Unit 20 2007/08

Diploma Unit 20 marcosandmarjan
The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London



Programme 07/08: 
Trade and Traditions. The Miami Case

Unit 20 endeavours to dispose of a long-standing dual thinking that reduces the conceptual framework of architectural discussion and production. Are tradition (identity, local, long-termed, static, historic, narrative-based, top-down approach) and trade (innovation, dislocated, short-termed, dynamic, speculative, logistic-based, both-ways approach), as well as 'essence and form', 'traditional and modern', 'analogue and digital' opposed, divergent, incompatible? As much as observing the past, the unit concentrates on a meticulous integration of the projects, as well as interpreting the contemporary society - especially in terms of new habits and particular manners in which private and public spaces are appropriated.
The unit's agenda aims at global sophistication within a local context of traditions. This year's brief attends in particular to the historical development of London and Miami's socio-cultural space towards a thoroughly contemporary architectural proposal that incorporates 'other' sensibilities (related to trade and tradition, as well as technological and manufacturing processes). The focus lies on the reinterpretation of traditional building typologies and technologies of architecture related to the context and content of trading (as chosen by each individual student): pavilions, fairs, markets, etc.

Trade is above all understood as an exchange of goods, ideas, people, culture, etc. Larger urban settlements have different trading traditions. London's trading traditions for example are perhaps historically the most cosmopolitan (Commonwealth), Tokyo and New York's the most aggressive, Los Angeles's the most mediatic (Hollywood), and San Francisco's the most digital (Silicon Valley). Miami, rather known for its Art Deco buildings, sunny shores and glamorised vices, is now America's most important art trading platform. It hosts the Art Basel Miami Beach (the sister event of the most important annual art show, among many others): a new type of cultural crossover event that includes, parties, music, design and architecture exhibitions.

Culture is yet just one of many forms of trading that is growing rapidly and simultaneously in various parts of the world. There is for example media technology progressing extremely fast and having an immediate impact on product design. Yet the built environment seems to be limping behind, still stereotyped as monumental, heavy, and solid - traditional…