Gesamtkunstwerk is the ‘total work of art’. In an architectural context, it refers to the designing of all facets of a building, from the furnishings and fixtures to the building envelope and landscape.
In contemporary architectural practice, the selection and specification of ready-made building components for incorporation into a design is a convenient and commercial reality. This studio will aim to position these architectural ‘fragments’ as a driver of process and rather than an afterthought. Students will make careful consideration of not only the position and placement of these fragments, their purpose and relationship to each other, but also how they may come to inform the architecture at large. Students will be asked to design at a range of scales, in isolation and in dialogue with an overall site and building schematic.
While the semester will limit the extent that can be designed, students will design a selection of building fragments of various scales using architectural themes as a guide or brief — e.g. Approach, Street, Entrance, Circulation, etc. which may result in designs of openings, stairs, floor, lettering and signage, systems, door handles, furniture, lighting fixtures, façade, roof etc. — before a building is addressed more holistically. With each new implementation, accumulated designs will require iteration and integration. This nuanced approach will guide students as they interpret a functional brief and work towards a finalised architectural outcome.
With an intimate understanding of the physical site, its inhabitation, ephemera and phenomenology, students will be encouraged to develop an architectural language, conceptual and/or narrative link between these building fragments and the city, while creating methods of representation (and narrative) to demonstrate the item in context. This “seat to city” (J.B. Bakema, Antwerp, 1964) approach will require students to design the part, with the whole in mind.
Free Site Study:
Unstructured or ‘free’ site documenting: This studio will aim to challenge the often-linear architectural practice of documenting and representing site and existing conditions. Students will be invited to undertake a rigorous non-empirical study of a given site. In documenting this process, students will be invited to recall the site imaginatively but critically, and may yield responses that are ‘psychogeographical’, poetic, intellectual, impressionistic, playful, historical research/narrative based or otherwise. In terms of architectural representation, this approach will pose interesting tensions between the abstract and the figurative, the codified and the representational.
Students will be asked to create their own inventories of site ‘collectables’ as a means of recalling and consolidating significant site themes. Collections may include various minutiae of thematic relevance to the Gesamtkunstwerk tasks — Approach, Street, Entrance, Circulation, etc. For example, a record of the existing openings (doors / windows etc.) present in the site surroundings or a more broad-based, exploratory collection with which to navigate the range of site characteristics.
This inventory may take the form of a photographic survey, architectural drawings or otherwise. These collections should serve as a method for understanding the role and importance of precedent in architecture.
Scales & Fabrication
In the Gesamtkunstwerk studio, there will be a focus on large scale model-making to develop architectural outcomes. Investigations into fabrication, craft, manufacturing techniques and other design fields — furniture, product, textile design etc. — will be encouraged.
Fortnightly & weekly small-scale assignments refined over the course of the semester.
Gottfried Bohm, Basalt door, ‘Madonna in the ruins chapel’, Cologne, 1950.