Against the Flow

Unit 24 employs film, video, animation, drawing and virtual/physical modelling techniques in pursuit of architectural propositions that harness the potential of time-based media in the production of space. Acting on the hunch that the old, homogenising tendencies of architectural practice and education are slowly becoming outmoded, we nurture free-thinkers who investigate ideas and techniques in collaboration with other like-minded experts.

Laboratory

This year, after securing funding for a series of workshops and the purchase of new equipment, the unit will act as an open-source experimental laboratory. Students will have space to define their own form of time-based spatial practice that can be taken into the world beyond the Bartlett. In collaboration with our expanded network of associated specialists, students will learn from architects, animators, virtual-reality tinkerers, filmmakers and musicians in a series of bespoke masterclasses.

Local and global flow

The world has imploded. Instantaneous information flow rules all – the new ‘digital local’ makes the Global Village into the Google Earth. Location is irrelevant…or is it not?

Local news. Local weather. The local pub. Local architects. What do we mean when we talk about the local? Is it a place? Is it part of the psyche? Can its value be measured? Who can be a local? What might the term ‘local’ mean when viewed through the prism of technology? Can technology ever be local? And what about architecture?

Challenging the forces of universalising technology and the tsunami of ubiquitous information, we invite students to find a Critical Regionalism for the Information Age, interrogating globally available open-source technologies and architectural ‘styles’ in search of the ‘poetic’, the ‘particular’ and the ‘local’.

The Slovenian radical thinker Slavoj Žižek complains that transactional ecosystems such as those found in London, trivialise and commodify the local in favour of commercially driven space. We will question the tendency to retreat into the homegrown, the tribal and the regional and ask whether the local simply inflects the global condition or whether it can be a driver for change.

Thames

The Thames then. Our local river. A shimmering causeway flowing to the centre of the universe, or the disgusting urinal of a washed-up, morally bankrupt city? Contradictory stories proliferate. On the one hand environmental groups tell us that this ancient waterway is becoming cleaner year-on-year and that dolphins can now be spotted in Hammersmith. On the other, Thames Water’s PFI funded super-sewer cranks into operation in 2023 spilling the waste of our glorious nation back into the water from whence it came.

Defining the Thames in the singular is facile. At once staggeringly ugly and magnificently sublime, its length spans across innumerable conditions: cupping the sweetbreads of international corporate investment but also cultivating new and strange organisms and ecosystems. It has witnessed the emergence and growth of London and will outlive it.

Using the estuarine zones in and around the Thames as our shifting compass, we will root out the globalised sites and structures that have become deeply saturated by the creeping fingers of these tangled ideologies, these over-inflated pieces of dead real-estate, these contaminated brownfields, and we will propose an alternative future of the local.

Yodo/Katsura

In November we will visit Japan and walk the 9-hour river route against the flow from Osaka to Kyoto. We will travel to the perennially re-built Ise Shrine, experience the technologically-rich cityscapes and learn from what Arata Isozaki termed ‘Japan-ness’; a local architecture that can harness the forces of globalisation.

Following two river walks in London and Japan, and via a series of intense skilling workshops, Y4 students will develop filmic architectures that critically respond to the estuarine conditions of London. Y5 students will develop their own agendas from the previous year, locally and globally.

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