Study Abroad Seminar: Islands

Either consciously deployed or a product of difference, the island was a recurring theme and metaphor. It can be identified either as the expression of an intentional community or as an instrument of discipline and control. Both a product and a symptom of the urbanization process, it entertains a distinct relationship to power. In a utopian tradition, the island provided a metaphor of hope – space as an idealized form of organization. Beginning with the social and productive collectives of Charles Fourier and Robert Owen, such reformism was steeped in a dialectic of nature and culture and fundamentally antiurban. Seeking a rupture with the historical city in type, aesthetic and program, 20th-century avantgardes utilised the notion of landscape as an operative concept. Modernist Siedlungen from from Hans Bernoulli and Hannes Meyer to Atelier 5 idealized the habitat as a self-sufficient world of morphological and social cohesion.

Within the present postmodern condition the urban has itself been framed as a condition of landscape. Here the island resurfaces in a new light. It is no coincidence that a metaphor of multiple islands, conjured by a group of architects around O.M.Ungers in 1977, has been revisited in the past years: Inspired by the loose fabric of West Berlin the ,,Green Archipelago“ addressed issues of habitation, identity and place. Paradoxically, it was the notion of landscape that led Ungers to the reterritorialization of architecture during an era of urban and professional uncertainty. The island metaphor has since gained significance in the physical transformation of cities where the production of ,,themed“ difference dictates the performance of architecture. Islands become operative in an age of rampant difference that has vested the concept of landscape with new meanings.

Against an historical and socioeconomic backdrop, the seminar will address authors, discourses and works. Not only will we investigate the spatial logic of design strategies, but also how various contexts have nurtured spatial metaphors. Given the broad range of the course, we will engage with readings from various fields. In an ongoing conversation, these texts will grant different perspectives onto architecture and landscape, as well as their public and consumption. Mandatory readings will be complemented by lectures, excursions and student presentations.