The programme of Architecture and Urban Design, introduced as a specialisation at SAC in 2014, looks to the contemporary urban condition and pursues a radical model of architecture in the city. The contemporary city suggests that buildings are produced as autonomous city-objects in two primary ways: one is formal, the other is economic. In the 21st century metropolis a new kind of financial investment in buildings has begun to emerge: Existing buildings and new development opportunities have become sumps for the stockpiling of globally mobile capital. Architecture becomes, much like the ground which it occupies, overwhelmed with property speculation.
The current production of urbanity can be understood in terms of its relationship to capital. The 20th century emergence of the high-rise is at the root of this relation with its multiplication of land value through the vertical propagation of virgin sites. The high-rise multiplies ownerships which was previously a function of right of land possession. Initially, the high-rise was subservient to the ground on which it sat since the land value was adjusted as a function of the new development. Hence, in reverse, the development of the architectural typology could be understood as function of its value in relation to the ground.
Today, however, massive building projects can emerge anywhere as opposed to in specific locations in the city. The rise of asset urbanism, the production of so-called buy-to-leave apartments and ghost cities, hint at the emergence of a new phenomenon, namely, an architectural individuation whereby the building becomes embedded within the infrastructure or the ground of the city. Examples of this phenomenon can be found in major Asian and Western cities where whole buildings and even villages are constructed on top of other buildings.
Thus, the idea of a building today has surpassed the formal and economical limits of being an expanded volume through the forging of parts into a single object. Instead, architecture is reconstituted as an extra-urban, autonomous object. This formal transformation suggests the individuation of city-elements in a single building whereby a building also becomes the ground for another building. While in previous eras the individuation of the architectural object depended on the presence of a pre-existing urban fabric, the stacking of buildings onto each other re-conceptualises the building itself as constitutive of the urban fabric.
This process produces some strange new phenomena: Buildings that create value (at least for their absentee owners) by virtue of their mere existence. Occasionally such buildings are even left deliberately unoccupied as in the case of so-called buy-to-leave apartments and commercial buildings. Ground as such is no longer important. Based on the existence of these new exclaves for capital, architecture is reconstituted as autonomously extra-urban; an unpredictable whole comprised of discrete and heterogeneous elements. An architecture that is both heteronomous and autonomous; a manifold spawning of multiple interior worlds.
How might a city look when its architecture has lost any formal relation to its ground? When any building might be turned into the ground for another building? When any part of any building may be construed as simultaneously common ground and private ground?
Cities to Go addresses the current status of the European, continental village typically found in countries like Austria, Switzerland and southern Germany. The research programme enquires into the status of the village relative to the contemporary hyper-capitalist condition seen more clearly in the context of dense cities. The design will be for a hotel in a Tyrolean village with maximum 1000 inhabitants.
From the 1960s and onwards architecture has been understood according to two major schools of thought. One gives form precedence over the content (Rowe, Hejduk, Eisenman); the other gives primacy to content over form (Tschumi, Koolhaas). The work of AUD and the research in Cities to Go proposes a new model, an architecture of “zero” content and “zero” form.
The Austrian architectural historian, Emil Kaufmann, asserted that architecture begins when a space (void) is carved out from a form (mass). AUD's research uses Kaufmann's assertion to investigate various models of this particular relationship between mass and void. The students' experiments seeks to engender estrangement and novelty as opposed to conventional part-to-whole, compositional relations in the design of architecture and the city.
According to the Belgian philosopher, Lieven de Cauter, we experience our civilization only in capsular states. Based on this hypothesis, Cities to Go asks what consequences such encapsulation - what Peter Sloterdijk identifies as spheres or foam formation, could have on our urban condition. The question is pursued through the architectural programme of a hotel - that is, could a hotel serve as a model and organisational prototype for a city and the constant expansion of urbanisation? The design tasks contextualises the hotel as a prototype relative to the existing settlement types in the village. The result of the design process will be a strange building whose formal principle derives from the misfit between other, different buildings and whose form is at once familiar and strange.
Weird Urbanism was an experiment on a mega-structure for a specific site in New York city. The mega-structure comprised a one million cubic metre building, the approximate size of developments undertaken by singular investments. The project was contextualised relative to the gridded, urban fabric of Manhatten.
The respective building proposals produced by students, were based on in-depth analyses of a chosen architectural element such as the column, the wall, the floor, the figure, the void and the mass. The elements were freed from their conventional contexts and functions through drawing processes of defamiliarisation. Re-configuring the elements in this manner comprised a central part of a speculative history. On a formal level, the results produced various forms of estrangement and engendered new figure-figure relationships. The chosen elements were no longer part of an architectural whole but functioned as independent entities capable of performing as a whole in their own, respective rights.
The research and experiments explored the figure-ground relationship on two scales. On one hand, it probed the relationship of an individual architectural object to the urban ground. On the other hand, it addressed the relationship between self-similar elements within the architectural object. Playing with the legibility of an object on multiple scales became concomitant to disturbing the figure-ground relationship and in consequence undermining the ground of architecture.
Within the contemporary City, or better within today’s urbanisation, a new kind of architectural object emerges. This is an object which looks like a building, has all the features needed to function as a building; it belongs to our city or even produces it, but is totally empty or hardly occupied. The city produces a new kind of architectural object, a zombie building, which in the first time of our history of human settlement defines a post-human urbanism, an urbanism not for people but only for architecture. Due to a new wealth for the world population after the fall of the wall and the wave of capitalism that swept over countries like China, India, Russia and many more former communist countries, the world’s capital produced from the 18th century until 2004 has doubled within one decade. This tremendous increase of money has led to an architecture whereby the money has been stored in buildings without expecting these to benefit any tenant, but just allow the investment to grow through the pure increase of the building’s value within the natural growth of real estate. The main side effect of this is large metropolitan areas. One of these is New York. The design research specialisation will search to give form to such kind of architectural typologies.
The Architecture and Urban Design specialisation goes to New York on a study trip with their Thesis Advisor Peter Trummer. During their time there the students will also visit the architecture departments of the University of Pennsylvania and the Yale School of Architecture.
13 July - 14 July 2017 Städelschule Aula
SAC reviews this year's Master Thesis Projects in Städelschule Aula on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 July. The review sees Mirco Becker as the external examiner. He is joined by Benjamin Reynolds and SAC faculty on the review panel.Read more
04 May - 07 May 2017 Städelschule Aula
Together with the SAC Faculty Dave Pigram and Theodore Spyropoulos joined for the reviews of the Master Thesis Group.Read more
13 February - 15 February 2017 Städelschule Aula
The Master Thesis Group had its End-of-Semester Review featuring a wonderful review panel. The panel included the return of Mirco Becker to SAC, Benjamin Reynolds and Tobias Nolte.
07 July - 08 July 2016 10:00 am - DAM / The German Architecture MuseumRead more
12 May - 13 May 2016 Städelschule Aula
07 April - 08 April 2016 Städelschule Aula
The Master Thesis Students present the results from their engagements with their respective specialisations, developing their own take on the brief and producing preliminary project proposals.
12 February - 14 February 2016 Städelschule LichthalleRead more
21 May - 22 May 2013Read more