Elective at semester(s) 6, 8, ECTS: 3
The course focuses on the development of design tools that help us to document real circumstances of daily social life in space. Such tools are necessary so that architectural forms can be inscribed into the realities that surround them. To exemplify such an inquiry we ask the students to get familiar with a historical architectural paradigm of both practice and theory. Their investigation aims at understanding critically the influence and the relevance of the case study in nowadays social and architectural context. Analysis works in three levels: 1) the conditions under which the architectural work has been materialized in space, 2) the impact it has left in architectural thinking, 3) the ways it has determined (or still determines) the living conditions in everyday life. For a more profound understanding of a historical case study as a lived environment, apart from architectural material, philosophical texts, works of popular art, works and theories of emotions will be discussed.
The case study
The focus of the course will be the controversial term ‘the greater number’ as it culminated within the framework (program, theoretical and built work) of Team X during the ‘50s and ‘60s, in reference to large scale housing programs for ‘the greater number’. The period corresponds to the creation of the postwar European welfare state, in tandem with the ‘Cold War’, the process of decolonization of the ‘Third World’ and the emergence of what we call ‘mass consumption’ and ‘consumerist society’.
The problem of an architectural documentation of social experiences.
By looking critically at the present mainstream culture of making and distributing images of architectural and urban projects we conclude that through specific patterns such as 1)clinically presented simulations of daily life and 2) uncritical optimism affirming the potential success of every architectural proposal, several issues are rendered absent. Such issues are the non-photogenic aspects and contradictions of daily social realities and the indispensable public criticism that must accompany every large-scale architectural or urban project, projects that definitely affect the life of ‘the greater number’. Thus social realities are being represented only partially and insufficiently inside the architectural ‘workshop’. How, are we, then, confident that we can solve problems by utilizing simplistic documentations of spatial realities? Can we imagine new representational tools and media, alternative narrations that can emphasize the contradictions, the absurdities, the tragic and the comical elements of life, the routines, the expectations and the discontents, the hopes, the disorder, memory, competitions and the inevitable conditions of conviviality in the life of the ‘greater number’? Can more adequate documentations of our spatial present deliver more adequate scenarios for the future? Both the future of Architectural Design and of the way it can operate together with other social skills, practices and knowledges?
The Design Question
We will start from examining a series of references such as the ‘methodological possibilities’ developed by the Chilean documentary maker Patricio Guzmán, three books, one written by Aldo Rossi, one by Henri Lefebvre, lost for decades, an unpublished book by Giancarlo de Carlo, a recent text by John Peponis on the ‘pedagogical function of the City’ and an essay by the philosopher Kostas Papaïoannou (born in Volos) on the importance of the symbolic (through Art) and participatory (through social participation)function of justice. By following the above references students are asked to document three consecutive times a specific sector of the city of Volos. Documentation aims at creating diverse and contradictory architectural representations of present social realities.
Those representations will be followed by a second entity of references, ones that deal with popular symbolic expressions of social experiences appropriate for revealing the link between realities, sentiments and popular artistic expressions. We will return to the ‘landscapes’ of the neighborhoods and the suburbs that were built by the architects of the historical period we have examined (Team X). The building projects of the after war period were charged with great expectations for ameliorating partially the daily spaces of the ‘great number’ which is the multitude of the working classes and indigenous populations that migrated from the colonies to the European metropolises during those years. Space, above other things, becomes the container of dire social experiences like migration, poverty, inequality, social exclusion, unintentional displacement. Art, and especially the popular art of song making like the example of the old Mediterranean music, the Rebetiko or contemporary hip hop music show us, works as an indispensible coping mechanism. It provides the means to people to express, share, communicate, criticize and transcend those dire experiences. Σεβντάς/ Sevdah/ Saudade/ Nostalgia is a rather misinterpreted but widely recited poetically/musically bittersweet universal emotion. According to recent cross disciplinary (sociology, psychology, political science) research, nostalgia seems to be an emotional mechanism that can generate connections between the past and the future by activating empathy and social connectedness as antidotes for loneliness and alienation. It seems to be a fundamental emotion for human experience which permits people to make sense of hardships and difficulties and thus restore meaningfulness, memory, history and finally, optimism for the future.
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