DS 15 is run by writer and critic Kester Rattenbury & Sean Griffiths, director and founder member of FAT.

2015-16, Here Comes Everybody 2

DS15 investigates how to design environments through the use of chance operations and other aleortoric methods, inspired by the musical theories of the composer, John Cage.

In DS15 we want you to be nomads in a world you don’t understand. We want you to not know what you are doing. We want you to divest yourselves of prejudices, tastes, rationalizations and preconceptions and to enter the world of your subconscious. We can’t promise an easy journey, but we can promise you will see (and hear and smell and touch) the world in a different light.

DS15 does not pursue meaning, we pursue experience. We do not pursue concepts and forms, we seek new methods and processes. We work not from the plan inwards, but from the small scale outwards. We are wayfarers finding our path as we go along rather than navigators working from an overall view of the territory. We inhabit rather than occupy.

We focus on all the senses, particularly those other than vision, which form a huge part of our experience but yet are largely absent from architecture, or more particularly, the representations of architecture that we use to design.

How might we orchestrate environments and spaces in terms of sound, smell, touch as well as visually? What methods might we use to design, articulate and represent these things?

This year, the project will have an added social layer. Sited in the Rye Lane area of Peckham, the project will explore a distinctive and vibrant urban environment under threat from the dead hand of design-led gentrification. Rye Lane is a space defined by chance, contingency and multiplicity rather than “coherent” architectural form. Its character and mode of operation is dependant on complex relationships between different ethnicities, diverse commercial and cultural programmes and alternative, non-architectural spatialities, which seem to correlate with the chance methodologies we are seeking to deploy.

The programme will develop but as starting point, we are thinking of a commercial, cultural and social exchange – perhaps a market, perhaps a performance space, perhaps an integration of these activities into everyday life.

We are interested in language systems and their estrangement from the real. This means the differences between written language and the spoken word it represents, between musical notations and the sounds they denote and between architectural representations and the physical worlds they describe.

We work in the gaps between these things.

As we are particularly interested in the similarities between music notation and architectural drawing, our study trip will be to Yorkshire, where we will attend the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, visit the town’s Brutalist market, take in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and other local cultural attractions.

You will be drawing, potato printing, making noises, playing games, writing poetry, directing movies, inventing alphabets, making big fantastic things, concocting scenarios and inventing activities, all based on the seemingly irrational and the subconscious. It will be fun. Bring sensible shoes and your waterproofs.

2014-15, The Minimum Number of Lines

“Can it be argued that the interest of critical writing lies almost entirely in its method?” Rosalind Krauss – The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths.

DS15 investigates how to design environments through the use of chance operations and other aleortoric methods, inspired by
the musical theories of the composer, John Cage.

In DS 15 we want you to be nomads in a world you don’t understand. We want you to divest yourselves of prejudices, tastes,
rationalizations and preconceptions and to enter the world of your subconscious. We can’t promise an easy journey, but we
can promise you will see (and hear and smell and touch) the world in a different light.

The project will focus on the senses, particularly those other than vision, which form a huge part of our experience but yet are
largely absent from architecture, or more particularly, the representations of architecture that we use to design.
How might we orchestrate environments and spaces in terms of sound, smell, touch as well as visually? What methods might
we use to design, articulate and represent these things?

There is no architectural agenda, no programme and no fixed methodology as these things will arise entirely by chance.
In amongst all this you will design a building or environment, which will focus on senses other than sight. It will be sited in
Kochi, Kerala, South India, which we will visit in January.

You will use the minimum number of lines.

2013-14, Here comes Everybody

“I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing” John Cage – Lecture on Nothing.

Whilst continuing our ongoing forays into the worlds of geometry, behavioral change, component alphabets and political spaces: (via urban planning, designing tiny bits of working space, making models and doing amazing drawings) this year DS 15 will be taking a diversionary route via the strange landscapes of silence, avant garde music and chance operations.

Inspired by the composing techniques of the twentieth century musician and sage, John Cage, we will also entering a land of ancient Chinese wisdom through engagement with the Chinese Book of Changes, a 5000 year guide for living, otherwise known as the I Ching. Every bit of your architectural project can be generated through this.

In the same manner that Cage assigned values of timbre, duration, tone and volume to the hexagrams as means of composing music through chance, we will asking you to do the same with architecture and programme. Scale, function, material, form, detail, use and site will all be determined by chance. This will require you to abandon all your values, tastes, preferences, preconceptions and rationalizations, in other words, to recognize that you know nothing, in order to embark on a sometimes exciting, sometimes boring and sometimes scary voyage of discovery through the architectural subconscious.

2012-13, 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.

2011-12, Excavating Utopia

Unsurprisingly, Architecture and Utopia have always been comfortable bedfellows – in the realm of ideas, if not always in the realm of reality. From the Tower of Babel, to the pre-Revolutionary French Rationalists, and from the Russian Constructivists to the Situationist’s New Babylon, idealized religious, political, social, and philosophical ideas have found expression in architecture. Utopian ideas are not fashionable at the moment. We are living in a time, when the pragmatic seems to override the idealistic. And yet our current “pragmatic” world of free market neo-liberalism is crashing all around us. Such times of crisis provide fertile ground for the genesis of new Utopias which, in turn, become generators of new architectural and urban visions. We will begin by studying some past Utopias as a prelude to the design of our very own New Jerusalem.

2010-11, The Museum of Ostalgia

This year studio 15 continues its counterblast of modern geometry — largely ignoring the world of scripting, algorithms and intense form-making and heading straight for the Baroque, the Gothic, (maybe) extravagant decoration; looking at how to combine wild experiments with old-fashioned skills like beautiful and (fairly) sensible plans. We’ll be trying to develop a type of architecture which doesn’t yet exist.
This year we’ll be visiting Berlin, looking at its unique urban history – right up to the current ‘Ostalgia’ for the vanished DDR – and as a city of museums – right up to the Museum of the DDR. We’ll also be making up a lot of amazing patterns, and finding a whole range of sensible (and not-so-sensible) ways of using them. You’ll be using lots of techniques – manual and digital – from sketching, modelmaking, all kinds of digital programs and moviemaking. We push you to challenge your own preconceptions, but we want you to develop your own distinctive, critical and individual approach. And to come out with some great buildings at the end.

2009-10 Shape Cities

A geometrically new departure for Studio 15, setting out to challenge the digital norms (generating one fluid space and then turning it into a building) and instead develop challenging experiments in architectural language and type — including taboos like decoration, extrusion, and the assembly of distinct geometrical elements.

Semester 1 experiments included:
the simplest drawings ever (100 lines, dots or shape) patterns developed from everyday objects using five types of symmetries; reflection machines; and finally building components; all working between drawings, movies and models to generate a small pavilion building.

Semester 2 tested and developed these techniques on a tough commercial brief. Four group masterplans replaced the underwhelming Liverpool One shopping centre
with realistic plans drawn from the strong 19th century context. Then, individually, students developed their techniques and experiments in a wide range of challenging approaches to architectural design.
Kester Rattenbury and Sean Griffiths

Visiting critics:
Cecil Balmond, Richard Difford, Jon Goodbun, Jason Griffiths, Eric Guibert, Will McLean, Rowan Moore, Richard Pain, Camilla Wilkinson

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