Bartlett BSc Architecture Unit 4 2011-12

Ana Monrabal Cook and Luke Pearson

Character Building

‘Talent is developed in quiet places; Character in the full current of life’ Goethe

The structures of the Fallas festival (Valencia) combine architecture of popular parody with sophisticated systems of construction and industrial quantities of gunpowder, all integral to the creation of architecture-as-ceremony.

Gunpowder becomes the catalyst for the expression of a celebratory architecture during Fallas. In the seventeenth century it was often considered to be the explosive force by which the muscles of the body moved. We all know its other legacy. The architecture of “Character” forms at the interface of event, social collectivity and structure. This involves specific places, particular trades, tight programming and constructions that are sometimes ephemeral, sometimes more permanent, with a tactility reflecting the culture that moulds them and defining the legacy of the ceremonial.

In the modern cityscape we also see structures created in anticipation of an event that might happen. The build up, preparation and enactment of a planned festival might be contrasted to the predictive studies and analytical games played by designers and technicians in relation to preventing or encouraging an expected occurrence or experience. We may then see architectures that appear ahead, or behind the curve, capturing a moment of hysteria or speculating on the future of its context.

Unit 4 suggests architectures that exist in the full current of life, “Architectures of Character”. We wish to investigate both the subtleties of culture and the wilful glee of architectures unrestrained by “good taste”. We embrace the complex relationship between Character and context, action and reaction, and the development of visual languages that express this dialogue between them.

We anticipate schemes that resonate over many levels, and students who wish to engage their modes of expression as a critical position in the creation of their architecture.

This requires an understanding of the significance of choosing to explore certain materials and techniques, drawn, photographed, modelled or written, and how these in turn drive an “Architecture of Character”.

Term 1

Unit 4 will investigate the spatial relationships, the protagonists, the physical construction, the objects, the choreography and any other devices that are used to manifest an occasion, event or festivity. We hope to find inspiration in the tactile nature of the event, the precise craft of the décor, the dress codes, rules of etiquette, lavish behaviours, competition, international courtship, and the myth. We are equally interested in the time before and after, the effects and after-effects.
We will interrogate how to document the build-up, capture the ceremony and represent an ephemeral moment.

Love River
Approximately 30 miles of the river Thames frontage is accessible to pedestrians. Being tidal, the Thames ‘beach’ is exposed and accessible for a limited period every day. Every year London celebrates the backbone of the city with a festival spanning 2 days. Streets are cut off for processions and bridges act as containment to outdoor eating events.
In this way the river is seen as an asset to the city, something to be celebrated; however it is also an imminent menace, threatening to destroy London as we know it.

Love River will be a personal reinterpretation of this festival, limited to a certain bridge or specific to a borough. Either ephemeral, moveable, static or permanent, the impact on the context is as important as the design proposal. We expect an architecture that is lyrical, critical and detailed in its resolution.

Context is key and as such an amount of collective effort will go into a UNIT drawing to scale to form the base for each individual proposal.

Terms 2 and 3
The trip

We will be travelling to Lanzarote, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and La Gomera, 3 of 7 volcanic islands that complete the archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, rich in culture, craft, festivities and landscape.

Cultural Currency
After analysing, documenting, representing and reinterpreting festivals in the context of London, term 2 & 3 will concentrate on less urban contexts. The archipelago of the visited islands will form the backdrop for the final project. The work of the year should culminate in an architectural proposition that promotes, aids, contains, documents, reflects, condemns or allows respite from an event past, present or future. The conversation of the architecture with its cultural surroundings and with its own notion of character should result in a project which holds its rhetoric within it both as a built form and in the way in which it is represented.

Image credit: Fallas festival, photo by Pinaise

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