DIA Thesis Studio 21/22

Studio Master Ivan Kucina

Much Ado About Nothing


Dear David, the answer is NOTHING.

Wrote one of today’s most prominent architects Jacques Herzog answering the question about what architects should do in regards to environmental catastrophe, social inequality, poverty, degradation of planet’s resources, and pandemic, which has been posted in an open letter by another prominent architect David Chipperfield, published last year in August in Italian architectural magazine Domus.

In the continuation of the letter, Jacques Herzog presents some examples from his architectural practice that are showing the weakness of architects when confronting political leaders and real estate developers who are, according to him, the most responsible for managing the crisis. He resumes that the only quality that architects can successfully perform in such confrontation is the respectful physicality of a building and the decent service to a client.

While reading this letter, my interest flickered to the explicit statement at the beginning rather than to its resume. I have asked myself, and I want to ask you the same:

What is the NOTHING that architects should do?

NOTHING that has been assigned with the symbolic form of Zero has been in the center of humanity’s grasp to discover the mathematical model of reality in the ancient world, while today is incorporated in the digital bit that has revolutionized all our social communication and professional production?

NOTHING that has been scientifically accepted as an eternal mystery of the Universe since astrophysics has proved the existence of Black Holes, a speck of spaces with no information offered.

NOTHING that has been gradually introduced in western philosophy, either in the form of the vital instinct by Nietzsche, or the form of the essence of being by Sartre, or in the form of the non-metaphysical complexity by Deleuze and Guattari. Or, in ancient eastern philosophy, NOTHING has been defined as the ultimate achievement of individual mind growth – an eternal piece of the universal consciousness.

NOTHING has immanently connected various art forms with the various forms of human existence. In music, it has a form of a pause, an interval of silence between two notes. In paintings, it has enabled a perceptual passage from one form to another, but also an expression of discontinuity between old visual paradigms end new ones. In literature, it has established the poetics of absurdity as a form of resistance toward all kinds of authoritarian regimes.

NOTHING in contemporary architecture that has taken a form of a non-place – ubiquitous space with generic identity, or void – residual space in-between fulfilled ambitions.  Recently it has been affirmed in a form of zero-carbon emission, zero waste, and zero energy houses that are developed as technical solutions to the environmental crisis. Or, the most elaborate architectural paradigm of nothingness that has been defined in Japanese traditional architecture as MA spatial concept. According to MA, architecture is the interface that enables us to experience the state of NOTHING from which life thrills to grow.

NOTHING in urbanism has been associated with massive sprawls that are invading wastelands on the peripheries of the big cities. These formless agglomerations occupy most of the urbanized space, house most of the inhabitants, provide most of the mobility, and host most of the economic production. Its scattered buildings, trees, roads, fields, parking, commercial centers, gardens, playgrounds, schools, services, supermarkets, gas stations, yards, shops, and farms, connected by naked infrastructure, work as nodes of a decentralized network that does not have the beginning and the end. Peripheries look like nothing and do not make much sense. They are a “terrain vague”.

By overviewing NOTHING from these multidisciplinary perspectives, we could presume that it is something revolutionary, mysterious, rhythmical, poetic, critical, essential, sustainable, ephemeral, operational, vague, in-between, and all-around. 

NOTHING REALLY MATTERS.

NOTHING that you should do has to be located at the periphery of any city around the world. It has to be in a form of spatial intervention of any scale or a format that is making term to “terrain vague”, modeling and composing it.

WS 21: At the end of the winter semester you will customize your term of NOTHING for the site at the periphery of the city and the group of actors you have selected.  During the research process, you will practice walks and observations, reading and mind flow, site analysis and mapping, visual communication and infographics, critical thinking, and creative envisioning. You will analyze the selected site and behavior of its residents, determine the scale of your intervention, and build up a design program and arguments.

SS 22:  in the summer semester, your research will transit into a design project. You will learn to use spatial and architectural diagrams in order to develop design concepts from the research outcomes. You will draw your plans, sections, and elevations or use other means for visualizing desired space that is making a term to the selected location at the urban periphery and actors that you have defined. Finally, you will edit a meaningful representation and comprehensive document that will testify about your year-long adventure.