September 2012: Rome Retrofit/ Inside Out

The weird and wonderful world of Studio Fifteen continues its adventures in the far outposts of the past and future of architectural thought, led by teacher and writer Kester Rattenbury and architect Sean Griffiths of FAT.

We’ll be taking the most extreme of contemporary and environmental agendas — behaviour change and retrofit — to new limits. (And when we say retrofit, we don’t mean insulating a house or living walls — we mean something like designing a housing scheme in the Colosseum). Last year, we explored new types of geometrical architectures to design masterplans for Utopian communities. This year, we’re turning that agenda inside out.

You’ll start by designing three large architectural scale components, which relate to changing human behaviour. This will be based on historic research into domestic components designed for a world using as little energy as we’re likely to have available ourselves – and with equally brilliant and expressive architecture — four-poster beds, inglenook fireplaces, sash windows, shutters and curtains — there are some really strange ones to be found. You’ll be exploring the kinds of social and civic spaces that relate to such a world — and then re thinking them for our own times,

You will be working in detail from the start, using a lot of models, materials and construction — and pushing extreme ideas to new levels. Last year’s pattern-making may come in handy, but this year George Hersey is surpassed by Robin Evans (clue for beginners: they’re geometry geniuses, with surprising applications in architecture) — so welcome to the world of stereotomy (that means 3d stonecutting, say), splicing things together, and so on. We’ll be inviting some of our former heroes of the Studio back to show and tell you how it’s done — and to help you work out even better and more surprising ways of doing it yourselves.

Then when you’ve designed your components, we’ll help you work out new and peculiar ways to think what kind of a world they might belong to — narrative, fantastical, environmental, political, and social – and work outwards from there. There will be a group masterplanning component, but your final design will be a single building, with your own brief, and probably set into some redundant, ruined or under-used buildings of the past.

Our trip will be either to Rome — where we’ll be looking at how the city was built into the ruins of its former glory, as well as visiting the Fascist sports complex of EUR — or to Split, where a whole city centre has already been built into the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace.

Studio 15 is one of the most extreme architectural studios you’ll find anywhere. Go on, surprise yourself.

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