For 2021 the engagement themes are:
A fifth engagement ‘The Brussels Way‘ is only related to the Brussels campus:
The Brussels Way stands for the challenging practice of architecture in the midst of complex urban realities. The embedment of the Brussels campus in the metropolitan context offers an opportunity to invest urbanity. A wide range of studios prospect different architectural strategies, questioning how our discipline can be meaningful, while our cities are transforming profoundly by design or, more often, pushed by the conjunction of a multitude of simultaneous crisis. From interstitial practices, urban architecture to urban development, design driven proposals by students invest the present and the future of complex cities, with Brussels as an intriguing case.
Curator Craftsmanship Engagement
Detail, Structure, Materiality, Drawing, Fabrication, 1:1, Tactility, Context, Process, Phenomenology, Facture, Personality.
Architecture resides in the act of making
From this mindset, the Craftsmanship engagement brings together a number of design studios, research projects and architectural practices that view craftship as the driving force of a coherent and intelligent design process.
The architectural interventions that are developed in the Craftsmanship engagement explore different ‘forms of making’. They investigate how craftship can address complicated and urgent spatial themes in an increased complexity of the world. In doing so, architectural craftship develops new ways of responding to spatial urgencies.
The mindset of the craftsperson is to merge thinking and making in an interchangeable and overlapping manner. The Craftsmanship engagement explores this intricate relationship through design.
Craftship is about conceiving through making as well as making through conceiving. The architectural practice is in making, producing and finding fulfilment in the act of doing. And doing so purposely and with intent.
Design-thinking in the Craftsmanship engagement sees making as a way to create an understanding of the world. The manner, act and process of making in a highly ‘personal’ way is paramount and takes centre stage in the design-thinking of the Craftsmanship engagement. Within the Craftsmanship engagement, craftship is a way of systematically exploring the field of architecture. It is a way of making discoveries, generating knowledge and of reaching new insights. Three main perspectives structure these systematic explorations: Understanding and contextualising craftship; Craftship as a Methodology and Craftship in Materiality, Detail and Construction.
Depending on your position, architecture is an exact science, an art, it belongs to the humanities, or it is a set of competences. Acknowledging this myriad and multifaceted appreciation of the field of architecture, the Craftsmanship engagement highlights and celebrates that architecture is a set of diverse competences and skills. It is a rich, nuanced, delicate craft, learned through training, repeated exercise, making, producing, observing and engaging. It is Perceptive craftship; Conceptual craftship; Constructive craftship; Self-critical craftship; Dialectical craftship; Risky craftship, Extended craftship, Inventive craftship and Intellectual craftship…
We prefer to talk about ‘craftship’ instead of ‘craftsmanship’ for two reasons: the first one is that ‘craftship’ is gender-neutral. The second is that ‘craftship’ more than Craftsmanship, implies an aptness, a competence in which the craftsperson excels. In our communication we use Craftsmanship to indicate the engagement and craftship when we describe the competence.
Jo Van Den Berghe
Curator Legacy Engagement
This engagement departs from the traditional focus on the built or unbuilt dichotomy when dealing with heritage. The interaction with cultural heritage, which is material – tangible and intangible – that signifies a culture’s history or legacy, with its activating, generating and inspiring appearance, addresses the past, present and future simultaneously. It emphasises both stability and dynamics, enclosure and openness. In that sense, cultural heritage can be considered as a force of change to welfare and societal sustainability instead of having a purely material approach where heritage is only subject of change.
Heritage is always contested in one way or another and it always conveys a negative sentiment to some extent. The most comprehensible meaning is in the sense that some buildings, monuments and places sometimes bring us face to face with parts of our history that are painful, or shameful. Over time, they became symbols of injustice for many people. But some of our buildings, monuments and places are contested because they block new development plans, or because they evoke a ‘wrong’ connotation or because they belong to the ‘wrong’ architectural period or represent ideas which are no longer accepted or simply because they do not longer meet current standards.
We can choose to remove those sites, which have become contested. However, by learning how to observe and experience existing (infra-) structures and cultural landscapes, we might come to thought-provoking insights and long-lasting and powerful reinterpretation, adding new layers of meaning, leading to substantial, (socially) sustainable interventions and dialogues. History can be an element of sublimation as an active partner that leads to wondering, excitement and expertise and induces a process of becoming conscious of what a social, cultural and ecological context really is.
Heritage is therefore a place of radical possibility.
The research and design approaches in the studios linked to Legacy are strongly design-driven. Design is investigated as a possibility, as a solution and as an imagination. The approaches are active, context-related with an anthropological (socio-spatial) and (landscape-) ecological focus. They touch a multiplicity of themes and use methods of different domains such as architecture, landscape, urban and history studies and social sciences. With an agonistic approach, the different studio’s don’t aim so much to come to a status quo but they are on the contrary inhabited by pluralism marked by an openess towards different critical voices. In this way students become acquainted with the value of different areas of expertise and, most importantly, their own value in expressing their own vision within the studio team.
The Engagement Legacy is practice based and aims at creating a clear link between education, topics explored within practice and research with the implementation of research lines within teaching activities, assignments and real-life cases in the Design Studios eventually supported by specific Regular or Elective Courses which underscores the faculty’s educational vision based on crossing perspectives. It therefore brings together practitioners from interior architecture, architecture and urban planning and researchers from the different disciplines.
Curator Mediating Tactics Engagement
The intricate milieus in which architecture participates are intensive, contingent and dynamic, and characterised by altering conditions, connections, and inter-actions. The capacity to act within these contexts requires modes of thinking and ways of operating that are resourceful, versatile, resilient and attentive, and have an aptitude to evolve in time-space. For this reason, the orthodoxies of architecture -its myths, modes and means- must be challenged, and subjected to recursive and rigorous scrutiny, criticism, and creative manipulation, experiment and speculation. Mediating Tactics is an environment for realising this aim. It is also a place from which to reach out to other fields of knowledge -social, political, artistic, technological, biological, ecological, philosophical, curatorial, etc.- and for setting up hybrid forms of situated collaborative practices with them. The fields of mediation thus created, are the locus for the development and deployment of radical and wicked strategies for improving architecture’s capacities to shape and organise the world(s) we inhabit. A supplementary objective is to provide an enabling learning-environment that is as heterogeneously diversified and wide in spectrum, composition, and approaches as the world of architecture that it takes as its primary matter of concern and care. Ultimately, it must provide a haven for (re-)claiming the licence …
to kill architecture’s darlings;
to welcome those who have been excluded from it;
to silence the masters’ voices;
to give space to disagreement and contention;
to oppose its institutionalised structures and relations;
to embrace and engage the conditions and urgencies/emergencies of now;
to take perspectives that are transversal, oblique, inverting, and to extend, stretch, push and kick architecture around;
to make potentially everything questionable;
to affirm that architecture is not alone but part of something that is both bigger and smaller than itself;
to consider theory as a practice, and as something that is designed and constructed;
to state that what is generally accepted, is not by definition good or legitimate;
to push to the limit and beyond;
to place that which is now in the fringes at the centre of attention;
to develop capacities to be(come) ‘response-able’ and ‘stay with the trouble’, as Donna Haraway puts forward; and to claim the space to develop and raise a voice, even when one is not invited to.
Curator Urban Cultures Engagement
Migration, displacement and urbanisation, the impact of fast developing economies as well as of new forms of production, the legacy of urban forms typical of our recent past, current environmental challenges and the quest for a shared access to resources are challenging the ways in which we approach the project of the city and of urbanised territories. Confronted with these and other challenges, traditional design methods often fail to successfully provide adequate answers. Organised within an intense research-based setting, the design studios of the Urban Cultures engagement seek to develop and teach innovative design tools through creative processes that are based on the understanding of a given condition from a social, historical and environmental perspective. The understanding of present conditions as a prerequisite to intervention is supported by the relationship that many of the Urban Cultures design studios establish with ongoing research projects and by the professional expertise of its design tutors. The link between studio work and research unfolds in the possibility of allying the theoretical space of the classroom with the practical space of the design studios, bridging design activities with emerging developments in urban theory.
The thematic focus of Urban Cultures studios over the coming years will more and more shift towards questions related to the ecological and socioeconomic transition of our cities and territories, promoting approaches that favour transformation and reuse, restoration and remedial, retrofitting and regeneration of what is already there over invention and novelty.
Despite a continuously updated set of geographical frameworks for project and research, Urban Cultures studios have over the past years worked on a twofold agenda that will continue to be developed: on the one hand electing Belgium, Flanders and its cities and suburban territories as relevant case study for design and research, and on the other hand focusing on the global metropolis under processes of hyper-transformations, with projects developed for cities such as Buenos Aires, Karachi and Shenzhen.
In terms of teaching method and pedagogies, all Urban Cultures design studios expand the traditional scope of the architectural project, promoting cross-scale approaches and with outputs ranging between buildings and social infrastructures, environmental systems and tactical strategies, prototypes and 1:1 installations. Consequently, the work of the architect is here primarily understood as the result of a negotiated process carried out as a collective endeavour, nurtured by cooperation and exchange and aiming at setting up the framework within which personal design trajectories can be developed.