About Marvels and Catastrophes

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Peter Lang, Professor Architecture Theory and History, KKH.

R-Lab: Marvels and Catastrophes: Architecture and Cities and the Force of Nature

R-Lab is an official participant in the 4th Istanbul Design Biennale, School of Schools, 2018.

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R-Lab this year will be partnered with ARKLAB, Stockholm.

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Disasters expose human helplessness in confronting the full force of nature, but these tragic events can also bring out the best in human compassion and collective action. R-Lab will move through historic and contemporary landscapes, reflect on societies past and present and engage with the peoples who are or will be most affected by the forces of nature, and climatic reversals. R-Lab will conduct short term workshops in these sites, including mapping, documenting as well as envisioning new critical interventions while bringing together experts in the sciences, architecture, design and visual arts.

R-Lab focuses on the role of public memory and its symbolic relationship to architecture, monuments, and landscapes. Students will pursue long-term individual research projects and participate in international workshops producing innovative and experimental practices. The course is open to architects, designers, visual artists, curators and urban practitioners.

 To encourage a broad selection of students from across the European Union, the course functions as a low residency educational program: students from outside Stockholm are required to attend 2 weeklong sessions at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm per semester, and 3 travel workshops during the academic year.  Students also meet on an individual basis once a month either during office hours or on Skype with the instructor to discuss individual projects. The course features a fully comprehensive website, with pages dedicated to news, updated bibliography, events calendar, along with regular program updates, and documentation on travel workshops, public seminars and individual student research projects.  Course lessons and guest lectures will be video recorded and viewable on the course website. Individual student projects and collective workshop projects are published in the annual R-Lab publication. Students may cross enroll in the course Decolonizing Architecture offered at the KKH. The Architecture Area also will coordinate joint lectures and seminars during the academic year.

R-Lab in the coming academic year 2018-2019 considers the preponderant forces of nature and natural disasters on the transformation of architecture and cities.

 The foundation myths of the ancient world often begin in large scale calamities: the Aztecs, for example, believed the world was destroyed four times, and that the present world will be devastated by earthquakes. If in Hellenic myth Atlantis ended submerged under the seas, the destruction of the Roman city of Pompeii was instead eminently factual, captured by history’s first recorded eye-witness accounts. Emanuel Kant, through his early studies of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake rejected supernatural or eschatological visions on nature arguing instead for explanations based on scientific causality. Walter Benjamin understood the vulnerability of the city and the macabre human fascination with urban destruction.

Catastrophes have led to the forecasting of risk, the invention of earth sciences, and at times the suspension of the rule of law. But we are no more capable of mitigating future disasters or closer to understanding the effects of cataclysms on our lives then when the Vesuvius blanketed Pompeii.  And we are no less awed by the sublimity of these terrific spectacles then was Pliny the Elder when he succumbed to the eruptions of the Vesuvius while attempting a heroic naval rescue mission.

Disasters expose human helplessness in confronting the full force of nature, but these tragic events can also bring out the best in human compassion and collective action. R-Lab will move through historic and contemporary landscapes, reflect on societies past and present and engage with the peoples who are or will be most affected by the forces of nature, and climatic reversals. R-Lab will conduct short term workshops in these sites, including mapping, documenting as well as envisioning new critical interventions while bringing together experts in the sciences, architecture, design and visual arts. Particular attention will be paid to how these phenomena have been historically portrayed in contemporary culture, through the analysis of urban reconsolidation, architectural restoration, artefacts, souvenirs, films and other forms of study and interpretation.

Travel Workshops: The r-Lab course will be conducting two travel workshops, one in the Fall, and one in the Spring. The Fall workshop this year will begin in  Naples and Pompeii and then continue  to Istanbul to participate in the School of Schools, curated by Jan Boelen for the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial. In Naples, the workshop will conduct a field study on Mount Vesuvius, including the  Observatorio Vesuviano, one of the earliest scientific observatories of its kind established on the volcano’s active crater (1841). The course will then visit  the adjacent archaeological sites in Pompeii. In Istanbul, students will work from inside the Biennial, together with the Swedish Architect’s office ARKLAB, to develop a series of workshops and seminars on the future of  architectural curricula in the age of climate change and extreme planetary events. (Tentative travel workshop dates: 13 to 21 October)

The second  field trip and workshop to take place in the Spring of 2019 will focus on future of disasters and post-apocalyptic scenarios in the  Baltic region, with a special focus on the investigation and  the planning  of a specific long term radioactive fuel storage site —( Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository, Finland). The institutional partner for the Spring workshop will be ARKDES Museum in Stockholm. (Tentative travel workshop dates: 15 to 21 March).

 

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