UNIT 5 “in/out crisis”: emergent and adaptive



Project: Unit 5 “in/out crisis”
Authors/Tutors: Alessandra Swiny, Yiorgos Hadjichristou, Michalis Georgiou, Natasa Christou
Location: Department of Architecture [ARC], University of Nicosia
Date: 2013-2015

Student Projects:
Penelope Vasquez Hadjilyra
Constantia Djialli and Maria Christophi
Kerry Kyriakou
Aris Aristodemou
Alexandra Tarkasi & Georgia Hadjimatheou
Eleni-Anthi Mintsiou
Theodoros Zarkas

Unit 5 link: https://in-out-crisis.com

Unit 5 – Architectural Design Studio taught at the Department of Architecture [ARC],  University of Nicosia, Cyprus
“Crises are ultimately productive” provokes Mark Wigley. “They force invention. Radical destruction gives way to new forms of production”. This notion is the foundation for the investigations led in the Unit 5 “in/out crisis”. The Unit sets the premise and the educational environment to respond to current global “crises”, through an optimistic approach focusing on current emergency situations.  The aim is to generate intelligent strategies that produce potential and alternative solutions.



Theodoros Zarka_ No Land Country

“If an emergency can be at any scale, from a broken bone to a continent, what turns it into crisis is when its effect exceeds the local scale”. Wigley expands the systemic impact of the crisis which extends to unprecedented limits by stating, “in a crisis, things spin out of scale and therefore out of control. The whole environment is threatened…”.


We see crises as direct or indirect derivatives of human activities, or “subnatures” as David Gissen suggests.  These “subnatures” are absorbed into the “threatened environment” to generate a new “nature”. Jonathan Hill discusses these interrelationships and concludes that, “Natures produce cultures and cultures produce natures”. The resultant, continuously mutating “weather” is seen by Hill as a main architectural author, determining a new social and cultural built environment.

Within the above context, students were asked to creatively respond to the thematic of the Unit. They delved deeply into four determining types of crisis, (environmental, political, social, and financial) precisely analysing relevant “terrains” such as those that are flooded, radioactive, desertified, etc. The paths of investigation were explored through the following juxtaposed techniques; analogue versus digital, handmade versus fabricated, and low-tech versus high-tech. These “lenses” initiated a probing into the existing negative crisis and emergency conditions. Newly proposed programmatic elements such as emergent habitation, salvage alteration, and adaptive cultivation technologies allowed students to suggest extraordinary and innovative solutions.


Kerry Kyriakou_ 18th Ward: A Synthetic Bayou

Of the thirty projects, three are elaborated upon in detail below, illustrating how each responds to a certain crisis condition and its related “terrain”.

In 1962 the underground coal mine of Centralia, USA caught fire. Instead of allowing the small town to become devastated by the flames and smoke, “The Plume Project”, takes advantage of this uninhabitable earthy-hell by elevating a cloud-like, ethereal series of capsules, utilizing cutting-edge technological devices. Inhabitants thus are able to survive and even prosper in this unbearable environment due to the process of the captured plumes of smoke and heat. Ultimately, the resulting unprecedented spatial conditions serve to filtering the air, controlling the temperatures and offering a nebulous, floating and almost dream-like living environment.

In the earthquake torn town of Crevalcore, in Italy, “Parasitizing the void: post quake vision”, proposes implants of “urban branches” operating as support structures, activating the existing “ruined” old buildings. An elegant dialogue with the surviving architecture takes into consideration issues of memory, heritage, development, and possibilities of upcoming disasters.


Eleni Anthi Mintsiou_ Parasitizing the Void

The small town of Araouane, Mali, is the last cross-road of the Sahara, existing water wells inspire inversed vertical structures creating a new living underground network, protecting the nomads from catastrophic sand storms. “Inverted utopia: lost things in the sand”, weaves a series of tea-houses and a library holding lost artifacts and transcripts into a complex underground labyrinth.


Penelope Vasquez Hadjilyra_ Inverted Utopia

Through the process of the Unit, these future architects master the ability to become responsive to complex, ever-changing conditions. Following Hill’s discourse, “weather makes architecture more ambiguous, unpredictable and open to varied interpretation”, and Wigley’s conclusion that “there cannot be a crisis architect or crisis architecture but there can be emergency architects and emergency architecture”, we see “crisis” as the triggering point for emergent, unprecedented emergency architecture that sheds light on a more promising and fascinating future.


Aris Aristodemou_ Tranformer


  1. Mark Wigley, Space in Crisis, in Jun Jiang, Mark Wigley, Jeffrey Inaba, Urban China Bootlegged for Volume by C-Lab, C-Lab, New York 2009
  2. Jonathan Hill, Weather Architecture, Routledge, London 2013.
  3. David Gissen, Subnature: Architecture’s Other Environments, Princeton Architectural Press, Princeton 2005.
  4. Architecture for Humanity, Kate Stohr, Cameron Sinclair, Design Like you Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises, Metropolis Books, New York 2006


Unit 5_Student Names: Kerry Kyriakou, Marietta Paraskevaidi, Constantina Kyriakou, Vasilia Kokotsi, Monica Kakou, Richard Elia, Theodoros Zarkas, Maria Ioannou, Elli Mara, Panagiotis Kyriakou, Constantia Djialli, Maria Christofi, Penelope Vasquez Hadjilyra, Georgia Hadjimatheou, Alexandra Tarkasi, Aristos Aristodemou, Gavriel Panayiota, Eleni Anthi Mintsiou, Athanasios Ragkousis

Alessandra Swiny (Department Head/Associate Professor), Yiorgos Hadjichristou (Professor) and Michalis Georgiou (Assistant Professor) are practicing architects and teach at the Department of Architecture, University of Nicosia, Cyprus. They studied at Barnard/Columbia, Harvard, Kiev, Kyoto University, NTUA, and the Bartlett. Each are recipients of a number of national and international awards including Europan 9, Venice Architecture Biennale, Golden Prize of the UIA, and Mies Van Der Rohe Awards. In recent years their work concentrates on issues of emergency architecture, immaterial/intangible architecture, and digital/fabrication design respectively.


Maria Ioannou_ 4th year portfolio:


ARCH-401_Architectural Design VI


The course presents advanced problems in design dealing with complex and environmental problems emphasizing the planning of large-scale institutional and public buildings. Students are encouraged to use their experience of different constructional/structural models and their aesthetic properties to choose aptly and with sensibility from the full range of possibilities. The motivation for energy efficiency on an international, national and individual basis is discussed. An investigation of the way in which buildings respond to both the external and internal climatic c

ARCH-402_Advanced Architectural Studio


Architecture primarily concerns the design of individual buildings and seldom has the mandate to challenge the nature of the city itself. Conversely, planning deals with the city as a whole but generally stops short of specific design interventions, leaving open the question of what alternative spatial forms the future city might take. One of the major aims of the course is to encourage the critical debate on environmental, social, and cultural issues confronting contemporary urban societies, and the role that urban design can play in addressing these fundamental issues

ARCH-501_Introduction to Final Project

ARCH-502_Final Project


The structure for year 4 and 5 is designed to encourage and support students to become independently creative, develop their personal projects, architectural propositions and ideologies. This educational model is based on both independent research and collaborative learning developed within the environment of studios, which are called ‘Units’.

Click on the images below to view full size







What is a ‘Unit’?

  • Units are small research groups within which the design studio is taught.
  • Each unit provides a specific framework acting as a lens through which students examine their own research interests.
  • Staff research and contemporary architectural issues drive the units’ agendas and program.

Why a ‘Unit’ system?

  • Unit teaching responds to a broader cultural and political trends in architectural education.
  • The unit system offers an exciting and innovative range of architectural research areas and produces unique propositions.
  • The system is designed to provide opportunities for a mix of experiences and outcomes.
  • Students take charge of their own learning – enabling greater choice in their own pathway.
  • Units provide a more flexible way of working, responding to both internal and external influences.

How does a ‘Unit’ work?

In a studio environment, students initiate research and discussion and exchange ideas within the framework of the unit theme.

  • Students will stay in the same unit for at least a whole year.
  • There will be deadlines and timetables.
  • Unit themes will continue from year to year, tutors may change.
  • A final product must emerge through the research / design process (the criteria of the final product will be common to all units).
  • Projects must have an internal coherence and a contemporary reference.
  • The Unit system will give the opportunity to students to learn from one another (peer learning).
  • The details for each Unit are developed from a dialogue between the staff and students concerning the nature and intention of the projects to be undertaken.
  • The largest part of the work produced is student – driven. Architectural knowledge and expertise is synthesised through the students’ own projects. It is a unique opportunity for students to actively drive their studies and take informed decisions for the future.



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