ESALA | MArch Architecture Studio | 2012/13
A sign on the wall reads “NO ANIMALS PERMITTED IN HARBOUR AREA”. It’s unclear who the sign is written for. Animals don’t read. Or to be more precise; it’s only Human animals that read and write, and it is precisely on account of this capacity (Homo’s ‘sapience’), that they exclude themselves from the category Animal. The wall that the sign is fixed to, and the gate within it, are similarly limited in their legibility. Airborne species fly or are blown above them. Aquatic species swim or drift around them. Sub-terranean animals burrow beneath. Small terrestrial animals walk on through. To suggest that these species are breaking or transgressing any rule would be futile; the gate/wall arrangement is only significant in relation to certain forms of life; Humans, and other medium-sized domesticated terrestrial mammals. That is, like the sign, the built environment of Man does not constitute a ‘signifying mark’ within the environment of all animals, who exist in a state of ignorance and innocence with respect to its purpose. Architecture is a ‘niche’ concern; most forms of life remain indifferent towards it.
Nonetheless, some aspects of the environment of Man do intersect with some aspects of the environment of other species, and we are familiar with the concern that, as Man modifies that environment to his own convenience, he inconveniences those other species that have grown to depend upon it. With this in mind, Man’s ability to design and construct his own world is increasingly subject to forms of reflexive limitation; legislative and regulatory codes, standards and rules, designed to protect the environment of all animals. But as we have seen, legislation without knowledge is limited in its effect; there is a necessary asymmetry to any attempt to legislate over the relation between Humans and other animals. Regulation can only legislate over human activity, so as to make space for and protect the/our ignorance of the animal.
This studio invites students to explore the relationship between architecture and animal life. It does so through a study of the legislative apparatus through which the design of the built environment is limited as a means to protect animal habitats. The context for this exploration is Leith Docks, a site which is both rich in animal life, and whose current development plans are subject to detailed regulation regarding habitat preservation. Through the studio, student will be asked to develop urban proposals and architectural designs that are understood as interventions into the legal apparatus, and animal environment of Leith Docks.
As a premise for this exploration, the studio proposes two totemic figures for a Zoological Urbanism; the Rule and the Animal. 1) Architecture is a means by which the environment of one species might be limited and separated from the environment of another. Architecture is a means by which Humanity withholds itself with respect to the / its ignorance of the animal. 2) Architecture is a means by which the environment of one species might intersect and engage with the environment of another. Architecture is a means by which the Human-animal might be brought into an indifferent proximity with other animals.
Invitation & Escape
ESALA | MA Architecture | 2012
We come to know our environment tacitly. We have to see things before we can say them; conception proceeds from, but is continuous with, the rich mute flux of experience [Gibson, 1979]. As educators and parents we try to spare our students and children some of the effort; we pass down concepts through depiction and description, codifying what we have seen through words and pictures. In order to learn, though, the next generation must decode this information, translate the explicit back to the tacit, assume it in silence, make it dumb again. Building codes and standards are one way that knowledge about the built environment is collected, stored and transmitted. Building regulations represent generations of accrued experience, trials and errors to be spared us. However, while such technical literature is an effective means of legislation, it is tricky to teach. Leading students forward toward such pre-determined ends traps them in the abstraction of the explicit (and the design studio always favors the rich, the mute and the fluctuating). Is it possible, though, to work back through such explicit codes, to (re)discover and assume their tacit content? This paper documents and presents a studio design-research project, conducted at the University of Edinburgh, which aspires to both tacit and explicit knowledge production. Run in association with an interdisciplinary teaching and research programme – Integrating Technical and Sociological Aspects of Fire Safety Engineering – the studio asks students to study the implications of a number of specified fire-safety regulations (further details attached). Its ambition, though, is not simply to teach technical competencies, nor to ensure compliance. The project draws on concepts from ecological psychology to explore the ‘invitation character’ of the built environment; the tacit means through which the environment tells us what its good for. The project suggests that Regulatory limits – which seek to maximize the benefits and minimize the potential risks of the environment – codify and inscribe an ‘invitation character’ into building. It asks students to work with and through regulation, then, in order to (re)discover something inviting embedded in them, engages them as designers in the production of (new) tacit understandings.
Student Project: Xuhong Zheng 2012
In Place / Any Place
ESALA | MA Architecture | 2009-2012
Buildings come between us and our environment, they put us into place. That is, architecture both responds to and frames the nature of the things and activities it places, and to the qualities of the locations its takes place in. Furthemore, architecture always represents these things and activities, its sites and situations, by indexing them – by pointing to and taking measure of them.
IN PLACE / ANY PLACE is a 2nd year architectural design studio that introduces students to a concern for location. Continuing from a study of architectures indebtedness to its mode of construction, it asks students to explore the ways in which architecture is indebted to things beyond itself. In Place / Any Place develops student’s skills in design inquiry, and is structured through an empirical design methodology; each design exercise will begin with a measured survey of a specified thing, activity or site. Design projects ask students to make architectural proposals that enjoy the communicative potential of architecture to point to and take measure of the place it takes and the things and activities it places.
Student Project: Nathan Ozga 2009
Architecture, University of Edinburgh | MA Architecture | 2007-2009
This 10 week architectural design studio, run as part of the MA Architectural Design programme at the University of Edinburgh, 2008-09, asked participating students to analyze of a single clause of the Scottish Building Standards. Each students project began with a brief verbal and diagrammatic description of the regulation, coming to understand the hazard it represents, and seeks to limit; trips and slips on stairs and ramps, falls from height while cleaning windows, or lack of access to daylight. Their projects continued by identifying an architectural potential in the limitation of these risks; that a regulated stair acts as an index of the familiarity of its users, that a window choreographs and represents the everyday act of its cleaning, that a window negotiates and represents a relation between programme and context. Each project concludes through the design of a mixed-use building in the centre of Edinburgh that enjoys playing-out the implications of the regulation in a range of circumstances.
Student Project: Alistair Blake 2009