INSIDE Utopia

Presented by: Nerea Feliz

“The design of imaginary, conceptual or radical buildings is as old as the practice of architecture itself. Whether to explore new spatial or philosophical possibilities, or to test our understanding of built form, architects have for centuries drawn on their abilities to produce breath-taking works of the imagination.” Neil Speiller Over the last decades, utopian and experimental projects, often unbuilt and sometimes unbuildable, have fuelled the architectural imagination and later influenced professional practice. Partially due to the recent history of the Interior Design discipline, most of these speculative proposals have rarely come from within Interior design scholarship or practice. The seminar titled “Inside Utopia” offered in the Spring 2016 semester, sought to envision how the interior realm may play a critical role in an expanded conceptual and speculative design context. Students in this seminar hypothesized how a series of utopian buildings may be experienced and inhabited. What is it like to be inside Utopia? The advanced-level course was offered to a total of 8 upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, from both the Interior Design and the Architecture program. Via readings, lectures and in class discussions, students were introduced to seminal experimental projects from the last decades including: “Alterations to a suburban House” by Dan Graham (1978); ”The peak” Leisure Park by Zaha Hadid Architects (1982-83); “Slow House” by Diller + Scofidio (1992-93); “Virtual House” by FOA (1996); “Veg. House” by Peter Cook; and “Windtrap” by Philippe Rahm (2009). During the semester, both writing and drawing were treated as generative design tools and instruments of individual investigation and experimentation. Students were asked to develop a personal spatial narrative based on the ideas posed by the precedent study of their choice. In parallel, students explored the conceptual visualization of their spatial narrative engaging in a process of spatial and graphic inquiry of the interior realm. The studio was a unique learning experience for the students as it allowed them to examine the following issues that are ordinarily not central to our interior design curriculum: 1. The study of significant unbuilt projects to critically examine and comprehend their conceptual foundation. To develop a critical understanding of design in relation to a conceptual framework. 2. To develop the ability to raise questions and use abstract ideas to generate spatial proposals. 3. To interrogate interior inhabitation practices. To consider diverse points of view, research well-reasoned conclusions, and test alternative outcomes against relevant criteria and standards. 4. To explore drawing as a generative design tool. To foster graphic representation as a vehicle to communicate ideas and design aspirations.

References:

  • Visionary Architecture: blueprints of the Modern Imagination by Neil Spiller. Thames & Hudson. London (2007)
  • JAE 67:1, March 2013, Utopia C 2016.