Yeoryia Manolopoulou, Niall McLaughlin, Michiko Sumi
Thirteen‐hundred years ago, two buildings appeared at the opposite ends of the great Eurasian
landmass. One is a Christian chapel on an island in the west of Ireland, and the other a Shinto shrine
in a forest in Japan. For two buildings conceived in entirely disconnected cultures and time, they
show remarkable similarities; the crossing of the rafters on the gables, originally a pragmatic
construction detail, has in both cases been retained to serve a symbolic function. Additionally, people
inhabit both buildings today.
Those forms and meanings endure even as the buildings decay and are rebuilt again and again. Time
itself is a very significant character of their architecture. Both are versions of previous buildings that
existed on the site and borrow forms from their now‐lost ancestors. But, they differ significantly from
each other: the Christian chapel is built to endure for millennia on its blasted site. It is a once‐ timber
structure, now rebuilt in stone to last until the end of time. The Shinto shrine achieves permanence
by being rebuilt in perfect replica on an adjacent empty lot and taken apart every twenty years.
So, the Western building follows time’s arrow in a linear trajectory, while the Eastern building is
endlessly repeated in a concept of time that is circular and cyclical. These deep models of time that
underlie building activity brings us beyond pragmatism into another dimension of architecture that
is dreamlike, even ghostly.
This year we will take the theme of time as our subject, the time of the design process itself is a space:
it could be a moment or a century. Does it matter how we think of time in a conception and life of the
building? The construction process and the building site are all temporary architectures with a
powerful presence in the landscape: they are fugitive places where people work and live and dream,
and then they disappear. The building aims to endure the continuous scouring of weather,
inhabitation and change. It might become itself over time, or it might dissolve and loose its identity.
When is it the most itself? Other buildings and other places haunt most buildings that we know.
Architecture might always be a fantasy about the past or the future. Can it have a present tense? We
seek to explore the dimension of time in the life of a building, from the sketch to the ruin.
There will be three areas of focus in our investigations this year. We will explore the themes of
Landscapes, Construction and Dream. Certain places, certain landscapes can become charged with
significance. We want to design in these places in a way that understands and amplifies their deep
poetic character. We believe that construction begins in particularity and ends in magic and sacred.
We want to trace these paths and transformations in our own work. Making charged constructions in
significant landscapes will take us into the boundary between the knowable world and the world of
dreams of the unsayable. Architecture should strive to be just beyond the limits of out rational
understanding. It is this fragile, poetic quality that will allow it to endure because, like the Irish
chapel and the Shinto shrine, it will be treasured. Our physical construction will become a point on
the timeline of the two buildings.
All students in our unit will spend the first term designing a ghost building to stand beside the tiny
stone chapel in Ireland. It will be a freely imagined projection of its lost wooden ancestor. We will
each make a large model of our design for Christmas. Then we will go to Japan in January and
stimulate ourselves in a joinery workshop where we will learn skills from the best woodworkers.
YR4 will work with them to produce working drawings of one of the designs. The DR project for YR 4
will involve the design development, detailing and manufacture of one such structure. It will be prefabricated
and constructed by students on the island in Ireland beside the ancient chapel. The
development, organization and execution of this project will be the YR 4 Design Realisation project.
Y5 is free to engage in the process to develop their own researches. From January YR 5 will pursue
individual projects in chosen landscapes in Japan, Ireland or England with programmes exploring the
theme of time in building.