· Area of study: International Master in Architecture, Design Studio Brussels
· Beginning and ending date: Sept 25 – Jan 8, 14 weeks
· Number of students: 10 international students
· Schedule: every Tuesday 9AM-1PM, 2PM-5.30PM, semester 1
· Credits: 15 ECTS credits (10 Designstudio / 5 Theor. Component)
· Teaching team: arch. Martine De Maeseneer, arch. Gideon Boie, ir. arch Dirk Jaspaert
· Cluster: Colombia – Spain – Sweden
Theme: Exclusive Spaces, Spaces of Exclusion. Human Prisons.
For the parallel pilot project (PPP) in Community Buildings the starting point is the relation of a community building towards its context and the city. In “Exclusive Spaces, Spaces of Exclusion” we will investigate the way how community buildings (in the most broadest sense) could be engaged in the urban fabric. With this topic, we want to propose an urban and architectural discussion about accessibility and permeability in community buildings, and their relation to the built environment and towards the society it relates through. Lately, the definition of who can enter a building (and when, where and based on which criteria) has become as important as other functional, morphological or conceptual issues. From the idea of gated communities (exclusive space) to the increasing appearance of blinded fortified buildings (only made accessible for the rich), from urban ghettos (often to be read as spaces of exclusion on a bigger scale, with access filtered by race, income or interests) to highly exclusive cultural temples (operas, high tech libraries, elite musea, …) or the more specific case of prisons (the provocative Guantanamo model), all cases refer to spaces that have a very limited or restricted accessibility of possibility of exit. Related to that, the proposed permeability of its architecture changes (see the recent increase of the fencing phenomenon). This topic could be filled in by each partner on the scale necessary, by multiple programs and chosen complexity, but by a common ground: accessibility and permeability in the contemporary landscape. We could approach studios from a territorial, functional or environmental approach, we could end up defining a building, a streetscape or a neighborhood. Some references could be shared, some outcomes could be compatible, on different levels.
Objectives of the local design studio
During one semester, this (integrated) design studio, organised at Sint Lucas Architecture School, as a (parallel) pilot project of the ALFA III, ADU_2020 program, will focus on “Human Prisons”. The reformation of justice in Belgium is gearing up today with the construction of ca. 16 detention facilities and 4 centers for forensic psychiatry. The ‘Fundamental Law concerning the prison system and the legal position of detainees’ (2005) is the guiding light for a total make-over. The custodial sentence may deprive an individual from his freedom but shall not any longer estrange him from fundamental human rights. Besides translating this in a new jurisdiction there is an urgent need for a modernization of the most important apparatus for the execution of sentence, the prison. Therefore the Master Plan 2008-2012-2016 includes the architectural and spatial quality as a means to arrive at the long awaited humane prisons.
A framework of socio-spatial exclusion
Prison spaces lie often not so far away from cities while inmates are excluded from the rest of society. Should we not have a broader view of the spaces of exclusion, considering the physical location of prison and the prison space experience. ‘Analysing the actual physical location of prisons, they are situated closer than expected to big cities. Some local authorities argue in favor of the installation of a prison on their territory. At the French national scale, prisons overall are not as isolated from the rest of the population as it may seem. Interestingly, it is more at a local scale, where we discovered that people do not want to live close to a prison. Furthermore, inmates do not always experience prison space as a space of exclusion. These experiences represent a broad spectrum, and are very subjective, in particular some inmates feel themselves to be completely abandoned, whereas others recreate a localised world, full of experiences and encounters’ (Milhaud, Olivier, France, 2009)
The four new prisons under realization today (Beveren, Dendermonde, Leuze, Marche) however hardly live up to the expectations that are set sky high. Although in the architectural design is valorized in the public private partnership (with o.a. the participation of Stéphane Beel Architects) the fundamental views concerning the execution of sentence remain unchanged. The designs repeat one-on-one the 19th Century views of the Belgian philanthropist Edouard Ducpétiaux in a contemporary formal language, in terms of individual confinement, centrally controlled facilities as well as monumental urban setting.
The re-use of 19th Century forms for execution of sentence is symptomatic for the total lack of debate on humane prison architecture. The challenge therefore is to envision in the coming prison production (in Wilrijk/Antwerp and Haren/Brussels) a fundamental modernization of prison architecture in Belgium. This cannot take place without directing and framing the design agenda in the search for a human prison.
ADU aims to be tested
1. Interdisciplinary working dynamics (mixing different professional disciplines): testing the ability to integrate the visions, working methods of different disciplines in the parallel design studios and its related production of knowledge. eg. how does the incorporation of a sociologist affect the outcomes of a design studio? Please define what is the difference between trans/cross/inter-disciplinary. Is trans-disciplinarity a work method to tackle complexity, while interdisciplinarity is merely appropriate for simplicity? Please elaborate.
2. What is the relation of this studio to creative thinking? How is this stimulated in the design studio? How does it affect the working dynamics and outcomes? What is the relation to experimentation and innovation? How do you deal with critical thinking as a mean to generating new ideas? Creative learning environment: different ways of producing and discussing knowledge: is there a relationship between the used working methods and the outcomes? Can we stimulate creativity by applying variations in the way we evaluate the different proposals? Which part of the studio refers to “artifact oriented” studio and which parts to “research oriented studio”, the first referring to produce knowledge, the last to question the already obtained knowledge? What method do you use in order to promote innovation and creativity? How much focus is put on research in order to investigate the design situation and on the problem solving in order to design the artifact?
3. Learning environment and working methods.The level of involvement in academic, professional or pragmatic environments, in a simultaneous and parallel way: are the PPP/WS requirements based on top-down learning models or do they occur on an emergent basis? Which learning activities are part of traditional master-apprentice relationships, which ones are based on a non-hierarchic way of producing knowledge? Which are advantages and disadvantages in each case?
4. Relation with recent phenomena in ADU: how is this PPP/WS activity connected to recent phenomena in ADU? How does the link with “hot topics” affect the outcomes and abilities of students? (Eg. fencing, programming public space, new keywords and concepts)
5. The social and cultural relevance of the contents and outcomes: is the creative process based on social and cultural references, provided by site choice, program, theme? Does the international dimension of the participants and its inherent socio-cultural understanding of reality affect the project’s outcomes?
6. What is the understanding and how is dealt with “materiality” in the studio: from the process (making physical models, impact of site visits,…) till the proposal (scale 1:1, prototypes, simulations, hand on studio…) (Eg. are the projects considering their materials before or after their processes?)
Methodology and relation with ADU partners
“Exclusive Spaces, Spaces of Exclusion” should be seen as a way to discuss the advantages and problems of the relation of a community building and the societal context. Two important terms are used to investigate the project in its specific context: ‘borders’ and ‘social limits’. The design commission tackles questions of permeability and accessibility in relation and its surrounding urban context. The studios can take into account social significance, local identity & culture, societal stratifications, urban imaginaries, urban reality, morphological dimensions, technological issues. Demised accessibility or fencing doesn’t have to be always a negative aspect of architecture but can regulate the building towards the communal life, taken in possession by a local community.
The variety of cases studies, chosen by the respective partners will guarantee a critical and open discussion on the general theme and the produced outcomes.
This outline for design studio (with theoretical components, integrated within the studio), will have parallel equivalents at other HEI’s, with different inputs or approaches.