Bartlett UCL Unit 20 2013-14: NOVEL GEOMETRIES FOR URBAN DWELLING Infrastructure, housing and trade – a case in the Persian Gulf

Bartlett UCL Unit 20 2013-14:
NOVEL GEOMETRIES FOR URBAN DWELLING Infrastructure, housing and trade – a case in the Persian Gulf 
Unit 20 is interested in crossing the boundaries of traditional architectural practice, envisioning innovative conditions in design. By considering a wide range of topics from science and art, students are encouraged to develop a two-year research study that is both individual and collaborative. Projects in the unit aim at being poetic, people-centric and always multi-layered. They are developed with a focus on contemporary means of design and production while establishing an architecture that is built up upon social, cultural and historic strata.

This year the interest of the unit lies in exploring the underlying geometries (configurations, relationships, typo-morphologies, lattices) of dwelling within our cities.  Dwelling is quintessential to human existence, and today, more than ever it is in the centre of our architectural/environmental preoccupations. In a time where the world population is rapidly growing and with the majority living in cities, the need to house the basic needs of such a large quantity of people is unprecedented. How do we dwell in our contemporary cities? What drives us more and more into them? What are the social changes that are underpinning our contemporary sense of space?  Are new technologies prompting a new paradigm of dwelling?

Dwelling is not to be confused with housing. It is a broader concept that is at the heart of phenomenological thinking. It questions how we occupy, reside and inhabit the spaces of our contemporary city. It is a condition of primal importance that touches upon notions of identity, proximity, functionality, comfort and protection. Underlying all of these notions are the socio-politics of space, our environment and a new emergent language of architecture that will determine the way in which we will inhabit our future cities.

Unit 20 will study one of the most fascinating and fast developing areas of the world today: the GULF. We endeavour to explore various cities in the region which offer a great variety of historic layers, geo-political complexity, cultural specificity and environmental beauty/fragility. We will tour from Muscat/Oman, along the fortifications of the old spice and pearl trade, via the Strait of Hormuz - the most strategically important check point of oil trade in the world - through desert and oasis, to reach Dubai and later Abu Dhabi/UAE.