The Renaissance period brings the idea of aemulatio, expressing the challenge to creatively imitate famous examples instead of inventing new themes. Imitation was the basic rule, an attitude which covered most of the arts, finding expression in different ways: translatio (translate), imitatio (creative editing) or aemulatio (surpass). Every architectural example, classic or contemporary, could be copied as it was considered to be an honor when others varied in one’s work. In accomplishing this, an architect had to know the conventions (rules, regulations) of different architectural expressions, tools, and elements. During this studio, we will work along this principle of aemulatio.
The Italian church Sant Carlo Alla Quattro Fontane was built between 1634–1677 in Rome, expressing an exciting ambiguity by containign two completely detached narratives: the exterior fully anticipates to the context, while the interior contains a clear and autonomous geometry – being mute from any disturbance of the demanding urban exterior.
The internal structure, carried by the notion of a collective space for the inhabitants, will find expression in a clear and complete geometry, becoming the backbone for the ordering of the building. This universe, this utmost specific space builds collectivity by expressing a typical characteristic of its inhabitants: anything, as long as it enforces the collective and the inhabitants are likely to share this.
Could monumentality be a tool to obtain an equilibrium between being responsive to a context and simultaneously obtain a level of autonomy? Despite the plurality of interpretations, we will explore this in a non-political, neutral manner: mainly as an architectural mask towards the city, towards the public and the civic. Monumentality builds on conventions and the strategy of scaling and exaggeration proportions for obtaining urban figuration.
The original discourse on tectonics, as was fiercely debated by the German architects Karl Böttiger and Gottfried Semper, has led to two opposite approaches in the treatment of the facades and the role of the construction. Böttiger pursued massivity, with a loadbearing vocabulary as a result, while Semper alluded to lightness, referring to the expression of hanging textile instead. The latter seems to fit this era, as the current building industry is one of assemblage: this makes it relevant to explore the possibilities for developing a vocabulary of new coherences.
During this studio we will work on contemporary architecture. Along the three themes as mentioned above, the ambition is to create a project which activates a “threefold presence”: it articulates a dealing with the presence of the past, the presence of the present and the presence of the future in one singular moment. We will explore this idea by means of architecture. The studio will be layed out in three parts: starting with the development of a clear geometric diagram and spatial narrative for the interior. Subsequently, the diagram will be confronted with the context: how to act in public? Finally, the formal aspects will be charged with a material layer. A catalog of generic plot-typologies will be provided for, to be found in various locations, for the participants to bring this further and propose a specific plot.
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