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Frameless Architecture

Our classification of the world is the result of a desire to impose order on the chaos we are born into. In nature we classify the species, in society we classify our relationships, and in architecture we classify the spaces we design and inhabit. In many cases, classification is a useful tool that allows us to root ourselves in time and space.

Classification can also be the enemy of imagination, suffocating our desire to wonder and discover new associations. It can limit the understanding of what surrounds us and disjoint elements that should not be separated. Framing perception can become a reductive force.

In his book Atlas: How to Carry the World on One’s Back, Didi Huberman uses ‘atlas’ in its broadest sense to mean a ‘collection of images’. Huberman explores two different ‘uses of reading’: a denotative sense in search of messages, and a connotative sense in search of montages. The dictionary is a predictable tool for the former, and the atlas is the ‘unexpected apparatus’ for the latter[1].

The atlas is frameless and endless. It surpasses boundaries and restrictions and is in a state of constant renewal. The atlas enables our imagination to trigger new associations, new relations. Although we may start with a search for the specific, we may then wander endlessly, unlimited by a defining frame.

Architectural education, architectural research and architectural practice have suffered for too long from being limited by a defining frame that has placed them in different dictionary entries. It is now time to rethink this model, which shapes our lives, our careers, and ultimately our contribution to society. If we are to replace the dictionary with the atlas, if we are to substitute the definitive meaning with the endless search for new relations, we will have a new model of architecture where education, research and practice are interwoven and intrinsic to one another.

For this new model to succeed, we must completely awaken our imagination. Education, research and practice will be symbiotic and won’t be understood without each other. As a result, transverse readings and meanings will develop within our work. These will be found not only in the individual but also in the collective. In our office, inspired by Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas, we will develop our own Atlas where images of our endlessly evolving inspirations and aspirations will be captured. Our Atlas will be a new ground from which meaning, space and relationships will grow. Our Atlas will enable us to read what has never been written[2].

[1] Georges Didi-Huberman (2010). Atlas. ¿Cómo llevar el mundo a cuestas?. Madrid: TF Editores/Museo Reina Sofía . 16-17.
[2] Georges Didi-Huberman (2010). Atlas. ¿Cómo llevar el mundo a cuestas?. Madrid: TF Editores/Museo Reina Sofía . 14.


JULY 2015

A Lifetime of Renewal

Niall McLaughlin has written an essay for the Architects Journal titled ‘A Lifetime of Renewal’.  He explains his view that ‘it should no longer be possible for an architect to finish their education.  I propose a more comprehensive model of life-long learning.  If practitioners return to education throughout their careers, they will be constantly invigorated and, by extension, so will the schools to which they return’.

Images show Episodes in a journey through the East Midlands Local Assembly in Leicester. A student project by Emily Doll at Unit 17 in the Bartlett.  Darbishire Place by Niall McLaughlin Architects and A School for Mothers with Children. St. Matthew’s Estate in Leicester. A student project by Joanne Chen at Unit 17 in the Bartlett.


JULY 2015

Nazrin Shah Building – Steelwork

Just over two years since our first tentative steps towards imagining what sort of space a new auditorium for Worcester College might possibly be like, we find ourselves enclosed within a spidery sketch, looking up to the trees through a skeletal enclosure of steel. We watched in excitement as our drawings were scribed across the site, first in neon spray paint and little red sticks, later excavated into deep ravines. We pick our way across the lines that had become so familiar on paper and are now concrete obstacles in a muddy field. The reality of this transition only became real as we stood looking across at the steel columns in this picture. They map out the positions of the stone fins that radiate around the curved facade of the new auditorium, with the sloping beams above us silhouetted against the bright July sky marking the future locations of the sculpted folds to the soffit.