Block Blob Mat Slab Slat: Art Spaces

“For this requirement there are no typologies”
—Rem Koolhaas (teased over the apparent lack of historical perspective in OMA’s proposal for the addition of a massive 20,000-seat auditorium for the Dutch Parliament, 1978)

Forty years on, the 19th-century belief that spaces ought to be planned according to some blueprint, or typology, is, give or take the odd revival, almost universally extinct. Our free-for-all approach to discourse, together with the extreme scale, variety, and programmatic inventiveness found in architectural briefs worldwide, have turned the idea of a common repository of design ideas (merging, maybe, into practice) on its head.

Or have they? Seemingly unrelated developments have recently imbued that improbable concept with a new lease of life. For one, we have the pressures of urbanization in places like China, where the prospect of housing 4,000 tenants in a single dwelling block has reliably reawakened the historicist appeal to architectural type, which held sway over Europeans at the height of their own postwar boom (in both instances, quantity seems to be the trigger).

Then there is the black swan of parametric digital design. Regardless of who’s doing it, or what the outcome looks like, parametric design, by its very nature, will foster variation, variegation, and versioning. It will, in other words, create its own types. The similarities end there, though. Unlike the conspicuous types of the past, the new types are abstract and invisible; they do not recombine building parts or figures to yield new arrangements, as the olden types did, but calibrate relationships and provoke mutations, expressed, for the sake of convenience, in abstract terms.

This studio has two aspirations: first, to offer an open framework for the exploration of some exciting intersections between “old” and “new” understandings of architectural typology; and second, to serve as a forum of “reflexion” on the spaces of contemporary art. Eventually, both aspirations shall converge on a carefully calibrated architectural proposal for a new urban art complex located in the heart of Old Montreal.

The studio is supported in part by the Quebec-based Phi Foundation, a nonprofit art foundation seeking to foster and mobilize “diverse forms of imagination and critical speculation around this specific site in Montreal, intersecting its own intentions and objectives” as an institution. A trip to Quebec is tentatively planned to visit the site and interact with sponsors, curators, artists, and archivists.

This studio has an irregular schedule. The studio will be meeting on January 23, 24, 28, 29; February 11, 12, 25, 26; March 10, 11, 24, 25; April 7, 8, 21, 22, and May 4, 5 for Final Reviews. This instructor will be available to meet with students outside of officially scheduled studio meetings at mutually agreeable times in the weeks that he is in residence. This studio will travel to Montreal, Canada.