The main objectives of this 7-week studio at HUST was to:
- Heighten the student's awareness of their real surroundings through close observation, dialogue with local actors and documentation of existing conditions. - Introducing a specific realm of representation: The cross-section which, complemented by other, more open forms – collage, photography and free drawing – aims to widen the range of tools for students in their design process and architectural thinking. - Through these observations and use of different modes of representation bring focus to a dialectical aspect of architectural design: The awareness and sensitivity of Relationships.
Below a more detailed description of the syllabus and assignments:
Architecture is never an isolated entity. Regardless of whether or not you work consciously with the context of your building, new relationships will follow as a consequence, so by trying to predict and enhance them will be crucial. The essential knowledge of how to work well as an architect comes down to how to create interesting relationships. There are external relationships: Between the building and its context, the city fabric, the stories of the neighbourhood, the landscape, invisible social territories, between inside and outside, open and closed space, private and public, back of house and front of house etc. And there are internal relationships: Between different programmes, vertical levels, light and dark, wet and dry, warm and cool, service areas and served areas, active and passive, public and private etc etc.
Out of the typical architectural drawing formats we have at our disposal – plan, section, elevation, site plan, perspective – I believe the most interesting one is the section, because it is where those relationships become apparent. The plan is very good at showing movement and internal flows, but as a means of inviting the viewer inside to experience the life in the building, it is still too abstract and schematic. The cross-section drawing can be an accurate description of spatial conditions and internal relationships. In addition, you can tell compelling stories which not only talk about the building, but of a whole society. Since it cuts through many types of spaces; from the basement, perhaps full of illegal (im)migrant workers, to the rooftop, where affluent investors are entertained by lightly dressed ladies; the section is where our urban way of life becomes clear and transparent.
One of the reasons why I find it most interesting to examine the section here in China, is that I have discovered a lack of interest in developing architecture based on these relationships. Too often the designs developed here tend to form isolated objects or enclaves without a dynamic relationship to their surroundings. Perhaps it is understandable since most projects here are conceived as UIMs (Urban Integrated Megaproject) and often on virgin land lacking any previous urban condition. Nevertheless, with a better understanding of the possibilities offered by designing in the section, the architect can create and nurture new relationships, at least within the same project.
The studio work was presented as a group exhibition at Yangtze Gallery in Wuhan in December 2011 together with the student work of the studios lead by Chen Shuyu and Elaine Ho of Homeshop.