Culture Containers

Bachelor of Architectural Design
Semester 1, 2021

Studio leader(s)

  • Adrian Fernandez
  • Bella Singal

A Contemporary Art (Non) Institution

Throughout the world, cultural institutions are re-evaluating their role as civic platforms. For many museums, the current political climate and ecological crisis has intensified a sense of social responsibility while amplifying long-standing challenges related to accessibility and inclusivity. Phrases like “transparency” and “community engagement” are prevalent in these narratives for more democratic and representative institutions.

‘Culture Containers’ will look at the relationship between architecture and the evolution of the contemporary art institution as a space of collectivity. Students will design a new contemporary art facility that challenges preconceived ideas of the institution and speculates on new forms of collectivity. Simultaneously the studio will explore architecture as both an aesthetic practice and a social practice through research into contemporary art and other spaces of convergence.

In the first half of the semester, students will begin the studio by undertaking close readings and analysis of a range of contemporary artists working within the praxis of aesthetic practice and social activism, and the spectrum of contemporary and historical architectures that operate within and against the institutions they have been designed to house, from Pioneer Works to The Shed and Glenstone Museum, amongst others. This body of research will be used to develop a position on the relationship between contemporary art and architecture, with the aim of producing a design methodology centred around the conceptualisation of a new non-institutional model for contemporary art.

This new non-institutional model will then be tested through a series of quick design equisses that aim to explore the inherent dichotomies that exist within the contemporary art institution, dichotomies of time, scale, permanence, access etc. These esquisses will be used to reflect upon the model that has been developed, and to begin to identify design concepts, methodologies and subversive subtext for new aesthetic experiences and emergent social relations.

In the second half of the semester, student will take the collective thinking and development of their non-institutional model, design concepts and methodologies and undertake their final project; Designing a Non-Institution for contemporary art on the proposed site of the NGV Contemporary (part of the largest investment in the arts in Victoria’s history). This Non-Institution will reflect the positions developed throughout the semester, and aim to answer the central question of exactly how can architecture be used to challenge preconceived notions of an arts institution, and try to fulfill the lofty ambitions of ‘“working in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world, aiming to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.”