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Brave new world

BRAVE NEW WORLD – City of the future

Thesis Supervisor: Caroline Sohie

Master Thesis, Academic Year 2021-22, Campus Brussels

The Brave New World studio operates in the space between design, critical fiction and speculative futures. Set up as an urban futures think-tank, the framework of the studio positions architecture as a critical medium to articulate the unknown – and in some ways unknowable – futures.

The objective is to identify strategic design agendas and enable alternative development patterns to leverage empowered responses to 21st century global challenges.

‘If our belief systems and ideas don’t change, then reality won’t change either. It is our hope that speculating through design will allow us to develop alternative social imaginaries that open new perspectives on the challenges facing us.’

 ― Dunne & Raby

The studio examines the entangled local and global implications of our changing habitat. Using speculative design techniques, future worlds are envisioned in response to the complex questions facing us today. Framed by the ‘what if’ question, the studio opens up spaces of debate, research and imagination.

Brave New World offers an alternative design lens to examine how our urban existence could be, to imagine alternative trajectories and investigate what future we collectively want. ‘The City’ forms the studio’s playing field and the research-by-design process is led by the central question; what is the future of the city, or conversely, what will be the city of the future?

Thesis project

Each student proposes a city that is of personal interest and of sufficient complexity for further interrogation, to use as the locus for in-depth research and ultimately as the setting for a personal speculative design project. As the student’s city research develops, a strategic design agenda will be articulated and lead to the selection of a relevant site for the architectural proposal.

The studio’s exploratory journey culminates in a grounded design vision and architectural proposition for a 2051 Future City context, which reflects the student’s personal voice and position towards the 21st century challenges facing our world today.

Developing a unique voice

The studio operates as an incubation platform to provoke informed debate on the broader societal role of architectural practice and gain insight, through design and critique, in one’s own engagement with a changing reality. The space is created for students to develop personal interests, agency and urban agendas within the ‘Future City’ conceptual framework.

The studio encourages innovative ideas that challenge the status quo and bring an original, imaginative perspective towards designing the world of tomorrow. Students are supported through mentorship to develop a unique voice and cohesive body of academic work, while developing strategic design thinking skills that will assist any field of professional practice after graduation.

Studio structure

The studio starts by immersion and runs through a series of collective activities to familiarise oneself with the studio’s concept. During the first semester, the studio will meet for introductory sessions, during which each student will explore a theme related to the research framework. A City Futures workshop will be held in November (Programme Week 7). The workshop will encourage students to fully engage with urban futures’ thinking and design tools, through a week-long programme of discussion, brainstorm sessions, readings, seminars and design. The activities are curated to enable the students to incrementally establish clarity about the ‘Future City’ topic they seek to evolve into an individual thesis project. The second semester is dedicated to the development of the individual project, with weekly mentoring sessions to support the student’s research-by-design work, culminating in the Master Thesis project and reflection paper.

For more information, please consult the Brave New World Studio Brief (pdf)

Please feel free to contact me on caroline.sohie@kuleuven.be

On the studio 20-21

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