2015/16: Architecture, Design and Media

Superstudio, Supersurface, 1972. Still frame montage with ink and airbrush. Superstudio Archive, Florence

Superstudio, Supersurface, 1972. Still frame montage with ink and airbrush. Superstudio Archive, Florence


See the current course develop on the blog
Research-Lab: Architecture, Design and Media, (R-LAB) is conceived as a research platform for advanced research in architecture, design and media. No subject is off-limits for possible investigation as long as it is rigorously studied and methodically examined. This year the Autumn collective workshop will examine the work of Oskar Hansen for the exhibition developed with Index Gallery, the Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation.
R-LAB encourages the development of in-depth individual research projects working on architecture, design and media. Course participants will be introduced to a number of research methods and critical practices as well as a diversity of techniques in multi-media communications intended to engage a broader public audience. A combination of course lessons, course seminars and collective workshops will take place over the academic year. Art workshops and media lab facilities will be available to participants for the realisation of final individual projects.
The three components of the course are: historiographical and theoretical studies, individual long-term research projects as well as autumn and spring term collective work.
The intent of the course is to develop alternative multi-media platforms for presenting advanced critical research through the integration of history, critical theory and media studies, conceived, structured and synthesized over the academic year. The outcome of the course is practice based.
The first semester covers historiographical and theoretical methods examining working methods in architecture, design and media. The course will also survey methods in visual and graphical analyses including mapping, diagramming, and diverse multi-forms of media documentation. The second semester is dedicated to advancing individual research projects, as well as developing innovative research practices, including digital media, audio and visual media, event based performances, print and internet, and material based projects.
Research-Lab: Architecture, Design and Media (R-LAB) is specifically organized to identify, research and critically analyse recently emergent social trends that have not been clearly recognised or sufficiently studied. These nascent and often convoluted tendencies defy standard preconceived specialisations, and merit the creation of new forms of hybrid practices. As the fields of architecture, design and media become increasingly interrelated, the combined nature of these practices become ever more difficult to determine. R-LAB focuses on interdependent nature of today’s new breeds of architectural, design and media practices.
Pursuing new forms of research obliges one to rethink from the start familiar categories and definitions. This should be an obvious reaction already, when considering the very keywords used to describe this course: the terms architecture, design and media are all notoriously ambiguous.
Architecture is at best a generic term. It describes a historical practice later problematized by its associations with westernization and modernization. Now it has become one of the most flagrant symbols of what is worst about globalization. Can the practice be redefined again so as to reclaim its revolutionary role in the face of today’s most urgent global challenges?
Design is another one of these terms that is highly problematic. Is design about making 3 dimensional environments? Is design about conceptualizing objects? Who is served by design? The consumers who benefit from a constant succession of innovations or the manufacturers whose productions fuel obsolescence and waste? Can design be turned against itself? Is there still any meaning to the term ‘anti-design’?
The inclusion of media along with architecture and design is meant to emphasise their mutual interdependencies. We live in a mediatised world, and are shaped by the way communications and information networks configure in detail the living landscape around us. Buildings spring to life as fully formed luxury icons, kitchen appliances are part of the Internet of things, wired to the homeowner’s impulses streaming over vast networks. Significantly, the term media when combined with architectural and design strategies, suggests potentially new forms of advanced research and experimental practice for today’s rapidly changing society.
The R-LAB is an innovative and renewable platform: it is informed by a number of significant institutional and non-institutional precedents existing mostly outside mainstream educational programs. R-LAB references the experimental programs conducted at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG 1953-1968) in Ulm, more specifically when the school was under the tutelage of Tomas Maldonado, but also references the critical positions of the Situationists International (1957-1972) created in reaction to the founding of the Ulm School–the SI emerged initially as the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (IMIB 1954-1957).
R-LAB also builds on the pioneering organization of the International Institute of Design (IID), the London based summer sessions developed by Alvin Boyarsky between 1970 and 1972, and whose experiments in international education over the three summers resulted in one of the most creative periods in the history of the AA when Boyarsky rose to its directorship. The lesser known Italian Radical school, Separate School for Expanded Conceptual Architecture (S-Space-1970-1971) held in the discotheque Space Electronic in Florence, and organized by the groups Superstudio and 9999, though short lived, funnelled a generation’s worth of experimentation. Other influential programs include Emilio Ambasz’s Universitas Project organized in 1971 and held at the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, in New York, and Peter Eisenman’s Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS – 1967-1984) also in New York. These largely ephemeral programs were nonetheless incredibly influential, not so much for the positions they purportedly held, but for the breadth of subjects confronted, the brilliance of their debates, and the kind of future that they presented.