Studio Re:Imagine is an MArch and Postgraduate design studio jointly run by Russell Light and John-Paul Walker at Sheffield School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
(download the current MArch Course Handbook here)
2013-14: RE:IMAGINE - THE MUSEUM
Re:Imagine is a new studio that brings together the conservation expertise of Studio 16 and the urban poetry of Studio 1, with the aim of creatively exploring architecture’s role in articulating contemporary society’s relationship with the past.
The theme for the studio this year is notion of the museum, with its range of nuances and meanings, ranging from the ancient ‘seat of the muses’, to a modern building type that has expanded rapidly over the last century to encompass every conceivable subject, from the Icelandic Phallological Museum to the Barbed Wire Museum in Kansas. At a larger scale, statutory protection (listing) and organizations like the National Trust form identifiable collections of buildings. We are now beginning to consider certain cities such as Venice as museums their own right. It has even been argued that much of the world already thinks of the whole of Europe as a kind of museum. (Karl Ellefsen, 2013)
Museums mediate, curate and interpret our relationship with culture and the past through the processes of archiving, preservation, analysis and dissemination. Closely tied to the notion of the museum is the idea of the collector who single mindedly brings together a collection - evaluating significance, editing, filling gaps and seeking out the rarest items with a passion often verging on obsession. John Soane’s Museum in London perhaps best exemplifies this tradition.
The studio will maintain an open framework for students to explore their own agendas and research within these themes. A short initial project will take place within the ruins of Sutton Scarsdale Hall, near Chesterfield. The proposed locations for major projects are Kelham Island in Sheffield and Berlin.
We will undertake a field trip to Berlin, at the heart of which is Museum Island, with a series of museums including Chipperfield’s Neues Museum and the Pergamon Museum, with it’s collection of full sized ancient buildings. Elsewhere in the city is the recently completed Museum of Architectural Drawing, Libeskind’s iconic Jewish Museum, a Museum of Things and many others. There are also diverse precedents that reveal different approaches to the re-use of buildings.
2012-13: VENICE - BEHIND THE MASK
“From one part to the other, the city seems to continue, in perspective, multiplying its repertory of images: but instead it has no thickness, it consists only of a face and an obverse, like a sheet of paper, with a figure on each side, which can neither be separated nor look at each other.”
Italo Calvino, 1972
Venice is the city of masks and masques. It is well known for it’s lavish, colourful festivals and yet it is also deeply suffused with death and decay. It is a city of many paradoxes…
It could be described as the first global city, the city of Marco Polo, connecting Europe with the East and developing an extensive trading network along the legendary Silk Route. Yet Venice is also a strictly segregated city, isolated in its lagoon. Different islands traditionally perform different roles (cemetery, glass blowing, quarantine) and modern industry is banished to Mestre on the mainland.
Through the Biennale, Venice has become the premier international showcase for contemporary art and architecture. However, the fabric of the city has changed remarkably little over the last hundred years and the emphasis has been on historic conservation rather than innovation, with the progressive architectural projects that have been proposed often remaining unbuilt, including those by Corbusier, Wright and Eisenman.
In addition to the acute threat of rising sea levels and global warming, is Venice also sinking under the weight of its past? The studio will explore all of these issues, using the theme of the mask, with its many connotations of public/private, facades, screens, veils, protection, disguise, pretence, camouflage and secrecy. We will begin with a fieldtrip to the city, visiting this year’s Architecture Biennale ’Common Ground’.
Canaletto - Venice: The Upper Reaches of the Grand Canal with S. Simeone Piccolo, 1738 (source: Wikimedia Commons). The painting is currently on display in the Graves Gallery, Sheffield.
2011-12: IN A DARK SPACE: CINEMA AND THE CITY
The relationship between architecture and cinema is multifaceted. Architects often feature on screen. Buildings and interiors can define a film’s visual style. Occasionally, they may even become a character in their own right. More significantly, the ways in which film can construct and explore space offers many lessons for architecture and the city and their representation.
'By any definition, Rome is a cinematic city par excellence. As a site for filmmaking, notably in the form of the city's cinematic alter ego, the studio complex of Cinecittà, and as a location itself, whereby the monuments (pristine or ruined), streets and piazzas created by successive occupants of the Eternal City were called on to provide picturesque backdrops or act as symbolically laden mise-en-scène, Rome has had a long and prolific history.'
Richard Wrigley, 2008
'Rome is still endlessly fascinating. For me it is the ideal city, if not quite the heavenly Jerusalem. Where would you recapture the light of Rome? A flash of sunlight through a flotilla of shifting clouds glancing between two cinquecento palazzi is enough for the city to appear renewed in all its charm. And the Roman climate; so sweet, so airy, so cooling? "We're waiting for the westerly breeze", men and women say, standing stock still with an enigmatic air in the streets or piazzas like a picture by Delvaux, Magritte, or Balthus. Rome is a therapeutic city, good for the health of body and spirit.'
Federico Fellini, 1995
2010-11: THE STREET
‘The street . . . the only valid field of experience’
‘The streets shall be our brushes
Our palettes shall be the squares,
On the thousand pages of the Book of Time
Are written the Songs of Revolution,
into the streets, Futurists,
drummers and poets, go!’
‘Though we are creatures inclined to squabble, kill, steal and lie, the street reminds us that we can occasionally master our baser impulses and turn a waste land, where for centuries wolves howled, into a monument of civilisation.’
Alain de Botton
‘When shopping was still connected to the street it was also an intensification and articulation of the street. Now it has become utterly independent — contained, controlled, surveyed.’
‘Vacated now, the street seems dangerous, indefensible: sped through it becomes a haze of fumes and a grating of brakes. But when populated, the street can be a clash of viewpoints, a mess, a morass that can challenge our orthodoxies and take us out of ourselves. …as a communication line between the familiar and the strange, between those we know too well and those we don’t know at all, the street can still be the place where the most important connections are made. In it, we begin to see how our home is connected to that home, this house to that house, this street to that street, this city to all those other cities, my experience to yours.’
Peter Jukes – ‘A Shout in the Street’
‘The street is a room by agreement. A community room, the walls of which belong to the donors. The ceiling is the sky.’
‘Now the great function of the city is ... to permit, indeed to encourage and incite the greatest possible number of meetings, encounters, challenges, between all persons, classes and groups, providing, as it were, a stage upon which the drama of social life may be enacted, with the actors taking their turns as spectators, and the spectators as actors.’
‘I think people are entitled to march without a permit. When you have a few hundred thousand people on the street you have permission.’
'It's a street with a deal, it's got taste
It's got claws, it's got me, it's got you ...'
Peter Jukes (1990) – 'A Shout in the Street', Faber and Faber. Amazon link
Allan B Jacobs (1993) – 'Great Streets', MIT. Amazon link
Leif Jerram (2011) – 'Streetlife: The Untold History of Europe’s Twentieth Century', OUP. Amazon link
Tom Hudson - Re Collections of Berlin, Stephen Welsh Prize in Architecture, shortlisted for RIBA Silver Medal (entry on RIBA President's Medals website)
Jonathan Shaw - 'What We Leave Behind'. Winner of second prize in the SPAB Philip Webb Awards.
The modern notion of collage was invented by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in 1912. It is considered by many as a defining moment of modernism, ushering in an entirely new means of composition that was to influence the entire 20th century and beyond. For the first time, pre-existing items were deliberately juxtaposed with the previously sacrosanct painted canvas to create new meanings and possibilities.
The lineage of collage is immense and it quickly spread from painting to other art forms. In film, Eisenstein developed his theories of montage. In literature, the non-linear narratives of James Joyce and the 'cut up' techniques of William Burroughs evolved out of similar ideas. It could be argued that movements such as pop art and post-modernism share similar pre-occupations. In contemporary music, techniques of sampling and remixing are now commonplace. Possibly the most recent expression of this tradition is exemplified by the guerrilla art of Banksy, who modifies, reworks and intentionally defaces existing works of art to produce entirely different meanings.
“The bad artists imitate, the great artists steal”
Could our digital reliance on 'cut and paste' even exist without precursors such as these?
More importantly, what are the implications of these ideas for architecture? Has their full potential ever been truly explored? Can architecture engage with these concepts without risking descending into the pastiche of 1980's post-modernism? Could the creative re-use of a building be considered analogous to a remix? How might a 'cut-up' building be detailed? Is there a role for guerrilla architecture?
Studio 1 (Remixed) will investigate contemporary attitudes to the composition of form and space, both within architecture as well as in other disciplines. We will visit Barcelona to explore the radical works of Picasso and to consider the role of architectural expression within a vibrant modern city. We will question notions of authorship, originality, copyright, theft and artistic integrity.
The choice of project is open, but there are clear opportunities to explore the relationship of architecture to other art forms, particularly fine art, film and music.
Studio blog, 2009-10
Will Sherlaw - Hommage to Catalonia (entry on RIBA President's Medals website)
Pól Gallagher - The Pickpocket's Academy, Dr Brian Wragg Prize in Architectural Draughtsmanship.
2008-09: ROME - TRAVEL, AUTHENTICITY AND THE PAST
"If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest – in all its ardour and paradoxes – than our travels. They express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about outside the constraints of work and the struggle for survival. Yet rarely are they considered to present philosophical problems…" Alain De Botton
Rome – the Eternal City – could be described as iconic in many ways. It is one of the cradles of early urban civilisation; the axis mundi of the ancient Roman empire; the court of the Popes; a centre for Christian pilgrimage; an archaeological touchstone for generations of artists and architects; a must-see for contemporary tourists. It has been repeatedly sacked and laid waste, only to be re-built anew. Its urban form has been re-invented many times over: by Emperors such as Trajan, Diocletian and Hadrian; by Popes such as Paul III and Sixtus V; and in more recent times by Mussolini. The result is a densely worked city of many superimposed and often conflicting layers.
Rome may be considered the urban laboratory par excellence. Travel and tourism of one form or another, have always been inextricably linked to its history.
In August 2008, the current deputy mayor of Rome, Mauro Cutrufo, announced a new initiative for a 500 hectare theme park to be built on the outskirts of the city, which could be completed within three years:
"…what the Eternal City really needs to keep visitors coming is not museums, but fun rides. 'The model is EuroDisney in Paris,' said Mauro Cutrufo… If Cutrufo gets his way, anyone bored of touring actual remains of republican and imperial Rome can head to the suburbs to see the same thing in fibreglass. 'You would relive scenes from the Colosseum, from ancient Rome, gladiators or maybe Julius Caesar or other things,' a Rome city official said…" Guardian, 15 August 2008.
This proposal is the starting point for Studio One’s investigations this year. The aim is to explore architecture’s role in the relationship that we create with the past. We will consider issues of: tourism/travel, heritage, museums, theme parks, pastiche/authenticity, and ‘destination architecture’. The intention is to begin to propose projects and specific architectural interventions that develop an appropriate empathy and respect of the past and yet which can still be enjoyable and uplifting. The precise definition of these terms is of course open for you each to determine yourselves.
From an environmental and technological perspective, the studio will consider issues of: the joining of new and old; sustainability and re-use; the autonomy of form; and the environmental lessons that can be learned from traditional indigenous buildings and urban form.
Alain de Botton (2002) - 'The Art of Travel', Penguin. Amazon link
Studio blog, 2008-09
Paul Westwood - The School of Life (entry on RIBA President's Medals website)
Pete McMahon - British Centre in Rome, RIBA Yorkshire Silver Prize.
Rachel Harris - Go See: Rome, Dr Brian Wragg Prize in Architectural Draughtsmanship.
2007-08: VIENNA - AESTHETICS, URBANISM AND CAMILLO SITTE
Renowned as a city of culture, Vienna is traditionally associated with emperors, lavish ballrooms and café society. It has been the focus for a strong intellectual and artistic tradition including such greats as Freud, Wittgenstein, Schoenberg, together with movements such as the Werkstätte, the Secessionists and the Werkbund. One hundred years ago, it was at the heart of the debate over modernism, with Adolf Loos having to defend the absence of ornament on his buildings to an audience of over two thousand people. Today, it is a city with a diverse architectural tradition exemplified by Hundertwasser, Hollein and Coop Himmelb(l)au.
In 1889, the Viennese architect and art historian Camillo Sitte published ‘City Planning according to Artistic Principles’ a treatise that attempted to reverse the then dominance of pragmatic, functional urban planning. In part a response to the isolated object-buildings that were being constructed around Vienna’s Ringstrasse, Sitte argued for an experiential basis for urban design founded on irregular urban structures and artistically considered, spacious piazzas or ‘urban rooms’. His book was one of the first treatises to deal specifically with the subject of urban design and it forms an important touchstone for any contemporary debate on urbanism, particularly in Vienna.
Schindler Competition – ‘To reclaim the public realm’
Amid its impressive city planning, Vienna has its share of derelict areas. At the intersection of the western belt (Westgürtel) and the Vienna River Valley (Wiental), two major city thoroughfares, two metro lines and the channeled Vienna River enclose a large, neglected area, divorced from the hustle and bustle of city life. An impressive steel-trussed metro bridge by Otto Wagner towers above this wasteland and mesh of urban infrastructure. This is the site for the third Schindler Award for Architecture 2007/2008. The competition aims at improvements that will transform this neglected site into an attractive place of public activity and give a positive impulse to the revival of the adjoining residential and business areas. Participants are required to incorporate four elements into their projects: a public common, residential buildings, a community center and a riverside park with outdoor sport facilities. The aim is to create space that meets three criteria: Quality of life, Sustainability, and Economic viability / Environmental Economics.
Further information can be accessed on the Schindler Award website: www.schindleraward.com
Sitte, Collins and Collins (1986) – Camillo Sitte: The Birth of Modern City Planning (includes a full translation of Sitte’s 1889 text).
Abigail Thomas - Heterarchial Landscape, Schindler Competition Special Mention