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Fieldstation Studio: Luxury and Precarity

Fieldstation Studio: Luxury and Precarity

Team: Michiel Helbig, Corneel Cannaerts

Academic year 2020-21, semester 1, Ghent
Engagement: Mediating Tactics

Field Station ADO is a local node in the international fieldstations network, exploring architecture in relation with contemporary fields, connected to the anthropocene and the technosphere. The ADO focusses on the agency of emerging technologies and phenomena, and their impact on the culture and practice of architecture and the environment in which we operate as architects. We propose an explorative architectural design studio, aiming to investigate the potential of architecture as a medium to disrupt, explore and raise questions, rather than solving them. The academic design office combines explorative research with hands-on architectural design exercises, field trips and workshops, providing a platform for students to develop their own interests, skills and projects within the studio. After exploring Hacking, Shifting Boarders, Platforms and Automation, we will work around the topic “Luxury and Precarity” in 2020-21.

Luxury and Precarity. As a practice delineating and claiming space, architecture is intimately linked with societal, economic and political manifestations of power relationships. Luxury –  defined as ‘a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense’ or the ‘habitual use of, or indulgence in what is choice or costly, whether food, dress, furniture, or appliances of any kind’ and ‘sumptuous and exquisite food or surroundings – has been used throughout architectural history to express societal standing and power. The sumptuous display of material wealth by those in power simultaneously gives rise to those facing the precarity of lacking such amenities. Social struggle, representative democracy, industrial means of production have led to the emergence of a middle class, making the luxuries, such as architecture, an achievable goal for an increasingly large number of people. While only partially, temporally and locally, realising the egalitarian utopia of modernism, it spiralled into an unseen consumption of resources, and the instalment a of neo-liberal market economy based on unsustainable growth and consumerism. Wealth and power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small number of corporations and individuals, the traditional working class is eroding into a global precariat living and working in uncertain conditions. Emerging technologies are accelerating these evolutions: increasing resource depletion to provide the hardware for our planetary accidental megastructure and fuel the global demand for shipping and transportation. The emergence of a platform economy, leading the precarity of gig workers as well as opportunities for organising labour and ownership differently. The media ecology in which we operate, the impact of the blogosphere, social media and image sharing, where influencers compete for our attention.

In this edition of Fieldstation studio we will explore what the notions of luxury and precarity mean within architecture today and how it relates to the urgencies and evolutions mentioned above.

Field Trip. Due to the pandemic we will need come up with an alternative version of the fieldtrip.

Field Guide. On our alternative field trip and through meetings, lectures, screenings & literature, several potential fields will be introduced. During the first exercise these fields and themes will be mapped and investigated by small groups of students with shared interests. This work results in a field guide that documents a set of tools, strategies and media to engage in relation to the expanded field & architecture.

Field Station. For the second part of the studio, students will develop an individual design exercise that results in an architectural proposal for a specific site and/or context. The design should demonstrate how architecture interacts with the field explored in the field guides. The scale, scope, format and media of this proposal are free, students are encouraged to develop their own vision, interest and ways of working. The individual projects will be shown at a final exhibition.

for more information on previous editions and our projects: