London Bridge is Falling Down: Migration, Murder, and the Architecture of Ambivalence
This year’s studio will explore the potential of architecture to embody ambiguity and negotiate social difference. Our project will be the design of a inhabitable bridge spanning the Thames River in London as community for workers: to house and represent disenfranchised communities that currently reside in the physical and social margins of London.
We will seek to understand what underpins the current indifference to the culture and housing of Britain’s foreign and indigenous workers in London exemplified by the Windrush and Grenfell Tower fire scandals as well as the murders at London Bridge and Borough Market.
At once a memorial and a sanctuary, the Bridge Project will document discontent and support new forms of coherence. It will simultaneously assert and question shifting cultural values. It will consider social options: the juxtaposition, assimilation, confluence or isolation of disparate groups within the city.
We’ll explore the parallels between the liminal, in-between spaces chosen to manifest discontent, the liminal condition of peoples who find themselves caught between different systems of values, and complex, hybrid forms of the classical vocabulary. We will consider the function of these spaces—unclaimed by adjacent communities—as thresholds in the urban landscape: places that are perceived as ‘nowhere,‘ ‘elsewhere,’ or ‘both,‘ that is, two places at once. And we will deploy the architecture and spaces of these thresholds to express and modulate the attitude and relationships of the individuals that use them.
We will look at the lessons atypical forms of British classical architecture might hold for the present that parallel potential social options. We will explore that ways in which integration, juxtaposition, and synthesis of volumetric and skeletal form may extend the traditional meanings of classical architecture beyond those of balance, control, power and continuity, to include expressions of ambivalence, tension, and instability.
As a preparatory exercise to understand London’s current make up, the studio will consider the ways in which the city and British culture have been formed by each other. We will examine the evolution of its social, architectural and urban traditions. Each student will select, touch, and study an artifact presented by curators of Yale Center for British Art collection from one of ten periods assigned to them, from the introduction of classical architecture in 1619 to the present. They will map the city at the time of their objects to understand its context: the evolving topography; transit, power and communications infrastructures; patterns of open spaces and land ownership; and the influx of diverse peoples that created the architecture and the culture of London.
Using a classical building that corresponds to the time of his or her object, each student will explore and manipulate the principles and mechanisms that underpin the traditions of classicism. We will also immerse ourselves in the states of mind engendered by the post-industrial metropolis through literary narratives. And, during Travel Week, we will walk Its streets: to experience the psychic, sociological and architectural conditions of London.
This advanced studio will travel to London during advanced studio travel week.