Bartlett Unit 20 2012/13 has started

Unit 20_2012-2013: POROSITY Towards an architecture of permeability

Marcos Cruz, Marjan Colletti, Richard Beckett
Architecture has long been determined by its prime necessity of protection and permanence, which has in turn led to a sense of hardness, closedness and inertia that still affects our cities today. In the early periods of the Modern Movement, architects proclaimed the liberation from heavy and massive constructions by turning to a much more open and free-flowing architecture. The Miesian fluidity of transparent space and Le Corbusian Plan Libre prophesied a new era in which society seemed to have gotten rid of its constraining mass. But the emergence of Postmodernity and the crisis of the Modern Movement exposed the fallacies of previous beliefs. Architecture went back to its former closure and inherently opaque dimension. Designers rediscovered their love for the physical presence of materiality and colour, indulging the embeddedness of architecture in historic form and style.

Contemporary architecture overcame such dialectic positions (of a neither-nor logic) by advocating more hybrid conditions that explored both three-dimensional depth and the ever-permeable condition of space and matter. Profound transformations in our current society, new digital paradigms, and the emergence of an unprecedented environmental awareness are pushing architecture forward to discover a new understanding of material and social porosity. The precincts of our information era has made our domestic environments, in particular, extremely exposed (even vulnerable?), pushing us to reflect on a new sense of intimacy and perception of space. The employment of new geometric, structural and material complexities is also allowing our cities to become physically and technologically more sensitive and surely more pervious to cultural multi-layering. The potential porosity of contemporary buildings is shifting towards an open architecture of ultimate permeability.

Unit 20 will explore these new porous conditions within the context of the river Delta in South East Asia. Whilst analysing the extreme topographic, urban and social diversity of Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Guangdong, students will investigate new modes of private/public life in this part of the world, which is undergoing arguably one of the most rapid and fascinating transformations processes ever occurred in human civilization.