NTU Architecture Subject Group

MA Year 1

Intervening in the City - No more blah blah blah

Increasingly buildings come to be designed in response to mechanics of their own erection or, alternatively, processual elements such as towers cranes, elevators, escalators, stairs, refuse chutes, gangways, service cores, and automobiles determine the configuration of built form to a far greater extent than the hierarchic and more public criteria of place. High-rise megaliths of a modern city maintain their potential status as ― consumer goods.

Kenneth Frampton (in Hays 2000)

In 1967 Cedric Price proposed to transform the ruined industrial region of North Staffordshire into a mobile university campus. The resulting Potteries Thinkbelt became the first large-scale project to anticipate the passage from material to immaterial production as the driving force of an advanced capitalist economy. Shortly afterwards, in 1969, the Open University was established as a new model of education, open to both country and city beyond the insularity of the campus. Both initiatives made clear that higher education was no longer an Ivory Tower of knowledge reserved for the ruling elite, but was becoming a mass phenomenon directly linked to economic production.

Today knowledge and information are bought and sold as if they were commodities, universities are at the centre of this. The vehicles for this exchange are not the various academic departments and a body of knowledge, whether artistic or scientific, but the students themselves. Unlike manufacturing articles and artefacts, within knowledge production it is not possible to detach the commodity from life itself. And so rather than absorbing specific forms of knowledge, students learn how to live, how to network, how to compete. In this way education becomes a ’Collabatory’* empowered with the mass production of subjects ready to be implemented into the precarious conditions of work. *William Wulf in 1989.

Towards a Collabatory

In the past creative work addressed a minority. Today, in economically advanced countries, it constitutes the larger sector of production. Mass creativity has a profound impact on economy. Creative people are no longer only artists, writers, or musicians, today creativity involves all aspects of non-machine work and is arguably likely to be the last unique contribution of humankind within the workplace. A fundamental incubator for this creativity should be the university.

The Project

The topic of this year’s IITC project will be a place for students, researchers and service providers. We will be proposing university as a new form of welfare for those who learn, work and produce in precarious conditions. Each student will work on a project, which will articulate in original and inventive ways an idea of learning community that is different from those communities that we already know, borrowing knowledge from the VS studies that have explored how Steiner and the Anthroposophical movement worked to re-think education 100 years ago. IITC encourages the investigation of new ways of sharing and collectively managing space.

Both the physical and intangible heritage of place will define our initial research, developing place specific architecture constitutes a central aspect of our approach. Each student will work with an existing, significant, building currently at risk in Edinburgh - this brief has a simple hypothesis - we need space, but do we need to make new buildings when existing buildings are left to rot or be torn down for no earthly good reason.

Simon Beames