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Studio State or the (im)possibility of a true and collective now “Architecture is the printing-press of all ages, and gives a history of the state of the society in which it was erected, from the cromlech of the Druids to those toy-shops of royal bad taste.”—Lady Sydney Morgan (as quoted by Sir Banister Fletcher’s in A History of Architecture)

In the proposal for a tragic, comic and satyric stage-set, Sebastiano Serlio articulated the relationship between architectural expression and social ideal. The noble and idealised buildings take on a dream-like or visionary quality, a promise of a higher, more perfect reality. Scena tragica, Stage design by Sebastiano Serlio, 1545.


In the search of a true and collective now, this studio will declare a Studio State on Monday 3rd of July 2017, the first day of the London Summer School. Together we will postulate an alternative society. We will formulate the demands that stem from our communal ideals and will design a state that embodies the dreams and aspirations of a collective now. DEFINING VALUES

What can the architectural language of a new State be and how does this architecture reflect the values that it represents? The Studio will examine the social constructs that underpin identity and representation  in architectural expression. John Ruskin’s provocative remark on the eloquence of architecture proposed that we seek two things from our buildings: they must shelter us, and, more importantly, they must speak to us. Buildings speak of democracy or aristocracy, openness or arrogance, welcome or threat, a sympathy for the future or a hankering for the past. While creating our state, we will debate the meaning of peoples, ideas and political agendas. Examining the notion that buildings speak helps us to place the values we want to live by at the very centre of our architectural activity – rather than merely what we want them to look like.

The layer of ice covering the Thames in winter 1683 spontaneously excited a carnival on the water. Sleds, a bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, tipling and other lewd places emerged – a bacchanalian triumph. A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs, Abraham Hondius, 1684.


Our Studio State will exist for only three weeks within the confines of our studio and will begin with the ceremonious act of demarcating our borders. By building walls and gates, it will become clear where the Studio State starts and where its sovereignty ends. Over the course of the Summer School, we will develop a material culture for our new State. Through analysis, discussion, debate and, above all, making, we will deliver the architecture of our state’s institutions, constructing them in the inverted setting of the studio interior. These institutions will form the backdrop to a public square at the heart of the studio space in the form of 1:3 facades.

Twentieth-century art historians are divided as to whether the triptych’s central panel is a moral warning or a panorama of paradise lost. The central water-bound globe in the middle panel’s upper background is a hybrid of stone and organic matter. It is adorned by nude figures cavorting both with each other and with various creatures, some of whom are realistic, others are fantastic or hybrid. The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, around 1500 (detail).


At the start of week 1 we will declare the Studio State – an ideal society that will exist only for the three-week duration of the Summer School. Its ideological basis will be discussed and developed by means of the design of its key symbols and architectural features that constitute its demarcation. The flag as the most immediate tool for primary signification and identification, with spatial implication in terms of ceremonial decoration. The wall as primary principle of delimiting territory. The gate as the articulation and symbolic embodiment of entry or exclusion. The design process will be based on research of demarcation and representation from the pre-historic Menhir in the landscape, to the Ancient Greek city state, to Donald Trump’s border wall – exposing the implicit values that are embedded in the material constitution of these elements. In turn the design of the flag, wall and gate of our Studio State will articulate the key values of our new society. Parallel to the design studio we will undertake excursions and visit places of demarcation in London and investigate their social meaning and impact.

The Happening Fluids was a celebration of the ephemeral character in architecture. Kaprow isolated the experience of the happening while engaging the attention and the energy of its participants. Once erected, the ice blocks were left untouched – “they are left to melt.” Fluids, Allan Kaprow, 1967.

In the movie, Truman Burbank’s discovery of the boundaries of his built environment offers us a metaphor for our current situation. The fake landscape Truman lives in is our own media landscape in which news, politics, advertising and public affairs are increasingly made up of theatrical illusions. The Truman Show, film still, 1998.


Week 2 will focus on structures and mechanisms of social order in our new State, its institutions. Everything that represents our state will first have to be designed and built. Through examination of historic examples – real and utopian – we will investigate the relationships between social structures and their architectural monuments, exposing the inherent representational aspects of the architectural artefacts. With the knowledge gained, we will define and build the institutions of our new Studio State that reflect and define the ideal of a true and collective now. Focusing on the main representational component of the elevation, we will study the function of facades as mediators between individual private needs and the common interests within the communal spaces of the city, and as symbolic signifiers of social structure.

Hijacking flag poles and using them to display a new flag; the flag of an imaginary nation for the exhibition “Gnome Sweet Gnome”. A few dozens of these flags (150 x 225 cm each) were screenprinted, and for the duration of the exhibition displayed on all the flagpoles in the Keukenhof park. White Dots, Experimental Jetset, May 2003.


During the last week, the final proposals will be tested, tweaked and built as large scale 1:3 painted cardboard facade reliefs. Together they will form the set for the new Studio State, an idealised architectural framework that will be a direct expression of the social objectives of our Studio State. Throughout the existence of our State, the projects will be captured and documented through photography and a real-time publication process that will result in a document that is at once its manifesto and its historiography. The final day will be used to recap the imaginary and physical construction of the State. As a collective whole, it will be discussed with a range of visiting critics. The concluding party will be the final event of the Studio State, and by means of its ceremonial deconstruction, we will celebrate its ultimate impossibility.

Porta Pia was one of Pope Pius IV’s civic improvements to the city of Rome from 1556. Its breach, shown here in a contemporaneous photograph following the Capture of Rome in 1870, signified the unification of Italy. Michelangelo’s Porta Pia was later the backdrop of a failed assassination attempt on then dictator Mussolini in 1926. The Monumento al Bersagliere, erected in 1932 by Publio Morbiducci was consequently added to the gate on a commission from Mussolini to signify its importance in the construction of the Italian Nation State.


Benjamin Groothuijse is an architect, editor and educator based in Zurich. He studied at ETH Zurich and TU Delft, where he graduated at Tony Fretton’s chair of Interiors, Buildings and Cities. Having worked for Atelier Peter Zumthor and von Ballmoos Krucker Architekten, he currently teaches at the chair of Prof. Adam Caruso at ETH Zurich. As a publisher Benjamin has received several awards for the publication of Dwars Vers, a compilation of translated poems by Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay. He is a regular visiting critic at the Rotterdamse Academie van Bouwkunst, TU Delft and ETH Zurich. David Schmidt is an architect and educator based in London. He studied Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences at TU Delft and ETH Zurich. A graduate from Tony Fretton’s chair at TU Delft, his research focussed on the importance of the public interior as venues for sociability in the twenty-first century city. David currently works at 6a architects, where he has led the design of numerous high profile culture and arts buildings in the UK, Germany and Belgium. David has taught at Universiteit Antwerpen and regularly contributes to academic discourse as a visiting critic at institutions in the UK and abroad. Korbinian Kainz is an architect and researcher based in London. Educated in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, he graduated from ETH Zurich. Before joining 6a architects he worked at Meili Peter Architekten and taught at ETH Zurich, where his research focussed on the shift in national representation in the early 20th century. Together with Prof. Dr.-Ing. Uta Hassler, Korbinian has worked on the project for the 2014 German pavilion for the Venice Biennale. Their research on the origins of polytechnic school buildings in Europe was recently published in a two-volume work on Gottfried Semper’s ETH building. Korbinian has been a visiting critic at numerous institutions including the Architectural Association and the University of Cambridge.

Francis, duke of Anjou, son of the French King Henry II, entered Antwerp on 19 February 1582. The triumphal arch was erected specially for this occasion. The Dutch rebels had invited Anjou to be their ruler. The pomp and circumstance notwithstanding, this intention came to naught. Antwerp fell into Spanish hands in 1585, and the Northern Netherlands became a republic in 1588. The Joyous Entry of the Duke of Anjou, Monogrammist MHVH, 1582 - 1600.

“Gate”. Modena, Luigi Ghirri, 1973.

The dystopian city backdrop was constructed as a 1/3 city. Set design for Metropolis, Fritz Lang, 1927.

BIBLIOGR APHY · Hans Widmer, Bolo’bolo, 1983 · Greg Hill, Kerry Wendell Thornley, Principia Discordia, 1963 · Thomas More, Utopia, 1516

VIDEOGR APHY · Yorgos Lanthimos, Dogtooth, 2008 · Peter Weir, The Truman Show, 1998 · Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York, 2008 · Ben Wheatley, High-Rise, 2015 · George Lucas, THX 1138, 1971 · Guddu Dhanoa, Big Brother, 2007 · Marco Ferreri, La Grande Bouffe, 1973

WORKS OF ART · Allan Kaprow, Fluids, 1967 · Allan Kaprow, 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, 1959 · Atelier van Lieshout, AVL-Ville, 1995 · Michael Beutler, Moby Dick, 2015

Graphic design by Andrea Evangelista

Unit 5 - AA Summer School 2017