Long Living Spolia

Spolia, derived from the Latin word for "spoils" or "booty," involves repurposing art and architectural elements from previous constructions or demolished structures. The practice dates back to the Constantine era, exemplified by the renowned Arch of Constantine (315 AD). In this historical context, Spolia served an ideological purpose, as "spoils" were transported over long distances to be incorporated into new monuments, imbuing them with symbolic meaning. The Arch of Constantine, for instance, utilized diverse construction parts from various origins to create a monument of imperial propaganda.

In contemporary times, Spolia finds application in both pragmatic and ideological realms. On a practical level, it entails recycling architectural elements or materials to create sustainable new buildings. This approach reduces carbon footprints, as materials are sourced closer to the desired building location, in contrast to the extensive transportation involved in Roman times. Ideologically, Spolia offers an alternative approach to construction, embracing our history, learning, and acknowledging past mistakes.

Anticipating the future, the architecture and construction sectors bear the responsibility of finding solutions to mitigate the environmental impact of building. Our focus this semester revolves around drawing inspiration from the ancient practice of Spolia and seamlessly integrating it into contemporary architecture. Engaging in this transformative process provides an opportunity to reassess various aspects of our lives, from societal structures to our perspectives on living and interpersonal relationships.

In this studio, we undertake the assembly of 800 stones repurposed from the remnants of a Portuguese quarry. Within the realm of architecture and design, stone emerges as a silent storyteller, a material that goes beyond its apparent stillness to embody a unique form of vitality. Rather than a static substance, stone reveals itself as a living material—a narrative that breathes history, carries the weight of time, and resonates with the echoes of the past. With a profound understanding of this living material, our goal is to craft a space for "long living." These stones, weathered by time, bear the marks of their experiences, much like the wrinkles etched on the faces of those who have traversed the passages of life. Metaphorically aligning stone with age, our focus is on creating an open environment dedicated to the well-being of the elderly. We actively challenge preconceptions surrounding age, aging, decay, and wrinkles, delving into the parallels between human and material nature.

By reshaping perceptions of old age as a valuable societal resource, we simultaneously reassess material resources and spatial programming. Our emphasis lies on spatial ergonomics, materiality, and multifunctionality, as we explore the dynamic interplay between the enduring nature of stone and the multifaceted aspects of the human experience

The chosen site is in Melides, Portugal, and our study trip will unveil the unique characteristics of the location.

Key Learnings:
   – Designing with a focus on material resources, particularly understanding stone as a material.
   – Executing design through research, treating the project as an archaeology of the future.
   – Programmatic research and questioning to inform the design process.
   – Cultivating critical thinking toward social constructs.
   – Incorporating ecosystem thinking into the design approach.

This course has an irregular schedule. Please see the course syllabus for details.