©2019 by UNIT 17, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

THE OPEN WORK

Yeoryia Manolopoulou, Niall McLaughlin, Michiko Sumi

In The Open Work Umberto Eco discusses the role of openness in modern art by asking what it means for authors to understand their work as incomplete, left open to the public and to chance. We see buildings exactly in this way: as ‘open works’ experienced and changed over time. Buildings are exposed to accidents, the environment, myriads different interpretations and modes of occupation. They are vulnerable to decline and collapse, human intervention, extension and demolition. Prescribed programmes often change or even become obsolete.

 

 

Our degree of openness towards the evolution of buildings over time determines our design approach and eventually the kind of architecture and cities we produce.

 

This year we will question architecture’s excessive programmatic specificity, welcoming propositions for buildings that are less ‘programmed’. We will explore buildings that have had different purposes in the course of time, lasting and gaining in quality through enduring, despite changes of use and circumstance.

 

No matter how themes change from year to year, our emphasis is always on the design of buildings as spaces to experience, and as meaningful public artifacts in culture and in history. The relationships between ideas, materials, places, environment, political life and the contemporary everyday will continue to preoccupy us. Excessive metaphors, narratives and other overloaded signifiers will be questioned, since our view is that the building should not be explained but experienced.

 

We will declare from the start our openness to your ideas and expect you to lead your projects proactively. The works produced in the unit in the last two decades vary significantly. This plurality of approach suggests a genuine openness to the ways we think about architecture. It is in this spirit that we would like you to bring in the unit new questions and propositions for experiment.

 

Visiting buildings plays an important part in the development of the Unit’s work and we invest substantial energy in designing itineraries that include extraordinary pieces of architecture. In November we will travel to Northern Italy. As a place of contradictions, that denies any singular or fixed meaning, Italy has a fascinating architectural culture to offer. We will visit works by Nervi, Gio Ponti, Terragni, Rossi and Palladio among others.

 

You will develop your main building project throughout the year and base it on a considerable level of architectural research in the context of our theme and fieldtrip.