End-of-Term Presentations

Architectural Association
PhD Program ‘City-Architecture’
Wednesday, December 7, from 2pm
End of the Term Presentations

33 Bedford Square, First Floor Front

Guests Critics:

Murray Fraser (UCL, London)
Barbara Penner (UCL, London)
Tarsha Finney (UTS, Sydney)

Programme and Abstracts of Presentations:

2 pm – 3 pm First Year Candidates

2 pm
Brendon Carlin
Non-Typological Housing: A New Primitive Condition in Contemporary Japan

Typology – the discourse on types in architecture – concerns certain underlying ideals, structure or rules which might be utilised, varied or modified and therefore constitute an evolving form of knowledge for generating architecture as composition of form. Housing became an architectural, typological project when, during mass-industrialisation, the reproduction and maintenance of life emerged as central to economic calculation and management.
Beginning in the 1950s in the United States and Europe, and in the 1960s in Japan architects began to propose houses as radically bare, primitive geometrical containers which tended towards an absence of any historical, symbolic and functionally determined spatial composition; in fact, they resemble, spatially, pre-historic dwellings more than modern housing. This thesis will refer to these examples as non-typological housing. In the past decade, several examples of Japanese houses have gone further than to simply negate typical nuclear family types and spatial composition and appear concerned with destroying all legibility of containment. While examples which tend towards the non-typological can on one hand be attributed to a shifting demographic and subjectivity – though the nuclear family type is still the popularly imagined ideal – this thesis will argue that these examples are emerging because spatial composition for the choreography of bodies over time is no longer necessary in the face of increasingly absolute yet abstract and inconspicuous mechanisms of subjectification. Furthermore, the absence of spatial choreographies to materially establish habits, familiarity, and places of refuge also seems to expose one to infinite angles of vulnerability and opportunity, and necessitate a total reliance on one’s abilities to speak, think, adapt and create; abilities that now constitute the fundamental productive resources of the post-Fordist economy.

2.20 pm
Lukas Pauer
Staging Facts on the Ground: On the Rationale of Sovereignty Markers in Contested Territory

Situated at the intersection of urbanization and geopolitics, the thesis investigates an architecture of seemingly minor/banal objects of nevertheless enormous territorial repercussions: earthwork, stones, posts, walls, beacons, etc.
The thesis interrogates how architecture and its representations can claim or subvert power in vast contested territories where stable and extensive sovereignty cannot be established/demarcated. Hereby the thesis seeks to identify a historical genealogy of devices marking territory in form of architectural building, cartographic mapping, and toponomastic branding. Turning to contemporary cases of territorial dispute, the thesis argues that the paradigmatic turns of appropriation/colonization of earth to the liquid geographies of water and to aerial/subterranean networks undermines the traditional geopolitical framework of the nation-state itself. Juxtaposing devices marking territory with their corresponding forms of sovereignty and technologies of observation/measurement, the thesis argues that the notion of narrative plays a fundamental role in framing the epistemic and emotional rationale of legitimizing power on the ground.
Ultimately, the significance of the thesis lies in its identification of evidence on the ground rather than intangible/immaterial concepts to understand the larger politico-economic forces shaping environments where traditional means of marking territory are fundamentally challenged.

2.40 pm
Ioanna Piniara
We have Never been Private! The Housing Project in neoliberal Europe

This thesis puts forward an interpretation of the management of domestic space through the transformation of the concept of the private within the socio-economic regime known as neoliberalism. Since the ‘event’ of privacy in the nineteenth century, the experience of private life has been conceptualized through the phenomenological capacity of the interior of the house in parallel with its fetishization by a ruling class. This inherent ambivalence – the economic dimension of domestic privacy being the other side of its spatial configuration- picks up strongly in a period when dominant ideology is completely regulated by market imperatives. Hypothesizing the private in a way that recognizes its semantic development in the neoliberal era means that many of the certainties that are usually associated with the term, even its very existence, are questioned. Under this light, the aspiration of my proposed doctoral research is to address how the term has been instrumentalized in the individual-right-to-property ethos of the neoliberal housing policies, to the extent that the housing sector became capable of embodying the property-owning democracy ideal (and its contemporary failures).
In this response, the thesis proposes a critical reassessment of privatization as holding a special place among the ‘policies of dispossession pursued in the name of neo-liberal orthodoxy’. Looking back from today, there is evident a succession of inter-crisis privatization waves since 1979, each, as I will argue, encompassing processes –be it marketization, decentralization, gentrification or austerity- that were not solely intended to promoting private ownership, but generating a change of ethos, culture or organization of the housing project. The thesis both as a historical account on, and a design investigation into examples of, this period in Germany, Britain, Spain and Greece, will explore how housing privatization was implemented as a strategy of political dominance and urban reform which should not be ignored or treated as epiphenomenal. The whole pattern of turbulence in the interlocking financial interests and governmental institutions among European states, makes Europe an explicit example in the repeated narrative of housing crisis to be told of the period since the late 1970’s. The thesis as a (housing) project, while bearing the current disillusionment about the age, is used to indicate a mode and method for conceiving of a form of resistance.

3 pm – 3.40 pm Second Year Candidate

Georgios Eftaxiopoulos
No[n]-Fun: Cedric Price and the Cult of Flexibility

With the rise of automation making the production workers redundant, Britain during the 1960s was facing a ‘democratization’ of its leisure time. It was a societal problem that was exemplary addressed through the much discussed project of Fun Palace [1961-1964] by Cedric Price. Realizing of the impossibility to predict whether ‘free time’ or skilled labour will dominate in the future, Price through his project argued for a new condition where the dichotomy between leisure and work would be dissolved. The proposition had a clearly defined ten year lifespan and was spatially translated into a giant indoor playground – a “university of the streets” – where people could enjoy and become aware of their possibilities twenty four hours a day. Prescribing no particular programme or activities, its construction was interpreted as an open framework of steel lattice girders and towers and the concept of flexibility was utilized in order to respond and shape an ‘architecture of anticipation’. However, apart from being manifested only in the construction techniques, flexibility also became present in the rhetorical narrative and emerged as the pivotal tool towards dexterity and creativity. Through its polysemous ability, the space essentially promoted a freedom of activity where games and business were respectively disguised within a Brechtian setting. A setting where the culture of flux and ‘do-it-yourself’ action was promoted as ‘a laboratory of fun’ where nothing was obligatory. Building upon this aspect, the paper will argue the anti-building of Fun Palace to be one of the most advanced manifestation of flexibility’s modus operandi. In essence, it will suggest flexibility’s pragmatic character as a biopolitical device. Extended beyond the variation of the form and the disposition of enclosures, the movement and activity patterns of the users, Fun Palace signified the new ethos of flexibilization that would – in the coming decades – metamorphose into a life-defining concept.

3.40 pm – 6.20 pm Third Year Candidates

3.40 pm
Cyan Jingru Chen
Territory, Settlement, Home: A Project for Rural China

The fundamental alliance between a centralised planning regime and a household registration reform steers the transformation of Chinese countryside – a radical reorganisation of the rural territory and an aggressive relocation of rural population. In predominant planning strategies, growth centres are given the role of stimulating rural development yet in fact become the frontier of capitalistic accumulation. Spatial planning marks the moment of distribution and production by functional zoning and circulation arrangement, in which the process of appropriation is often concealed and naturalised. Through the hierarchical urban system extending to the rural territory, labour, land and capital are being drained from the countryside, a process stretches from a single village at one extreme to the ‘urban core’ of the world at the other extreme.
Based on these understandings, the paper revisits two alternative strategies in regional planning theory, characterised as modular and network models, in relation to China’s commune system during the national collectivisation (1950s-80s) and rural organisations in Qing Dynasty (mid 17th cen. – early 20th cen.). Through deconstructing elements from these precedents, a series of ‘moments’ in the contemporary context are identified as feasible foundations for an alternative model. The project puts forward a new territorial structure, consisting of a rural hybrid unit as the modular unit and systems of social welfare and production as interwoven networks, to work in parallel to the state apparatus as a force of counterbalance. Through fostering an alternative social entity for welfare provision and production organisation, it is, on the one hand, to induce the formation of local economic circles in order to reduce dependency on the chain of appropriation, and on the other, to establish a bypass in the hierarchical urban system.

4.20 pm
Olivia Neves Marra
The Suburban Villa Garden as Analogical Reconstruction of the City: a design strategy with Rome

On July 12 of 1903 the Villa Borghese was re-opened to the city of Rome. This was a very important event, as it marked the beginning of public parks with the ongoing expansion of the capital. But it also put an ending to the trajectory of the garden within the roman paradigm of suburban villa. As since it was reinvented between the fifth and sixteenth centuries (shifting from a messy orchard to a monumental place) the villa-garden was not designed to become a park. Indeed, it was already sporadically accessible to public use. But only to reinforce the private ownership. With the drastic change of rural economy, the villa was revived to colonize and to gentrify the agrarian field of Rome. To do so, the type had to mystify the idea of living in the countryside. In this sense the monumental garden was crucial. While it made the villa just as hospitable as a palatial complex, it also constructed a sort of public sphere with extremely theatrical framings of the landscape. Hence, through the mechanism of analogy, the garden could legitimize the villa within larger projects of appropriation–not only of land but also of classic architecture, of roman antiquities and, symbolically, of the idea & image of the city with its region. The apex of these projects happens between 1500 and 1560. When the Church systematically acquires vineyards edging Rome and convert them into cardinal villas. Although they were more than 150, the chapter will focus on six singular examples: Villa Farnesina (1503), Cortile del Belvedere (1505), Villa Giulia (1551), Orti Farnesiani (1553), Villa d’Este (1560) and Villa Peretti (1585). Each of their gardens reinterprets a different element of roman architecture to put forward an analogy with the city. Our project is to understand how they work. So, this “legacy” can be reconsidered towards a project of re-appropriation of rural land in between the many illegal districts on the far periphery of Rome today.

5.00 pm
Samaneh Moafi
Houses of Compassion [Mehr]: Class, Gender and the Patriarchal State (2006-14)

This chapter examines the Islamic Republic’s largest housing project to date: a task force scheme named Mehr that was aimed at providing four million dwelling units for the working class Iranians. The paper begins by providing a brief introduction about the concept of class in the Islamic Republic and the particular ways through which axioms of spirituality, economic oppression and gender have been mobilised by the state for re-appropriation of the post-revolutionary Iran. Following this, the paper examines the way the project of Mehr acted as an apparatus of governance within a larger network of private and public institutions, developers and architects in order to structure an entirely new comradeship out of the working class people and an entirely new geography out of Iran’s barren landscapes. For this examination, a series of cases will be analysed at scales that range from the domestic space to that of the territory.
Mehr’s appropriation of the working class was not a seamless process and evoked particular forms of resistance. As examples, the chapter puts forward the orthographic documentation of a few Mehr units before and after their occupation, as well as interviews with their female occupants. In analysing these examples, the chapter frames women conforming to the houses of Mehr as a form of bargain with the patriarchy of the state and self-care.
To conclude the paper problematizes the issue of care in relation to a patriarchal state as well as the female individual and in turn calls for the ‘commoning’ of care as an architectural and militant project.

5.40 pm
Davide Sacconi
Archetype and Urbanization: Avenida Paulista and the appropriation of the public sphere

In the last quarter of the XIX century the passage from Empire to the First Republic of Brazil corresponds to the shift of the epicentre of capital accumulation from the slave-based countryside to the immigrant-workers-based city. The consequent extraordinary growth of the Brazilian cities entailed a project of modernization of the urban space and at the same time a consolidation of the existing power relationships.
In response to such a crucial conjuncture the Avenida emerges as the Archetype which gives form to the subjugation of the public sphere to the private interests – which characterizes the Brazilian city since then – allowing at once the city, the relationships of production and the subjectivity of the enduring dominant class to be restructured.
The chapter examines the paradigmatic example of the Avenida Paulista.
Built by rectifying the highest spike of São Paulo’s plateau in 1891, the Avenida Paulista physically and symbolically confronts the old and congested hill of the historical centre. Separate from the city and projected directly into the landscape, the Avenida doesn’t perform a functional connection but rather traces a colonizing sign, a powerful gesture of appropriation which imposes new order and orientation to a still undefined territory. Eclectic style Palacetes construct a suburban open-air museum of architectural styles, giving an extravagant but clear measure of the fortune and power of the dominant elite. Such theatrical setting is enforced by the strategic positioning of the Belvedere Trianon and by the cinematic movement of the publicly funded tramway or later of the private car, turning the Avenida in a space for leisure and circulation that celebrates a liturgy of domination.
Eventually the Archetype of the Avenida Paulista endured several cyclical crisis – from wealthy suburb, to high rise district to financial centre – maintaining unaltered its power of subjugation. At the same time it also generated one of the most striking gestures of resistance in the MASP project by Lina Bo Bardi, where the tension between ground and roof suspends the unabated circulation with the power of the free void.