Open Door Syllabus

 

Since February 20 I am leading a studio for undergraduate students of interior design at Tsinghua School of Art & Design. The studio will focus on basic concepts universal architecture and introducing a number of canonical works from the Western and Eastern hemispheres. Analytical studies will take up most of the first half, then gradually moving towards transforming the accumulated research into a small-scale project.

 

OPEN THE DOOR AND LET THE SUN SHINE IN - INTRODUCTION TO ARCHITECTURE

The main objectives of this 7-week studio is to:

  • Introduce the notion of architecture as a way of thinking through three basic concepts universal to architecture and neighbouring disciplines; landscape and interior architecture.
  • Expose students to architecture theory and analytical assignments in which they are forced to use language and images rather than design to describe their way of thinking.
  • Emphasize the process and the tools rather than the results, forcing the students to draw conclusions from their previous work.
  • Collect data and analyze canonical works of both Western and Eastern architecture, historical and contemporary and assemble it into a coherent archive.
  • Finally, to synthesize analysis and experiments into a design concept based on the previous findings.

The studio aims to give the students a basic knowledge of architectural history and theory through a number of lectures and case studies. These analytical studies will gradually lead to a design assignment based on the observations and conclusions drawn from the previous phase.

SCALE The notion of scale in architecture is ambiguous. Architects tend to assume that there is a general understanding of the concept of scale, but at the same time tacitly recognize that many different perceptions of scale exist and they are deeply rooted in cultural, historical and social values. In architecture, geography and many other disciplines, scale is used to define relationships between the real object and their representations. This use is instrumental to the conception of space, as the designer uses drawings and models to represent their intentions. Other uses of the word scale are more subjective and refer to the way we relate things to each other in real-world values (right scale, out of scale) or describe their size, importance or impact, (a large-scale military operation, a small-scale manufacturer, a medium-scale city). In Chinese, these are three different words, 比例 (relation, ratio) , 尺度 (proportion, measurement) and 规模 (scope, extent, size) which facilitates the use in the architecture field. Nevertheless, there is a direct link between the above mentioned concepts of scale in the English language.

The most fundamental reference for scale is the human body, a measure that as been used in most human cultures throughout history, and still prevail in many cultures (e g foot, inch). In order to build up an understanding of scale and its importance, the students will create their own system for referencing between different scales.

MOVEMENT In both Occidental and Oriental cultures, movement is a major aspect of architecture. Movement is not only about circulation within a building or a complex, but it is directly related to hierarchy, organization, perception etc. While this wide understanding of the concept has been extensively explored in the West, especially since the Modern Movement, there is a more implicit understanding of movement within the Oriental realm of architecture. The assignments will explore these different aspects and bring a conscious understanding of movement into the design.

ATMOSPHERE While the concepts of scale and movement are relatively well-defined within architecture history and theory, the notion of atmosphere is quite a lot more ambivalent. It generally ranges from the phenomenological aspects to the metaphysical, yet architecture can be analyzed and conceived using this notion consciously.

The assignment will focus on the phenomenological aspect of atmosphere, focusing on light, materiality, colour and relationship with the environment. As with scale and movement, the aim is to provide the students with a basic understanding through case studies and analytical drawings/models, all of which will compiled into a larger body of research.

 

List of architectural works for analysis:

WESTERN CLASSICS Le Corbusier - Villa Savoye Frank Lloyd Wright - Falling Water House Ludvig Mies van der Rohe - Villa Tugendhat Luis Barragan - Barragan House Villa Malaparte Adolf Loos - Haus Müller WESTERN CONTEMPORARY Steven Holl - Nail Collector’s House OMA/Koolhaas - Villa Dall’Ava Peter Zumthor - Kunsthaus Bregenz Alvaro Siza - Iberê Camargo Museum (ICM) Ben van Berkel/UN Studio - Möbius House David Adjaye - House For An Art Collector R & Sie (n) - Invisible House EASTERN CLASSICS Beijing Siheyuan (北京四合院) Temple of Heaven (北京天坛) Foguang Temple (佛光寺) Katsura imperial villa I M Pei - Fragrant Hill Hotel (北京香山饭店) EASTERN CONTEMPORARY Ai Weiwei - Red Brick Galleries, Caochangdi Kuu Architects - MINUS K HOUSE/ 南汇别墅 FCJZ/张永和 - Villa in Shanyujian, Huairou, Beijing Wang Shu - Xiangshan campus building Liu Jiakun - Luyeyuan Stone Sculpture Art Museum