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Architecture and Migration
Summer School

© University of Luxembourg

Architecture and Migration
Summer School

01.09.2016 – 10.09.2016
Schengen

Between September 1–10, 2016, a diverse group of architects, scholars and spatial thinkers, gathers in Schengen around the first Summer School on Architecture and Migration organised by the University of Luxembourg. The Summer School aims to examine the spatial complexities of the various forms of migration and explore the potential agency of architects and city planners in dealing with questions of spatial integration and the organization of refugee settlements. The Summer School comprises of a two-day conference, followed by an intensive week-long workshop with selected students from design and planning backgrounds, and concludes with a presentation of the student projects and a keynote lecture by the renowned sociologist Saskia Sassen. While the conference theme is symbolically encapsulated by the historic specificity of Schengen (where the agreement on the borderless Europe was signed), the structure of the conference successfully reflects the interdisciplinary approach and the projective, yet pragmatic design explorations that the Master in Architecture, European Urbanisation and Globalisation at Luxembourg University aims to foreground.

The first day of the conference opens with a lecture by the anthropologist Eveline Du?rr, who offers a broad framing of the cultural dimensions of immigration and the associated challenges. She is directly followed by architects Aglaée Degros, Stefan Bendiks, who offers a ‘grounding’ of several of the issues raised through the discussion of studio work with the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts on Vienna’s ‘Arrival City’ Favoriten. The next presentation by the architectural historian Véronique Patteeuw positions the debate within a historical perspective, foregrounding how the persistent challenges of design disciplines regarding the relation of social mobility and the flexibility of spatial configurations has led in innovative habitation models during the fifties, by architects such as Yona Friedman, Cedric Price and Constant Nieuwenhuys. The last presentation of the first day re-projects the potentials of architectural experimentation back to the contemporary condition, with the architect Arno Brandlhuber revealing through his work the constraints of regulatory regimes as sources of creativity.

The second day continues along the same lines, balancing theory and practice, and contributions from architecture and surrounding disciplines. The first presentation by Birte Nienaber offeres a geographical interpretation of the question of migration, focusing on the historical evolution of migratory patterns in the greater Luxembourg region and the recent challenges from the current refugee crisis. The next presentation by ARCH+ editor Anh - Linh Ngo brings the discussion back to design and especially to its communicative aspects, but also offers an experiential aspect based on his life path as a refugee and immigrant. The personal, experiential atmosphere thickens during the next presentation by Friedrich Bokern, who communicates valuable aspects of his first hand experience of the refuge crisis in Lebanon through the activities of his NGO. Finally, the last presentation by the architect Matthias Armengaud offers a similarly pragmatic elaboration of the challenges of negotiation that are necessarily involved in design practices. Focusing on his work for the redesign of La Défense, he foregrounds how the laborious interplay with administrative apparatuses can become part of the creative process, offering a valuable insight on how architects and planners can successful interact with the context within which they are expected to produce and implement their proposals.

During the workshop that follows the two-day conference, the intellectual richness and diversity of the interdisciplinary contributions largely helps the critical engagement with the question of migration and the agency of the design disciplines. With the continuous guidance of the tutors the projects are developed in three directions which covers almost the whole range of architectural experimentation and scales, from a very pragmatic approach, to a critical engagement with formal speculations, and finally to large scale territorial visionary explorations.

The first group, led by Shahram Agaajani, responds to the very urgent challenges of the refugee crisis in a very straight forward and realistic way, by suggesting the re-use and re-design of shipping containers into catalysts for cultural and economic interaction, catalysts which could be placed in selected locations through Luxembourg and serve the integration of the isolated communities of refugees. The second group, led by Philippe Nathan, reacts to the critical realism of the aforementioned approach with a series of typological explorations, investigating the capacity of architectural form to project alternative scenarios of migratory arrangements back to society through altered landscape imageries of regional formations. The group suggests that today’s inability to react properly requires for tomorrow’s capacity to anticipate poetically and as such sought architecture’s agency both as a symbolic container and a radiator of anticipated futures. The projective experimentation with future scenarios is taken several steps further by the last group led by Can Onaner, which tries to re-envision in a speculative, yet systematic way alternative border rearrangements across the European continents. The conceptual experiment behind the projects required envisioning the border zones as zones of permanent and dynamic inhabitation. As inhabitation along these zones would densify, the zones would start to thicken creating continuous strips of inhabitation and internalised mobility, and promising new forms of citizenship. Besides the speculative cartographic experimentation, the group questions the role of architecture and formal appropriation of these new corridors, leading to new forms of urbanisation.

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