11 November 2016
AA Conversations caught up with AA Graduates and new unit Intermediate 1 tutors Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg to discuss their intriguing new brief ‘Tools for Architecture:Visceral Spaces’ and see what their plans are for the year ahead.
Q: What are the main ambitions of your brief this year?
To broaden the impact of perception and psychology in architectural design. We believe that architecture ultimately exists in our minds as an experience, therefore we are interested in developing methods where a designed experience informs the architecture and not the other way around. We are developing ways to discuss architecture in isolation, meaning: without site, program, or context. When all external agents are removed we are left solely with the dialogue between the human and the space. The aim is to become capable of evaluating space based on how it serves the human mind, this is what we understand as the purpose of architecture beyond physical protection. To do so constructively, we need to get past the poetic and often cryptic descriptions of space and develop logical and concise definitions of the architectural experience that apply to any format of reality: physical, digital, or whatever is yet to come.
Q: In what ways does the unit hope to tackle these challenges?
Removing site, program, and context has been our key strategy to concentrate on designing spatial experiences. These are conceived first through a combination of images and words, then we require a high level of technical definition to ensure that the architecture will deliver what was promised.
We are interested in the versatility of building systems: construction models that can suit multiple programs or can be used in different sites whilst still delivering the intended spatial qualities. This is how the projects in our unit are delivered, as tools or models rather than buildings.
Lastly, we ask for speculation and forecasting on the potential applications and implications of such systems-considering both its goods and evils- to encourage self-criticism and further learning from one’s own work.
Q: Does your unit wish to question the ‘what is’, ‘what was’, or ‘what may be’?
No doubt we think a lot about “what may be”, with a pinch of “what is” and loads of “what was”, but our approach to architecture in isolation leaves us also slightly outside of time. Contemporary cultural, political, or social conditions certainly influence the way we experience space, but not necessarily the way we design it. Our postmodern society tends to label optimistic views of the future as naive or ingenuous but we are not interested in the apocalyptic approach, so we try to stay away from context. We also prefer to develop projects that are propositions rather than commentaries and, in this sense, a certain level of de-contextualisation helps.