We understand the teaching of design, at least in parts of it, as the creation of connections and relationships where one doesn´t suspect them at first or where they do not even exist. These gaps create friction and demands for answers of their own, which cannot lie in the mere imitation of references, but provoke students to own answers right from the first day of their studies. This teaching method follows an (artificial) restriction or, to a certain extent, a distortion of the starting point. In this sense our teaching is closely related to essential questions, with which we are confronted within our own architectural practice. All of our built projects so far base on highly precarious starting conditions and apparently unsolvable contradictory demands.
Our research interests lie in the combination of design methodological issues and their analysis on the basis of specific figures, positions and built examples – all against the background of their underlying social and technical conditions. We would therefore refer to our research method as a sort of “Typologischer Schnitt” / “typological section” – not to be confused with the research of typologies. But also not excluded.
As part of our semester theme „Stadt aus Glas“ / “City of Glass” at Uni Kassel we have made a journey into the recent past of the Federal Republic of Germany: to various institutions, museums and companies and their buildings. The “Typologische Schnitt“ follows a cut through time, 1960 – 2000, and gives a precise framework to our consideration of the topic “Transparency in Architecture and Society of the Federal Republic of Germany from postwar to today”. The research seminar operates with a hybrid scientific-artistic method: through technical and artistic visualization, fragments of reality are placed almost associatively next to each other. Similar to the art itself, it is up to the observer and the discourse to draw conclusions, to establish or reject relationships, to formulate criticism or to set up a cognitive hypothesis. The resulting fragments do not claim to be statistically significant. The selection itself represents a hypothesis.
In the design project itself we started with a contemporary glass-holding detail and treated this detail as a non-negotiable principle and specification of the project. At first no matter for which program, irrelevant for which place or site and no matter for which budget. All of that basically didn’t play a role. Just like a salesman of contemporary industrial products we suggested a kind of global universality. This method goes hand in hand with the provocative claim of the universality of architectural language. On the one hand, we create a very direct, almost affirmative contemporary (Zeitgenossenschaft). Due to the level of technology, there is no way to escape into nostalgic realms or to drift away into safe bays of superficial beauty. With this step, we are already implanting a kind of realism and a fundamental restriction into the projects.
As a next or intermediate step we asked the students to introduce a glass wall or a glass body within a gap between two buildings (Baulücke), always sticking to the given glass details. They had to design a soundproof wall or an escape staircase. Then continued by starting to design the building – by filling the gap or even by the opposite: by not filling it. These designed proposals set out in search of a contemporary urban architecture in an unstable urban and at least unstable architectural cultural context. At the same time the (design-) investigation is reduced to the question of how to deal with a given gap and how this gap can be treated.
The facades from the first step (so from the intermediate exercise: soundproof wall or escape staircase) are first of all applied to the volumes without any questioning or criticism. Proportion and appearance of the volumetric body and facades, as well as issues of primary order, are then successively deepened. A search for an inner structure and circulation then begins – still without knowledge of a specific program. Here as well, all within a kind of observation of „proportions“ and it’s phenomena. Finally, we may call it an office building or a museum, or not. It does not play a role in this experimental arrangement. In another, it may be exactly the other way around and the program may be the primary generator.
Images 1+2: B.Braun AG Melsungen, Architects: James Stirling and Michael Wilford together with Walter Nägele; Photos: Sandra Al Moukamal and Alexandra Jung
Image 19: Wallraff Richards Museum, Cologne, Architect: O.M.Ungers; Photo: Carolina Cambatzu and Michele Puddu
Programme Stadt aus Glas / City of Glass – Conditions of Time and Technology in Architecture
Location University of Kassel, Vertretungsprofessur Reem Almannai, Florian Fischer
Team Reem Almannai, Florian Fischer, Johannes Tolk, Kristina Schoenewolf, Mona Hoffmann
Guests Friederike Fast, Anne Femmer, Sebastian Multerer, Wolfgang Pehnt, Tom Pingel, Alfredo Thiermann, Hans-Christian Schmid, Hermann Schnöll, Florian Summa, Erik Wegerhoff, Rein Wolfs
Students Saed Abouras, Mouawya Al Abdullah, Sandra Al Moukamal, Mara Benteler, Anouk-Jeanne Bernet, Carolina Cambatzu, Finn Leonard Cawalla, Clara Conrad, Jinying Han, Alexandra Jung, Peter Lauerer, Ayana Lechelt, Simon Leonhardt, Lea Noll, Emily Pendi, Hannah Peter, Zaineb Petry, Michele Puddu, Marcos Reik Cruz, Zeineb Samti, Tomoe Sato, Masoumeh Shahparast, Solveig Sostmann, Katharina Walper, Simon Wirtz, Philip Nikolaus Wucher, Meng Yang, Artem Yasel, Jiachen Zhang