On The Bri[n]ck: Architecture of the Envelope (Canceled)

This course will not be offered in Spring 2014.

On the Bri(n)ck: Architectural Envelope traces the historical development of a debate concerning the architectural envelope beginning at the end of the 19th century. It was then when new materials and technologies became available and began to inform architecture and discussions led in its behalf. Architects began to question the role mass-production should play in architecture, as well as they questioned the influence of new notation and construction—techniques available to develop and conceive of the architects’ work. With the arrival of the digital medium the traditional notions of mass production were replaced; first by excessive mass-customization and more recently through strategical mass-customization. Despite of the changes in the principles of construction, the principles of architecture did not change much: architecture remained to be conceptualized as a culturally and technologically fabricated controlled environment, a protective envelope. Architectures of the envelope clearly set well-tempered environments inside apart from those ‘natural’ environments outside.

But can that which appears apart ever be apart or would it not always be a part of one and the same environment? What if ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ are not distinguishable – if the traditional dialectics defining architecture are challenged? Can we still assume architecture as a well-tempered environment apart from the natural environment? (Reiner Banham) Or should we rather consider it as being a part of the ‘natural’ environment? Or does a natural environment not even exist at all? (Slavoj iek)

In the moment traditional dialectics are challenged – what will be the repercussions for the conceptualization, the design and the production of an architecture of the envelope? Can and should we still speak of an envelope? In how far does the discussion challenge how we speak and produce architecture?

A directed reading sequence of primary texts will be used to encircle a spectrum of possible answers. The seminar will focus on the formulation of highly specific architectural devices designed to respond to a set of critical factors (sun, air, water, matter), which will be considered as logical parameters in-forming the design. Each of them will be taken separately in order to form the construction of radical architectural machines, generic prototypes that will propose new logics of articulation between architecture and the environment – thought of being a part of rather apart from one and another.

The outcome will be Architectural Machines Prototypes, which will describe (and theorize) the specificity and potential of the emergent generic prototypes. Hands-on workshops on digital fabrication will supplement the analytic inquiry with the aim to produce speculative Architectural Machine Prototypes in 1:1 using the latest CAD/CAM facilities of the school. An edited Manual (book) will present the written, drawn and built speculations.

The seminar-workshop suggests a method of research that bridges between the different practices of architecture and their significance to the modernist and after modernist history of the envelope.