[Knowledge, Comprehension, Analysis]
Enter, slowly (Entrez Lentement)
Introduction to Architecture I and II are the opening design courses of the two first semesters of undergraduate studies at the Department of Architecture of the University of Thessaly, Greece. Both are taught by the same team (Phoebe Giannisi, Iris Lykourioti, Yorgos Mitroulias, Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, Yorgos Papakonstantinou) of tutors for more than a decade. In this framework we have had the chance to experiment systematically in design teaching methods while a teaching culture derives from the above introductory courses, one that summarizes the interdisciplinary character of the curriculum of our Department based on the dialectic relationship between architecture, arts, crafts, technology and environmental studies. The introductory design course exemplifies the above experimental experience. Both content and teaching methods are articulated in a complementary way in order to deal with spatial and material issues related both to the City and to the Coutryside (Thessaly being the main agricultural region of Greece).
Our objective is to initiate students into a different mode of observation, interpretation and representation of the material world that surrounds them; the material world that they themselves are going to design and produce in the future. Our design stance derives from the idea that our material world is produced by the inventiveness of people, the development of specialized knowledge (technique) and, aesthetic and symbolic values (art) that will give shape (processing) to raw materials through the (social) organization of labor in a given historical, natural and cultural habitat (geography). No material process exists outside this social scheme.
Entrez Lentement (enter slowly) is an emblematic phrase taken from Eilleen Gray’s built manifesto E 1027. Denoting the meaning of the motto for our courses’ purposes, we conclude that spatial understanding is a complex cognitive process and needs time to be grasped and apprehended. Thus, students should be introduced into the medium of Architecture by encountering spatial complexity and not simplified descriptions of spatial realities. Only they need to do it slowly.
Introduction to Architecture II ///// THE COUNTRYSIDE / Section, Program, Intepretative model and the making of a vacation house by the seaside.
During the second semester, students are introduced in the notion of habitatin tandem with representational methods and tools that help them observe and apprehend spatialitiesof inhabitation. They get familiar with terms and materialitiesthat derive from 1) what we call in architecture ‘the program’, 2) notational exercises in orthographic representation, the section in particular and, 3) their intensive work on model making, a work that has to be symbolically open to diverse interpretations and potential spatial narratives.
We continue our teaching work on the dialectical relationship between built space, nature, culture, history. While during the first semester we explore the city, during the second semester we study the realities and complexities of the countryside. As a case study we select a modern vacation house near the sea built by an important modern architect. We consider such houses as built manifestos on seasonal living while at the same time we are very concerned with inscribing an individual architectural work to its specific cultural-historical context. In this light, architects are studied as historical subjects whose works deal with the possibilities and the limitations of the material and spatial production in their time.
While we begun our teaching program with studying international architectural works such as le Cabanonby Le Corbusier, E 1027 by Eileen Gray or the Weekend House by Alison and Peter Smithson, soon we begun shifting our interest towards the Greek insular area of the Aegean Sea in order to be able, 1) to organize educational visits to the actual buildings, 2) to study the geographical site through the diverse perspectives of history, social anthropology, architecture and the arts, 2) address issues of the dialogue between vernacular and modern architecture, 3) get familiar with the realities of the insular world (isolation and interconnectivity) that offers a very diverse, dense and unique example of sustainable life in both material production and exchange. The students are asked to design a weekend house by the sea, as their final project, by presenting varied architectural programs and formal patterns based on seasonal changes and their effect on indoor/outdoor living. Some of the places selected are Aegina Island (house by ArisKonstantinidis), AmorgosIsland (house by IannisXenakis), KimolosIsland (house by DimitrisFatouros), Tinos Island (houses by PantelisNikolakopoulos and Christos Papoulias) etc.
Geography: Travels as fundamental teaching experiences
Travelling, the embodied material and sensual experience of space and life plays a fundamental role to our teaching program. We have concluded more than a decade of travelling-teaching experiences. Students visit and do field work in specific geographical and cultural habitats where works of architecture stand. As already mentioned, by focusing on the dialectical relationship between built space, nature, culture, history but also by exemplifying those relationships in situ wehelp the students conclude that there is a fundamental social relationship between material recourses, techniques of processing and geographical features (isolation and exchange) thus they can profoundly understand the social dynamics behind the interdependence between materials, techniques and geography. Architects, in this light, become intermediaries of social relations and design (in all its historical forms) becomes a fundamental social activity.
Final Project / Vacation house by the Seaside
Studio work is organized in groups of three or four students each. Each student designs a single small house while the group decides for the organizing principles that will turn four single houses into a convivial housing complex. The convivial complex includes common spaces for working, eating, resting; they are, in principle, outdoor spaces.
The final project is presented through models and orthographic projections like plans, elevations and sections, the latter especially charged with designing the relationship between the designed spaces and the mountain slopes that characterize the Greek insular landscape. Orthographic projections become parts of collage images where designed spaces are juxtaposed and fuse with the landscape while materialitiescan be exemplified. Such representational media create the visual milieu where dialectical relations between the newly designed houses and their context become apparent and dynamic.
In order to activate the cognitive importance of the abstract use of materials in media of representation we limit the use of color and the material options for model making. For making the drawings students can only use black and white colors. For making models they have a limited number of material options so that they can be inventive, use the same material in various formal ways and test the limits of specific material properties. At the same time, limiting material options encourages the experimenting with different techniques of assemblage that can deliver diverse formal characteristics to the models i.e. we can represent stonewalls by using piled ondulé papersurfaces.
2017, KIMOLOS ISLAND
2016, ASPRA SPITIA, BOEOTIA
2013, AMORGOS ISLAND
2012, AEGINA ISLAND
2006, BERLIN (BERLIN, POTSDAM, DESSAU)
Text from: Lykourioti, I., 2020. 'Entrez Lentement: Materials, Techniques, Geography', in Trova, V., Lykourioti, I., eds, Materiality in the architectural studio process, good practices. Lisbon: Caleidoscopio, pages, 122-133.
(Field trips are organized in collaboration with the Research Center on History, Theory and Semantic Design of the Department of Architecture, University of Thessaly).
Students' assessment is based on the systematic work on the following:
Introduction to Architecture II is a compulsory studio course. Students are required to attend all classes. Assessment is based on their weekly presence and participation in design exercises. Teaching is enriched with weekly lectures presented by the tutors in reference to the thematic each design exercise.
At the end of the semester, a field trip is organized. Students visit and do field work in specific geographical and cultural habitats where works of architecture, studied in the curriculum, stand. They are asked to document visits and experiences, buildings and landscape formations. In situ documentation works as the base for the development of the final project. We have concluded more than a decade of travelling-teaching experiences.
Final Project / Vacation house by the Seaside
Studio work is organized in groups of three or four students each. Each student designs a single small house while the group decides for the organizing principles that will turn four single houses into a convivial housing complex. The convivial complex includes common spaces for working, eating, resting; they are, in principle, outdoor spaces. The final project is presented through models and orthographic projections like plans, elevations and sections.
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