Architecture + Economy
The programme curriculum is organised around two-year thematic cycles, which will start every September together with every new generation of students. The themes are intended as intellectual and projective anchors that will define the direction of studio work, seminar discussions and thesis projects across all four semesters. By the conclusion of every two year cycle and student generation, research and student work on each theme will result in a publication.
During the first cycle (2017–2019), the programme will be structured around the question of the relation between Architecture and Economy. The broad theme of Economy is suggested as a platform that could allow to introduce and critically interrogate an ‘operational’ interpretation of design. This operational interpretation is broadly conceived as the investigation of the agency of architecture in the production of a series of ‘material assemblies’ across scales, from the building to the territory.
At the scale of the territory, material assemblies can be conceived as the physical imprints of forms of territorial organisation, which in turn correspond to the spatial arrangement of processes of social production and reproduction. These arrangements (combinations of buildings, structures and infrastructures) are collectively produced through a series of actors (social, economic, administrative) and are active agents, turning space into a force of production. Thus, Economy is not only referring to the spatial organisation of the various sectors of the economy (location of economic activities), and their various ‘ecologies’ of services (commodity chains, production networks, logistics etc), but also to their interweaving with the bio-geographical systems that enable them (housing, nutrition and waste systems, energy structures and commuting patterns). The programme aims to investigate the materialities of these forms of territorial organisation, their formal and functional properties, to examine the designed and non-designed artefacts that constitute them, and to chart how they come together into larger typologies (buildings, blocks, landscapes, infrastructures, etc).
The case of the greater Luxembourg region is suggested as an exemplary case of investigation, showcasing strong shifts in forms of territorial organisation corresponding to the shifting focus economic activity (from landscapes of agricultural production, to industrial and post-industrial forms of territorial organisation, which are often overlaid or coexisting).
The question of Economy also applies to the conceptualisation of the design and production process of buildings and built environments: Built structures could be conceived as material ensembles themselves, organizing space not only through their structure, but also through their production. Thus, an additional layer of investigation is introduced, one that focuses on questions of building technologies and techniques, building materials and their sourcing and commodity chains, life cycle analysis, etc.
In addition to helping frame an analytical, typological approach, the theme of the Economy is also suggested as the basis for a projective approach towards the development of ‘economic’ modes, both of territorial organisation, and of production of built environments, as well as building processes. The importance of this projective approach is based on the urgent need to establish alternative ‘economic’ models of working, living and building, that would be able to critically assess, and eventually transcend, past paradigms towards ‘Existenz Minimum‘, current tendencies toward ‘austerity urbanisms’, or the proliferation of technologically driven models of ‘smart’ optimisation and environmental and financial efficiency of buildings and built environments.