SS 2023

Notice: During Summer Semester 2023 our Studio does not offer any MA Project.

Master Project

The Master Project, which is open for MA students, is a design project run over the course of a semester. The project, framed within a thematic investigation, is carried out in small groups, each contributing to a wider group study of a given situation and project. A specific neighbourhood or context is chosen in a European city within which students act on a variety of sites.

The main design engages with three overall themes: programme - examining arrangements of use and the spatial potential in the plan, type - exploring how type informs use and affects our experience and construction – seeking a rigorous and conceptual understanding of construction.

Underlying these themes is an interest in atmosphere in relation to experience and adjustment in relation to place. In the last two years emphasis has been given in the teaching to the programmatic theme of spatial planning and then to building type or typology. This year we are focusing on construction.

When we refer to construction we do so as both an artistic and practical endeavour. We encourage construction ideas which, through their strategy and detail, reinforce the idea of the building, the space within and the space between. We expect a practical understanding and an appropriate respect for structure and material. What we seek overall is an expression of an appropriate character, atmosphere and presence through the physicality of construction. Our interest is in the relationships between building, place and use. We therefore prioritise a phenomenological approach to the study of this theme which is analytical but based upon ideas and concepts rather than rules and dogma.

WS 22/23 – Master Project Built to last
Resilient building in Rotterdam

Through the Studio’s continuing research in exploring the sustainability of the European City and seeking definitions for a sustainable architecture, we have had to ‘re-set’ our thinking when designing, to find the precarious balance between a building of specific character on the one hand which is available to change its use and status over time, on the other. This new thinking has drawn us towards building practices of the past that utilise what is close to hand or modifies what already exists, but also to more recent thinking such as envisaging the building as a bank of material that conveys longevity and usefulness not through its form necessarily but through the material resource that the building embodies. In previous semesters we have investigated the potential of buildings as infrastructures or intelligent ruins; spatial structures that facilitate use, that can be designed for an unknown future. In all we are seeking a broad and in-depth understanding of sustainability that goes well beyond the technical or performative but that also engages with time and culture. Afterall buildings should be embedded in their situation and place.

The theme of resilience seems relevant to us as it promotes the idea that buildings should be designed and built to last. To do so they must embody an inherent tolerance to absorb change, to take on new uses again and again. To think in layers is helpful. That means the structure must provide a landscape which allows plans to be contingent but also present and characterful. To consider what is permanent and what is ephemeral. All are important to a project but what is transient and what is constant? For example the cores are not necessarily permanent fixtures to the building, recent projects are exploring timber cores for example. Unlike in previous semesters where the emphasis has been on structure, this semester the question of form and permanence is left more open. What parts of the building should be perceived to be the bedrock of the building – the façade, the ceilings, the cores, the structure?

The sites chosen for your work include a host building, the task being to re-appropriate the existing building (as a complete entity, or a structure, or a façade) and then to add a new building which will require careful discernment as to their relationship. Do they form an ensemble with space between or do they become absorbed into a single conglomerate, a new single whole? Which influences which? This is the task of the architecture.

The setting will be the great harbour city of Rotterdam, a fragmented city which reveals an obsession with its own newness and originality, hence demonstrating an extremely heterogenous architecture at the expense of a plausible public realm. It is a city of the large scale transformed after significant war damage in 1940 by the city planner Van Traa’s Reconstruction Plan of 1944 into an ‘infrastructural field’ with large buildings and large spaces defining its urban grain and dominated by traffic. We wish to work with that scale but to find also a comfortable human scale that ennobles the everyday and celebrates the special occasion.

Stephen Bates and Bruno Krucker, September 2022
Built to last Rotterdam