Beauty Of Knowledge – American (ir)regularity

The studio Beauty Of Knowledge – American (ir)regularity is a follower to last year’s studio Places Of Knowledges, and previous year Form As Knowledge – What Can Be A School Of Architecture? that started to survey the architecture of knowledge.

This year, we shall explore the architecture of research laboratories. In a first phase of their history those buildings have been conceived as machines, due to their very high level of technical constraints. They were also, usually, not linked to public space and surroundings, whatever for functional or confidential reasons. This type of scientific fortress can be observed on the Harvard campus with Hoffman laboratories by Walter Gropius or through the recently demolished Paul Rudolph’s Burroughs-Wellcome laboratories in North Carolina.

The architecture and spatial organization of laboratories evolves with science, knowledge, and ways of life themselves. From 19th century to Post-War, laboratories spaces were strictly spaces of work, with very few amenities for the people working in, as was factory space for workers. During this semester, we shall explore how architecture form can sustain and improve development of knowledge, from the point of view of the inner organization of buildings, but as well through what those buildings can offer to public space and how they could eventually have a more monumental presence.

In a time where science importance in our lives has been underlined by Covid crisis, but when science is, as well, thrown into doubt, it is important to investigate how such buildings can help to build the city and our communities. Knowledge has turned much more transdisciplinary than it used to be. To describe it, the metaphor of network and interfaces has replaced the one of silo. It is not by chance those metaphors are spatial: space and form have a major role to play in producing efficient and beautiful space for research. We shall explore what kind of specific beauty can result from and represent the contemporary research.

American (ir)regularity

These considerations about research in the city will be crossed with thought about the theoretical issue of picturesque, this rationalization of irregularity that has irrigated history of architecture, especially since the end of 18th century. This term describes, at the same time, the way a building, a group of buildings or a landscape are perceived through movement by creating a series of remarkable views along a journey, and how their design can be based on that type of perception, and the ability for a good architecture to have a strong image even though if it is not overtly spectacular.

Projects will all be located on the Harvard campus which is in itself a picturesque composition, partly on purpose, partly by chance. To underline that picturesque is a strong mean to link mass and spaces between them, architecture and garden or public space, we shall visit extensively the Frederick Law Olmsted’s Boston Emerald Neckclace as a field trip, and a series of specific buildings on the campus.

Due to the studio’s position halfway between theory and form, it is required that all participating students had an architecture background and a good knowledge of its history to be admitted.

The final rendering will consist in a full project presented with a quite limited, but very specific, set of documents, ranging from conventional plans/sections, to perspective views, photographs of models and texts, the whole thing thus developing into a narrative suitable for online sharing as well as physical space.

A series of Éric Lapierre’s lectures, given during the first weeks, will address on a theoretical level a series of issues involved in the design process.

This course has an irregular meeting schedule. 

Eric Lapierre will be in residence Thursday and Friday on the following days: September 9, 10, 23, 24; October 21, 22; November 4, 5, 18, 19; December 2, 3; and for final reviews. 

The instructor will also hold class via Zoom on the following days: September 2; October 11, 12, 28, 29; November 11, 12; and as needed to account for “off week” missed time.