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(22-23) Studio Forage

Master studio 2022-23, sem 3
Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent
Tutors: Johannes Berry, Steven Schenk
Engagement: Craftsmanship

The constructive turn, roughly the period from 2020 to 2050, is currently probably the most talked-about era in the history of construction. Some see this turn as a sharp break from the digital world, a time resulting in disconnection from an intense establishment of data driven interconnectedness. Others though, have tried to make the constructive turn into a non-event, a mere illusion of retrospection. More circumspect scholars nowadays, however, recognize the many  important continuities between the scientific and later the digital era and the constructive turn.

During this era the digital world brought visibility to how the migrations of people, pandemics, natural disasters, wars, construction and even our actions were interconnected. It was not that these things did not exist previously, but with this new visibility, people realised just how interconnected things were and how disconnected they have become from the effects of their actions and the physical world.

Up to this point scientists, whose increasing specializations reduced their focus to narrow topics of study and objects in isolation, and whose methods seemed to emphasize dissecting rather than synthesizing approaches, actively discouraged questions of our instinctive being in constant exploration for comprehension or connection with the physical universe.

For a moment people thought this void would be filled, as big data teamed up with scientists, politicians, and businesses, promising a symbiosis between the people and the planet that will lead to prosperity. Architects started to pledge for processes  of  de-  and  re-materialisation, as they reframed the territory of architecture, not differentiating between natural or manmade environments, understanding,  and approaching our world as objects with properties to be controlled. The collaboration between big data and scientists, politics, and business made it possible to revisit the modernist dream. However, with data and technology taking centre stage, it did not take long before questions arose about how it was measured or collected, disagreement about its interpretation led to court cases, and misuse of its control lead to suppression and profit.

Being confronted with a growing sense of disconnection with the physical universe, humans starting gravitating towards ideologies or conspiracy theories for meaning. However slowly a new approach seemed to arrive, in different professions, and in architecture, the alchemist, promised to reconnect humans with the physical universe, by unravelling moments of resonance between scientific observation and our human perception of the world. This turn was particularly described by some, as a new way or arguably a very old way humans could engage with the physical universe, which rather than trying to define and control it, was focussed on establishing new relationships and becoming part of it.

New ways to construct and make space was seen as way of interacting with and relating to the world, rather than giving meaning to it, which brought ‒ as a basis for its eventual success ‒ worlds of beauty and promise that we stopped daring to imagine and as such had forgotten how to see. When thinkers after the turn looked out on the world, they

saw again a cosmos in the true Greek sense of that word, a well-ordered and arranged whole. They saw the various components of the physical universe tightly interwoven with one another and our consciousness. Humans were not seeking their place in the universe anymore but had realised they were part of it all along.

Late in 2032, a brilliant new material (fig. 1) appeared in front of peopleʼs eyes. French observers were the first to note its arrival but over the following weeks, as it grew in size and brightness, eyes all over Europe turned towards this heavenly spectacle. In Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and elsewhere observers tracked and recorded its motions and changes. Some took careful measurements and argued over calculations of the materials` scale and origins, and whether its path through its presence would be curved or straight. Some observed it with the naked eye, others with instruments such as a heat meter, an instrument then just about ten years old. Some tried to predict its potential savings on the Earth, on the disastrous evolutions of the weather, on the quality of the air, on human health and on the affairs of women and men and the fates of states.

Some saw it as an opportunity to understand its potential to use less materials or new environmental ideas, others saw it as a divine portent for good or the impossible, and many saw it as both. Pamphlets flowed from printing presses, articles and contentions appeared in the new periodicals devoted to natural phenomena, people discussed it in princely courts and academies, in coffee-houses and taverns, while letters full of ideas and data shuttled back and forth among distant observers, weaving webs of communication across political and confessional boundaries. All of Europe watched this spectacle of nature and strove to understand it and to learn from it.

The material of 2032 provides but one instance of the ways which 21st century Europeans paid close attention to the natural world around them, interacted with it and with each other. Peering through ever improving tools, they finally used their senses as the tool and saw immense new worlds, undreamt of buildings with where interior and exterior are undefined, open and permeable structures that rethink their life span, devote of having one meaning .They sought finally again for their relationship to their surroundings, for causes and messages hidden in the world, for the traces of Gods, and for ways to re-establish a balanced relationship with the worlds they encountered with both new technology and hidden ancient knowledge.

Read the full studio description here. (pdf)