Alexander Eisenschmidt – Chicagoisms and the Export of Metropolitan Architecture

The next CREAte Open Lecture is to be held on Wednesday 29th October in MLT1 at 5.30pm. There will be a book signing before hand at 5pm in the Marlowe Foyer.

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Alexander Eisenschmidt is a designer, theorist, and Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His work investigates the productive tension between the modern city and architectural form – a topic on which he has published and lectured extensively. He is author and editor of City Catalyst (Architectural Design, 2012), co-editor of Chicagoisms (Scheidegger & Spiess / Park Books, 2013), designer and curator of “City Works” at the 13th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, and co-curator and designer of the exhibition “Chicagoisms” at the Art Institute of Chicago (2014). Eisenschmidt is also founding partner at Studio Offshore. *for further information see: http://www.AEisenschmidt.com [1]

1871 was the year in which the cities of Berlin and Chicago were catapulted into a modern reality. That year the Chicago Fire inspired a building code that in combination with advances in fireproofing iron and steel frames and inventions such as Otis’s safety passenger elevator guided the construction of a new city with massive buildings that soon lined entire blocks of the downtown grid. On the other side of the Atlantic, Berlin’s emergence as the capital of the Second German Empire shifted the political, economic, and cultural landscape of Germany and Europe and established the city as a metropolis. In the wake of these developments, a trans-Atlantic exchange between the two cities began to reconsider each city’s option towards a new metropolitan condition. Chicago became the model through which Berlin was able to understand its own rapid urbanization during the late nineteenth century and, ultimately, re-conceiving itself as a space of possibilities for the invention of a metropolitan architecture. At the same time, German Sociologists (such as Werner Sombart, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Max Weber) visited Chicago, detected the purest representation of modern urbanization, and helped architects (such as Root John Wellborn Root and Louis H. Sullivan) to comprehend the unique conditions of what they saw as “prototypical American city and ur-metropolis.”

Stage 1 visit Folkestone Triennial

Continuing on from their successful shelter project, KSA stage 1 students visited the site in Folkestone that they will be using for their second assignment in module Form Finding.

The proposed Sir Terry Farrell master plan for the sea front area of Folkestone stretches from the Harbour and along the beach front up as far as the Leas Lift. The development includes various housing types, beach accommodation, and beach huts, as well as a retail area for shops and bars.

The students have been asked to continue and add to the Sir Terry Farrell master plan, by forming an additional plan for 16 – 20 beach huts and some retail, bar/cafe units in a small development.

The next part of the day focused on the Folkestone Triennial: National Student Day. The first task given to the students was to familiarise themselves with the Triennial and each group was given a tour by one of the guides.

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After lunch, students were split into 8 groups and were given various workshops. One group looked into the process involving turning raw clay into sculptural material and headed to the beach with artist and Folkestone Triennial project manager Nicholette Goff. KSA’s very own Fine Artist Patrick Crouch was on hand to help the students discover their ‘inner sculptor’.

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The day ended at the Quarterhouse with a question and answer session, students were able to discuss their thoughts on the Triennial with the curators and artists behind the festival.

Stage 1 Shelter Project

Stage 1  module Form Finding introduces the student to the ‘design project’ and how to interpret and analyse a brief. For the first part of this module, students take on the task of designing and creating a shelter out of limited materials which they are provided with.

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On Monday 20th October, students in their groups of 3 or 4, spent the day outside the Marlowe building putting up their shelters. This was only part of the task however, as they also had to spend the night in the shelter to see how their design would cope against the elements.

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KSA design lectures and tutors came together to find what they felt was the most elegant structure. MArch unit tutors Peter Ayres and Ed Holloway were each invited to choose their favourite shelter and it was put to public vote to decide the winner.

Peter Ayres said, ‘having inspected the shelters during the day, the judges were asked to select the structure which they found most ‘elegant’. After careful inspection of the shelters, and a heated discussion which eliminated many excellent and interesting designs, the contest came down to two finalists. Both of these combined clean economy of materials with careful attention to detail. The winning shelter, chosen by student vote, showed a high level of thought in its fabrication.  Design touches included little stilts to raise the cardboard from the wet earth. We congratulate all the participants, and hope they slept warm and dry…’

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The three winning students were Denis Herberg, Ingrid Loong and Ottavia Profumo. They were given University of Kent 50th anniversary onsies to keep them warm for the long night they had ahead of them!

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When asked about the project, winning student Ingrid said, ‘as a group, we were quick to decide on a design, however we learnt that throughout the construction process, we had to adapt and make slight changes to the design to make sure that it was completely water/ wind proof. Despite intial challenges, we were able to do that without losing the aesthetic of our design. We all worked well together to finish with a final product that matched our vision of what we had hoped to achieve’. 

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Rammed Earth Workshop

The UK’s leading expert on rammed earth — Rowland Keable — ran a workshop for Kent School of Architecture students on Wednesday, 15 October 2014. Students built a sample rammed earth wall, using clay, aggregate and sand materials dug from the site, learning many lessons about the principles of the method and the practicalities of this recently re-discovered construction technology.

Rammed earth is a more-sustainable alternative to concrete and masonry, and has been used around the world for thousands of years. It employs the earth dug up from the building site itself to build the walls, which are formed by ramming the material into formwork (similar to that used for concrete structures). However, the environmental impact of rammed-earth is much lower than that of concrete because it does not use any cement, and therefore results in very significantly reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

Rowland Keable advised on the rammed earth walls at the Eden Project in Cornwall, the Education Building at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, as well as, more locally, the rammed chalk walls at the Pines Calyx building in St Margaret’s Bay. He is acting as a consultant to Kent School of Architecture in connection with a feasibility study for the Crater Theatre — one of the University’s Beacon Projects celebrating the 50th anniversary of the University.

Prior to the workshop he gave a lecture on rammed earth to all stage 2 students in the school as part of the Architecture + Landscape module.

Student Ben Warner said ‘the notion of building a structure on site out of the very material it will sit upon sunk in as a very logical building method for the future – but more importantly, for the present. I hadn’t previously realised how very feasible rammed earth is. The workshop surely impacted my future design process. I suppose from now on I’ll be asking myself “Would rammed earth work here?” at the start of all future project’.

Rammed Earth Consulting

Keith Bothwell

Professor Sawaoka and students visit Kent School of Architecture

This week KSA has been hosting a group of 35 architecture students from Kogakuin University, Tokyo culminating in a one-day charrette jointly run with Stage three KSA BA architecture students. The charrette, or one-day sketch project, invites students to come up with creative and feasible proposals for a redundant site in Canterbury, adjacent to a varied collection of historic buildings. This is a new module to Stage Three, led by Dr Nikos Karydis who also heads up our new MSc in Architectural Conservation. KSA regards it as important that budding architects familiarise themselves with the joys of working with existing buildings, especially in the rich context that Canterbury offers.

The Japanese students, led by Professor Kiyohide Sawaoka, are spending the whole term in Canterbury, attending English classes and continuing with their architectural studies.  Kogakuin is a large university encompassing architecture, landscape and engineering, and in contrast to Canterbury’s location is to be found in downtown Shinjuku, one of the most bustling commercial and entertainment subcentres of Tokyo. This is the first time KSA and Kogakuin have worked in a collaborative manner. They have been working in our busy Digital Crit Space, and have presented the best proposals on Friday afternoon, at the end of their one-week involvement in a major project that last the whole autumn term for KSA students.

We hope that this will be merely the start of a lasting relationship with Kogakuin; we are already planning future engagements.

Prof. Gerald Adler

CASE Open Lecture – Walk the line: The use of public space at street and borough scale

Karen Martin

Walk the line: The use of public space at street and borough scale

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CASE is pleased to announce that the next CASE open lecture of 2014/15 will be given by Karen Martin. Her lecture entitled, Walk the line: The use of public space at street and borough scale, will be given on Wednesday, 22nd October 2014 at 5.30pm in Marlowe Lecture Theatre 1. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Bio: Karen originally trained as a dancer and the desire to understand the relationship between movement and space continues to inform her work despite a move into academia. In a variety of art and academic projects Karen has used experimental ethnographic techniques such as participant walks, cultural probes and research by design to explore the relationships between the social and spatial aspects of public space. Since January 2010 Karen has been working at the University of Kent as research assistant on the projects “Shades of Grey: Towards a Science of Interventions for Eliciting and Detecting Notable Behaviours” and “Capturing the lived experience of foodbank clients and volunteers”. From 2011-13 she was design unit tutor at the School of Architecture at Plymouth University for unit In-between exploring strategies of community engagement for architects.

Talk summary: The two projects Karen worked on at Kent explore pedestrians’ use of public space at two different scales and investigates how this is affected by spatial conditions and interventions. The project  “Shades of Grey: Towards a Science of Interventions for Eliciting and Detecting Notable Behaviours” consisted of a series of temporary interventions in public space that aimed to alter pedestrian flow. The more recent work, “Capturing the lived experience of foodbank clients and volunteers”, captures the everyday places that foodbank clients and volunteers go in the London borough of Lambeth. Mapping these places revealed insights into the spatial and social similarities and differences in these lived experiences. This talk presents an overview of the findings from these projects and discusses the themes that emerge.

Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin lectures at “The Origins and Significance of Residential Gothic Architecture in Ottawa”

Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin was invited to lecture at the Heritage Ottawa’s two day colloquium entitled “The Origins and Significance of Residential Gothic Architecture in Ottawa”. The colloquium began on Friday morning with an excursion to the Gothic influenced Old St Mary’s Church (1822-1825) followed by a guided tour of Earnscliffe (1855 – 1857), former home of Sir John A. Macdonald and current residence of the British High Commissioner in Canada. Dr Brittain-Catlin’s lecture on Friday evening was held at St. Alban’s Church, his presentation on the architect A.W.N. Pugin was much anticipated and very well received.

Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin said: ‘it was an honour to join this important event. It has been very exciting to discover how Pugin’s ideas not only arrived in Ottawa but took such powerful and distinct form. We know about the influence of the British gothic revival on Canadian church architecture, but to discover such a clear impact of the revolutionary pinwheel on domestic architecture was a revelation. Thanks to the excellent work of Bruce Elliott, David Jeanes and their colleagues, future appreciation of these important houses looks much more secure’.

Whilst in Ottawa Dr Brittain-Catlin also acted as visiting scholar at the Department of Art History, at the invitation of Professor Peter Coffman, and amongst other activities talked about his new book Bleak Houses: disappointment and failure in architecture.