Unit 5 “in/out crisis”: emergent and adaptive
Alessandra Swiny, Yiorgos Hadjichristou, Michalis Georgiou, Natasa Christou
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Jonathan Hill, Weather Architecture, Routledge, London 2013.
- David Gissen, Subnature: Architecture’s Other Environments, Princeton Architectural Press, Princeton 2005.
- Architecture for Humanity, Kate Stohr, Cameron Sinclair, Design Like you Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises, Metropolis Books, New York 2006