Advanced Studio Presentations Fall 2016

By Architecture Department | Sep 07, 2016

Silvia Acosta, Emaneul Admassu, Jim Barnes, Aaron Forrest, Jonathan Knowles, Brett Schneider and Friedrich St.Florian present their advanced studios.

Silvia Acosta IMPRINTS: Artifacts, Drawings, and Words

The subject of the studio is to make and explore a collection of speculative things of a particular character, material, medium, content, and size. These things—artifacts, drawings, and words—are architectural in nature and can be understood as “sites” of possibilities. The idea is to ask these three expressions to come together to form particular combinations, compositions, or arrangements. It is important to understand the development of artifacts, drawings, and words through a process of making and remaking. The findings made from this process evolve into issues of human occupation and daily life. However, notions of “site” and “program” are only vehicles for the real intention of the studio investigation, which revolves around ways of making artifacts, drawings, and words, driven by personal interests and sensibilities.

Artifacts, drawings, and words are engaged as a medium to convey design ideas, spatial orders, geometrical principles, structural logics, and atmospheres, in the forming of architectural proposals. Architects think in narrative, in images, in material, and ultimately, they translate concepts into imaginative spatial structures. The investigative process of making artifacts, drawings, and words is as inspiring as the works that evolve from thinking through these operations. Although these traces of thought at times get realized in the physical world at an occupiable scale, within the scope of this studio they will remain as evolving pieces of a process, as artworks in their right; a series of marks, or imprints, contributing to forming a cohesive work.

With minimal guidelines defined from the studio, each participant explores and evolves during the semester particular subjects of their choice, including a program of use. The generative triggers for beginning the work stem from selected short literary passages from the “collage novel” La Belle Captive (The Beautiful Captive) by Alain Robbe-Grillet coupled with images illustrating the work—paintings by René Magritte. Each participant receives, by a chance encounter, literary passages, and a single image. These initiating “parts” are then analyzed regarding their potential relationships without making literal translations of the original works. Furthermore, they become pretexts for imaginary works yet to come. This process of starting from a few elements is one in which the “language” of the writing and the image are transformed, or built, into the “language” of material space by way of producing new artifacts, drawings, and words. The follow-up process of evolving the work is composed of a back and forth remaking of different expressions all intersecting to reflect and illuminate a thorough architectural work.

The entire collection of fragments generated throughout the semester is curated into an organized, comprehensive whole by way of a constructed “work case” that opens up to reveal the artifacts of the collection. Although all work produced through the semester is curated, this challenge is also about identifying and critically assessing those aspects of the work, which offer a particular line of inquiry—which pieces are brought forth and which are left behind. The construction of the container(s) reflects each unique approach to design within a studio process driven by a material and physical investigation in the making of things. The invitation to fabricate this full-scale “archive of affinities” also offers the opportunity to reveal the act of translating ideas into built form.

There is no better way to learn than by doing, so with this in mind, direction will be kept to a minimum. You have your sensibilities to guide you, and it’s up to you to supply the will to make and the curiosity to try out different possibilities.

Emanuel Admassu: Between Content and Container (V. 2)

At a moment when our cultural discourse is saturated with spectacle and mass hysteria, we will be sampling from a series of architectural projects that were generated during birth of neoliberalism. This studio examines the notion of architecture as the difference between ‘content’ and ‘container’1. ‘Content’ is defined by a selection of architectural concepts that will be carefully sampled, edited and combined, while ‘container’ will be defined by the analysis of a specific site of contestation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. To that end, studio participants will begin by developing precise definitions for “failure” as it pertains to the discipline of architecture (content) and the city of Addis Ababa (container). The aim is to develop a critical framework for the on-going verification of concepts. Once the collective catalog has been established, studio participants will test several combinations of difference between concept and context.

Participants will select projects from one of the most opulent decades in recent architectural history (1978 – 1988); and test their conceptual relevance within a specific site of contestation–the Merkato market–in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Local Development Plan established by the current government requires every block in Merkato to be demolished and built up to a minimum of five stories. But, unlike the marginalized communities in other parts of the city, most of the merchants in Merkato were able to resist massive displacement by convincing the government to let them develop their own land. After five years of negotiation—using covert and overt means—those renting shops on the ground floor started forming cooperatives and multiplying the market vertically. This on-going multiplication will serve as the premise for the students’ research and tactical intervention.

This studio challenges participants to invent architectural strategies that negotiate between the relentlessly transforming landscape of the city at large and the rapidly shifting requirements of the merchants within. The program of a five-story mall will be used to develop an architectural response for a contemporary African metropolis. By exploring the difference between ‘content’ and ‘container’, studio participants will tactically resist or intensify the political systems of inclusion and exclusion that exist between the city and its architecture. The design projects will offer fresh interpretations of old ideas by filtering them through the complexities of a different space and time.

Jim Barnes: Program as a Source for an Architectural Narrative: A High School of Art and Design

At RISD we employ various form-making strategies to create architecture.  Our studios examine formal strategies for “making” based on analogues of all types.  These intrinsic form making elements include the power of site, material character, urban fabric, and sustainability and often to a limited extent, the type of occupation or “Program.”  

“Program” is fundamental to architecture. Yet in studio it is not often deployed as a strategy for making. When “Program” is deployed we often refer to those with cultural significance, those charged with powerful symbolic relevance.  What of complex contemporary programs that are not charged with obvious cultural meaning?   What strategies can be developed to infuse these often pragmatic and highly specialized programs with larger narrative meanings beyond the elements of exterior form and material character?  How can an understanding of “Program” inform the making of an architecture of public engagement, especially one as significant as public secondary education.  

Providence is home to RISD, one of the world preeminent art and design schools, yet our host city does not have its own Art and Design High School.  Despite some preliminary discussions over a number of years, no concrete concepts have emerged. This studio will propose such a facility.

With the assistance of RISD’s graduate department of Teaching + Learning in Art + Design, we will create a program and develop a sustainable building model for a facility capably of preparing young people from Providence and all RI cities and towns for higher education at schools like RISD and then on to careers in the fine arts and design.  

Aaron Forrest: “+/”

Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati has famously stated that all architects can be lumped into one of two categories: adders and dividers. Adders work tectonically, building up space, structure, and form from a series of parts that accrue into an ordered whole. Theirs is a logic of construction, whether expressed or subliminal. Dividers, on the other hand, work through the logic of stereotomy. They start with singular volumes and subdivide them according to idealized ordering systems that then lead to spatial and structural division. For this group, architecture is monolithic: it is formed by and is continuous with the earth below it: more telluric than synthetic. Architecture historically speaking has not been determined by the tastes of individuals, but by the social and material resources available. Societies that grew in close proximity to large forests often developed architectural cultures based on building up rather than breaking down. By contrast, societies that used stone and later concrete as their primary building material developed architectural cultures based on the subdivision of monoliths. In both cases, available materials and the development of techniques for working them directly influenced the spatial forms that evolved within those cultures. For most of human history, architects who grew up as adders had absolutely no ability to conceptualize what an architecture of division might be. With the advent of new building technologies, depleted natural resources, and accelerated multiculturalism in the 20th and 21st centuries, the historic correlation between locale, culture, and type have broken down. Building cultures based on addition have moved rapidly to adopt stereotomic styles and methods, and the preponderance of both steel construction and postmodern aesthetics worldwide has rendered any sense of authenticity in construction moot entirely. Adding and dividing is now a matter of taste and education rather than culture.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the architectural avant-garde was confronted with a fundamental question: how to use new materials – steel and concrete – as a catalyst for rethinking the core principles of architecture. Today, sustainable mass timber materials are poised to be as central to 21st century architecture and steel and concrete were to the 20th century. This studio will focus on how new mass timber materials can driving a re-evaulation of the very same principles of form, organizations, light, and structure, in a global architectural context. Contingent upon availability of funds, the studio will travel to the Azores Islands and mainland Portugal to speculate on how mass timber may affect building traditions in a place where historically wood has not been a significant architectural material. The studio will take an experimental approach to the material and how it can spur investigations into new architectural forms and types. The studio will begin by conducting a critical reexamination of canonical modernist precedents through the lens of mass timber construction, and will culminate in the design of new community center in Ponta Delgada, Portugal.

Jonathan Knowles | Brett Schneider: Re-thinking Light Construction

The word folly is derived from the French “Folie” for “foolishness,” but the word also carries the connotation of playfulness. It is in this spirit that this studio seeks to re-invent light construction: ultimately through the full-scale construction of an architectural folly, and with a spirit of playful experimentation.

A typical residential wall includes: cladding, insulation, vapor barrier, sheathing, studs, and interior finishes. This system of wood-framed construction, which has been the standard for the past 50 years, evolved alongside the introduction of new construction materials, including mass-produced nails, fasteners, standardized lumber, platform framing, and plywood. Recently, advances in materials science and the demands of a sustainable future have made membranes a technically superior alternative to traditional wood sheathing; membranes can vary their permeability with changes in humidity and temperature to keep out unwanted vapor, while still allowing the enclosure to breathe. These membranes are typically stapled to traditional framing elements (wood studs and plywood sheathing).

This studio asks “what if we remove the sheathing, consider structure in more novel ways, and replace traditional dumb membranes with new smarter materials?” What does this new Light Construction look like? Our studio will rethink why and how materials are used in order to tap their potential more fully, and propose a multi-functional wall. Students will explore these questions through the design of and full-scale construction of both precedents and a final project of their own design.

The goal of the studio is to propose a radical transformation of traditional building envelopes through the vehicle of the architectural folly. We will end with the beginning of architecture – an aedicule with no practical purpose, except to envelop the body. We will limit the program and focus our research on a specific question of detail. By removing the requirement of the typical conventions of construction, we will open up avenues of experimentation. The studio will provide an opportunity for the rapid development of applied research to explore innovative new concepts with the potential for transformational and disruptive changes in building enclosures.

Friedrich St.Florian, FAIA Thinking about the Future of Architecture

I believe that each generation of architects is asked to re-examine the fundamental premises of the art of making a building. Critical minds have contemplated the meaning of this enterprise throughout history, trying to reach its roots through intuitive and speculative reasoning. The vehicle for the design studio’s investigation will be the human habitat

Architects, critics, historians have dissected iconic examples of the human habitat in search for clues that could give rise to a transmissible and legible logic connecting the human species to its most elementary housing needs. What is the essence of “house” was the rhetorical question Louis Kahn asked in his essay “Wanting to Be”. If we could find out what a house wants to be, we would be able to capture the essential premises.

When we examine the historic evolution of the human habitat from the primitive hut, the pre-historic Japanese hut, the Pompeian house, the Renaissance villa, the 20th century modern house to our present day home, we cannot overlook two opposite phenomena, one cultural the other technological. The evolution of architecture as a cultural phenomenon, as an expression of the human spirit is not progressive, but rather fluctuating between innovative periods and periods of humanistic reflection. The evolution of science and technology – which informs architecture – is linear, it is progressive, One discovery follows another.

Architecture operates in between these polarities. It was Colin Rowe who in his seminal essay “The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa” challenged the conventional wisdom of viewing the history of architecture in a chronological order. He compared Palladio’s Villa Capra: La Rotonda (1566) with Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (1931) searching for and analyzing common denominators in two seemingly diverse examples of architectural thought. It is a curious fact that passage of time allows us to see – and appreciate – similarities constancy, across millennia. The Parthenon in Athens and the Seagram’s Building in New York have more in common then what sets them apart. The principles of architecture are constant and permanent.

Each student will be asked to select two iconic works of architecture in the realm of the human habitat, examine them, searching for the underlying roots that attest to the permanence of architectural principles. These principles need to be articulated, measured and documented. Examples should be taken from different eras of architectural expression, from pre-historic times to the present encompassing both Eastern and Western Civilization.
Findings of “Common Grounds” will be presented to the Class leading to a manifesto-like Credo that is expected to inform the ensuing studio work that is to design a prototypical (ideal?) habitat for the 21st century. Students will have the choice to select a singular or collective habitat.

Spring 2017 Events

  • February 23, 6:30 PM Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson and Associates & RISD Architecture
  • March 2, 6:30 PM at RISD Auditorium Petra Blaisse, Inside Outside, Hosted with INTAR, Textiles, RISD Museum
  • February 27, 6:30 PM Jeanette Kuo, Karamuk*Kuo
  • March 13, 6:30 PM Allan Wexler, Allan Wexler Studio, Hosted with ID
  • March 16, 6:30 PM Jarrett Walker, Jarrett Walker + Associates
  • April 3, 6:30 PM Kunle Adeyemi, NLÉ, Yoder Lecture
  • April 24, 6:30 PM Nader & Katie Faulkner, NADAAA, Shoemaker Lecture
  • May 11, 6:30 PM Shumi Bose, Central Saint Martins & Architectural Association

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