchester originally consisting of five docks on the Manchester Ship Canal.