Challenge thinking on architectural space

A corridor so narrow that strangers brush shoulders, a platform through a densely inhabited house that challenges the relationship between inhabitant and visitor, and a room reshaped through a graphic pattern – these are just a few of the exhibits that aim to challenge contemporary thinking on architectural space.

Concrete Geometries: How Spaces Move People at the Architectural Association School in London features 20 projects by a group of international architects and designers. It is the culmination of the School’s Research Clusters Programmes, an 18-month project by architecture students, staff and outside partners.

‘The topic seems quite an obvious thing to be exploring, but it is not a discussion that is being held in architecture today,’ notes Marianne Mueller, co-director of the cluster and diploma unit master at the AA School.

‘By involving designers and artists we are able to rethink our practice on the creation of space. Digital design has provided architects with new tools to experiment with the use of space. We need to challenges our current thinking of space and how we as architects create it.’

The research programme and the exhibition focus on the relationship between people and built spaces using recent international design, architecture and art projects as case studies.

The aim is to change architects’ attitudes towards how they view and approach space, something that Mueller believes is often created out of technological convenience rather than a study of how people interact with their environment in real life.

Research began in January 2010 with an international call for submissions exploring how geometric aspects of space, such as size, shape or relative position of figures, are perceived and influence behaviour in a very real sense.

From the 415 entries from artists, architects and designers around the world, over 30 were chosen for further research. 20 of these projects have been selected for the exhibition.

These include Room Drawing Installation by German artist Christine Rusche that uses graphic patterns on the walls to transform the perceived space of a room.

Connecting Corridor by Dutch designers Studio Elmo Vermijs is an installation connecting two buildings, too narrow to allow two people to pass, forcing its users to interact with strangers.

UK artist Fran Cottell’s House Installation Project is an installation in an existing domestic setting, where a raised platform acts as a walkway for visitors, bringing into play conflicting and contradictory power relations. It serves as a social experiment to see which prevails – visitor or intruder.

German architect Brandlhuber + ERA’s Brunnenstrasse 9 is inspired, rather than constrained, by the legal space guidelines governing the site.

Another German Kai Schiemenz has created Splendid Modernism. The installation serves as a venue for temporary events transforming the familiar formats of speech and lecture into a dialogue between visitors and speakers.

Voussoir Cloud by US architect Iwamoto Scott Architecture is a site-specific installation consisting of a system of vaults, exploring the structural paradigm of pure compression coupled with an ultra-light material system.

Social Clusterings by Antony Coleman is a series of photographs depicting social clustering – a fishing competition, Canary Wharf, Westfield Shopping Mall, Sports Hall, North Sea and Camber Sands.

Dymaxion Sleep by Canadian duo architect Jane Hutton and artist Adrian Blackwell, is a structure of nets suspended over a garden that changes the viewer’s fundamental spatial relationship to plants.

Guest blogger Sean Jackson

Concrete Geometries: How Spaces Move People is at the AA School until 27 May 2011. Read other reports on exhibits at the AA School here.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Beyond Entropy: Rethinking energy

A time machine, an impossible pinball game, a giant self-balancing mechanism, forensic photography that captures your movements before the picture, these are some of the fantastically thought-provoking exhibitions on display at the Architectural Association School.

Beyond Entropy is an ambitious two-year project involving twenty-four global scientists, architects and artists working together to explore and broaden the ways we think about energy.

Before coming to London in May, Beyond Entropy was shown at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale and Societe de Lecture, Geneva.

In London, speakers include artist John Stezaker who discusses the potential in meaning, cosmologist professor Andrew Jaffe on time travel and architect Carlos Villanueva Brandt on the city as creative energy.

‘Cities are alive, living, breathing, energy filled beings. The exhibition and events fuse hard science with artistic freedom and interpretation to explore new ways of thinking about energy in all its forms,’ says Stefano Rabolli Pansera, director of Beyond Entropy.

‘From time machines to global issues surrounding the ownership of energy, the combination of science, architecture and art working together have created thought-provoking and sometimes startling work to explore issues of energy – from the megacity, to your own mind.’

The exhibitions
(The above images are from the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale)

Thermal energy replicated
Rows of identical three-dimensional copying-machine components see the copier become copied. Each appears identical but is slightly different from the last, made unique through an imperfection created by energy transfer during the copying process.

The work explores the sound we all make through our own electromagnetic fields. The brass ring is a giant antenna, picking up electric signals and turning these into sound through speakers. As people approach the antenna, so our electric fields alter the sounds being created.

Impossible pinball
Over 1000 balls in play, but out of reach, with the slight possibility of being able to strike one – the impossible pinball machine is a frustrating example of potential energy.  The machine is charged by the would be player, storing potential energy until the balls finally come into play.

Time machine
A working exploration of mechanical energy using nineteenth-century French writer Alfred Jarry’s pseudo-science Pataphysics who theorised a time machine made of giant mechanical flywheels and gyroscopic action to transport the user through time and space

Creating and destroying mass
A collision of physics and multi-media: giant self-balancing machine swings a vast pendulum of destruction and creation in which a building is created and then destroyed as the pendulum swings. Chaos and order are brought through each swing as the machine tries to balance itself and therefore bring stillness to the creative cycle.

Responsibility of energy
Whose energy is responsible for the melting of the polar ice cap or the pollution of London’s air?  Issues over the ownership and release of energy are explored through a montage of images, news events and stories investigating the personal and national concept of ownership of energy.

Beyond Entropy is on exhibition from 3 – 28 May 2011 at the Architectural Association School, London.

Guest blogger Sean Jackson

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | | | Published by Banksthomas

All rights and labelled images are covered by ©