The Architect as Author
Which role can an architect play today within the vast domain of cultural production? Is he/she the autonomous author, who has a firm notion of where and how to position himself / herself within the architectural discourse? A distinct conceptual approach, a distinct style, a recognizable signature? The notion of ‘authorship’ is best known within the fields of literature and art, and to a lesser degree in fields in which functionality plays a role, architecture and design.
An architect can be considered an autonomous artist and a service provider for the good of many. An architect is never an individual author, but always a co-author, who needs to collaborate with many others, ranging from the construction workers to the users of the buildings.
Authorship can be linked to notions like ‘value’ and ‘copyrights’, derived from art practice. However valuable these notions are, these count to a lesser degree within this course. We will, instead, focus on getting a grip on the personal talent of each student. Topics that also characterize authorship, such as ‘authority’, ‘signature style’, ‘personal fascinations’, will be dealt with, as well as ‘autonomy’, ‘architecture as discourse’ and ‘the death of the author’. These topics will be dealt with by way of lectures, reading relevant literature, taking inspiration from other cultural domains (art, fashion, design, …) and by way of an ongoing artistic process. The process will challenge students to understand and embrace their intuitions, their artistic talents and their intellectual interests. Throughout the semester the artistic process of each student will be guided by offering valuable advice on how to improve projects.
In sum: this course is about discovering your talents and interests. We consider school as a free zone in which the mind can fly high before it enters the real world. Once you know your artistic talents and your intellectual interests, you will know which role you think architecture should play in contemporary society and which distinct position you can take within the field of architecture. Architecture inevitably comes with external demands. Once you know your strengths (and weaknesses) you will be able to consider those demands as challenges to solve, instead of unwanted obstacles that force you into compromise.
You will get reading assignments and you will be invited to search yourself for interesting texts. The texts range from analyses of contemporary society, analyses of the role architecture can play within it and analyses of authorship in architecture. Apart from reading, and in due time writing about the research, you will work on design assignments. To ensure a free artistic process you will get fast making assignments. In due time you will hear how this will be organised, individually and as small group assignments.
At the start of the semester we provide you with a list of names of artists, fashion designers and product designers that, in our view, might offer surprising inspiration for architecture (names can range from Hussein Chalayan, Issey Miyake, Martin Margiela, Thomas Hirschhorn, Hella Jongerius, Jurgen Bey, Martin Kippenberg, to Gerrit Rietveld, Bruce Nauman, Agnes Martin, Anish Kapoor, …; (the list contains no architects, as that would limit and steer your free imagination from the onset.) Note that the final list of options, including names and images, will be send to you prior to the start of the course.
You choose one of the names, or suggest with good arguments a name that is not on the list, and choose one of the works by that person or studio. It’s advised to choose a name with whom you feel affinity.
In the next weeks, you investigate the chosen work, either alone or in small groups, the intentions behind the work, the style and aesthetics, and you start to make replica sketches and scale models in various ways (via constructing in paper, sculpting in foam or clay, differentiating in scales, etcetera). In the next phase, each of you appropriates and translates the chosen work in such a way that it still reminds of the original but will now meet most of all your personal fascinations for architecture. The final work is a model for an architectural space. What kind of space is decided on the basis of your chosen work, the previous models and sketches.
At the end of this course we expect a magazine filled with texts and images, to report about your research into your own future role as an architect-author, and we expect a range of drawings, sketches, models and final design(s).
• The activities comes twice per month and each time the Professor offers new assignments for reading literature, writing texts, and assignments for working on artistic drawings, sketches, animations, models.
• Every lesson starts with a short lecture, dealing with the topics mentioned above, followed by a short group discussion with all students and tutors. When the group is large, small groups will be arranged to ensure all voices are heard.
• You prepare for the lecture and the debate by reading topical texts. See links below, which offers first views on the notion of authorship in architecture and art. In due time you will be informed on the specifics of what is expected. And before the start of the course you will receive the title of a text you read before the first lesson.
• As you continue to work on reading literature, writing texts, and work on artistic expressions, each lesson is focussed on feedback sessions on your artistic progress.
Programme for students who cannot attend the lessons:
In general we disadvice students to try to take the exam without attending the lessons, as the focus on the artistic process deserves regular feedback, based on discussing sketches and models. In case non-attending students are not able to come, they have to do a special exam that will consist of two parts.
1. Part one is a substantial essay in which the student reflects on texts he/she has read. As the student misses the talks in classes, we expect him/her to read an extended bibliography on which he/she bases his/her insights.
2. Part two consists of a physical display of all the elements that are also expected from the attending students (see above): a magazine filled with texts and images, to report about your research into your own future role as an architect-author, and we expect a range of drawings, sketches, models and final design(s).
At the start of the semester you will hear how much reading and writing is expected (part one) and when the results of part two are expected.
To get some first insights on the topic of authorship in architecture and art:
On Architecture and Authorship: A Conversation
Authorship in Art – The Victim of Appropriation
Common Authorship: Towards an Authority of Art