R & R
written by Ryan Dillon
In 1964 Cedric Price unveiled his Potteries Thinkbelt, an attack on a series of new universities then being built on greenfield sites all around England. Rather than being bound by its locality and the immutability of the education model it offered, Price’s university of the future was imagined as a mobile learning resource, accommodated within the rolling stock of a declining Midlands railway line and able to move 20,000 students at a time while reinvigorating previously stagnant local industry, housing and infrastructure. With one project, therefore, Price not only reimagined what a university could look like but, more radically still, challenged the way architects traditionally worked by inverting notions of reuse and reinvention (R & R).
Inspired by this iconoclasm, Intermediate 5 will undertake a design experiment without the use of an architectural brief. And in doing so question with both more abandon and more rigour the component parts of a traditional architectural brief – programme, site, context, type, function, etc. Our goal is to escape from the routine use of worn-out architectural categories, and in the process free design from precisely those things that are traditionally understood to constrain it. This in turn calls for a repositioning of the idea of constraint itself, and hopefully, like Price, will see the ascendency of the social objectives of building and the city.
The unit’s other key referent will be OuLiPo, the loose gathering of French writers and thinkers including Georges Perec and Raymond Queneau, whose work, like that of Price, was defined as much by the constraints it established as those it subverted. Following OuLiPo, the output of the unit will develop from a constrained piece of writing, but will also take in composite drawing and physical modelling, forming a three-dimensional portfolio of moving parts. Each of these parts will examine an existing system that allows the project to zoom in and out, from the micro to the macro, from the vernacular to the global, from the design of systems and big ideas down to the technical details of how it works, and will then propose scenarios for its reuse and reinvention. Motion will play a pivotal role, from the scenographic images that depict the movement in our systems and the people within them, to the understanding that architecture resides not in the fixity of its buildings but in the problem solving of how we move around them.
Ryan Dillon, received his Bachelor of Architecture at Syracuse University School of Architecture and his MA from the Histories and Theories programme at the AA. He currently teaches in the AA’s undergraduate History & Theory programme and the Architecture and Urbanism graduate programme (DRL), where he serves as Programme Coordinator. He has also taught at the University of Brighton. He is a designer at EGG Office and has previously worked at Moshe Safdie Architects on projects such as the Khalsa Heritage Complex and the Peabody Essex Museum.