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NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN

17

Into the Immeasurable: Understanding the New Umbau School of Architecture

William Tate Director, Umbau School of Architecture

GK VanPatter Co-Founder, NextDesign Leadership Institute Co-Founder, Humantific  Making Sense of Cross-Disciplinary Innovation

NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd Copyright © 2005 NextDesign Leadership Institute. All Rights Reserved. NextD Journal may be quoted freely with proper reference credit. If you wish to repost, reproduce or retransmit any of this text for commercial use please send a copyright permission request to journal@nextd.org


NextD Journal I ReRethinking Design Conversation 17

Into the Immeasurable

1 GK VanPatter: Welcome, William. Our friend, Uffe Elbæk from KaosPilot in Denmark, was recently visiting us here in New York and he mentioned your name. He suggested that you were doing some design education rethinking. Can you tell us something about your new school of Architecture and why it is being created and launched? William Tate: It is time to do something new. We want to discover again what Architecture can mean. And how it is we go about finding-making-creating Architecture. Architecture is for us a big set of questions. About how we live, how we move, what we believe, what we use, how we put together, how we dance. We want a school that will use these questions to explore life. It is something dynamic. Too much of Architecture is a bit dead. Certainly predictable. We want to unearth Architecture. Can we once more do authentic Architecture? We also want to explore Architecture as a way of thinking. Design process at full power. We want to take this ‘way’ of thinking and apply it into the most unexpected of contexts. Such thinking will heal, challenge, subvert, flank. At multiple scales, in numerous crossroads, and through inconceivable agendas. There we will go. So a group of us have gotten together to start a small, radical school of architecture. We are looking for a special kind of student, one who will take initiative, risk their guts out, question everything. There are not many like this. Too many of us have forgotten that such qualities matter immensely. That is what we will cultivate with this thing called Umbau. We will teach by discovery.

2 GK VanPatter: Where are you on your development timeline? Does Umbau physically exist at this time? William Tate: We are like a flower in between planting season and blooming. Umbau as an entity exists as a board of eleven people of diverse backgrounds and shared beliefs and many overlaps in histories, projects and themes. We are a non-profit corporation in Staunton, Virginia, with tax exempt status. Physically (and ironically), we have physical space and housing in Vienna, Austria. This is via a studio program we have been running there and will continue this summer. Also in Vienna, we have formed a remarkable network of the best Architecture and design firms. These connections are well-established and magical. We are recruiting to open the school in the fall on September 11, 2005. It is time to begin. No school starts out in ideal conditions. Here in Staunton there are many remarkable studio spaces we are considering and are under review. We are waiting to choose.

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For Sarajevo, this will come into full bloom in three years, but we are beginning coordination of possible projects right now. This may entail going back and forth, or we may be able to base two to three student marines there in the fall. We will have to see how the projects develop. As you read on our website, we are stressing flexibility, lightness, and speed, in direct contrast to the heavily laden bureaucracy normally seen in academic institutions. The mode of Umbau, however, is not the norm, and many people are uncomfortable with it. There is great security in being ‘laden’. A beginning school must get support and apply for accreditation. Neither comes automatically. For accreditation, a new school can be a candidate, but cannot become fully accredited until the first class is graduated. Thus, we must attract students outside the norm. Real pioneers. For financial support, we must get people to catch the dream we are pursuing. With time, we will attract many more to what we are about. It will become evident what we are about. People will begin sensing. I remember this summer sitting with Uffe Elbæk on a bench in Central Park. He spoke of starting the KaosPilot school in Denmark, and how suddenly they realized they had people coming and they needed to really do something. Uffe said they were still working on the space at 4:00 a.m. the day the school was to open. To reiterate on the timeline, we are already in Vienna and will continue. We plan to open our base of operations in Virginia in September. In Sarajevo, we anticipate beginning projects in the fall, either via trans-Atlantic migrations or with a small contingent in place there. With time, we see a rolling dialogue and immersion going between all three sites. It would be nice to have $5 million in the bank and a building already renovated. And we have actually pursued both of those ideas. But such is not the present case, and thus we must go with what we have got. Umbau is about creating an Architecture of different ramifications. In many ways, a return to origins, to a level of ancientness. But at the same time smarter, more sensual, challenging, and life changing. Can we build an Architecture that invites? Can we rediscover an Architecture of place? Can we make something that is slow? Can we respond to needs with mercurial speed? Can we breathe paradox? And how can design thinking Heal? So we are intentionally not mainstream, which makes us real provisional. This is the mindset of Umbau: ours is a spirit of improvisation. Even when we have the $5 million, we must still operate provisionally. So now is a time for good practice. It calls for full invention. In Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust writes of the church steeple in the village of Combray. As one moves through the streets and squares of the village, the steeple is a constant reference, landmark, orientation. One not only knows where one is, but also the temperature in the square and the time of day by the light reflecting off the tiles of the steeple. There is so much here that is not Walmart. It will be an amazing story to read later, this founding and flourishing of Umbau. We are grateful to you, GK, that you seem interested in this beginning avalanche. In my study of design history, the Good-New always started out puny. Always. The trouble is everyone Page 3 of 13


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thinks you should start with lungs automatically. Really? We find gills are quite nice underwater. Back to the agricultural model, we are a mustard seed. From this, we will build Puccini. In time, the mustard plant will grow into a mustard tree and will hold many birds of the air. All the while producing more and more mustard seeds.

3 GK VanPatter: It sounds like you are in the fuzzy front end of your journey. For Generators and Conceptualizers this is where the fun takes place. You are wise to appreciate it while it lasts. Tell us a little more about the why of what you are doing. Why create a new school of Architecture? Some might say there are already too many built environment Architecture schools on planet earth. In North America, there is significant overcapacity. I would guess that at least 50% of physical Architecture graduates get restreamed out of economic necessity into other domains of work within the first 5 years. I am guessing that 80% of those who remain in the industry – the ones that have an industry-related job – are either detailing endless sections through stairwells or are working in the Interiors business, for which most have received very little training. The authentic view into this picture is not particularly rosy. This is an entire subject onto itself! Architecture schools seem to be notoriously in denial regarding where their students end up in the real world these days. The romantic view of the architect seems to still reign supreme in the realm of Architecture education. What is it about that picture or perhaps a different picture that you see would make you think a new school of Architecture needs to be created? William Tate: 1. Our times are in need of suppleness of thought. We need a reawakening of invention and improvisation as a way of life. True creative thinking is in rare supply. Very rare. We have been educated to take tests, but ours is a day in which we must outshift the wind. We have read the times and discerned that. We get reinforcement from many venues, including NextD, KaosPilots, Fast Company, Grameen Bank. We must cast away the worn-out models. 2. Architecture must heal, challenge, subvert, give, arise. Current building is destroying more than it is giving. Suburban mindlessness and environmental usurpation is causing death. To the soul. To time. To leisure. To Peace. 3. Architecture today exists in a peripheral condition. It is dispensable. Due to expense, to ineptness, to chivalric attitude, to aloofness, to precious elitism, to liability, to a design method that amounts to choosing from catalogs – the practice of Architecture has become expendable. The world all too readily eliminates Architecture from the ‘real world’. The cost is our lives. 4A. Due to deification of the quantifiable, ALL INTANGIBLES are sacrificed in today’s Architecture. The poetic must be reclaimed. Tomorrow’s Architecture must move to center stage. It must again work ritual and place and tactility and sensuousness and

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order. As Louis Kahn said, first Architecture begins with the immeasurable, moves through to the measurable, and then must return and end with the immeasurable. Current equations eliminate all discussion of immeasurable means. 4B. Umbau means renovation, conversion, continuity, bridge. Bauen means to build. Bauer means farmer, to cultivate. 4C. Umbau means into the immeasurable. 5. Most architects who read these thoughts will acknowledge the gap in practice and ideal. We too readily presume ‘ideal’ to be beyond our means, but that cannot remain the case. Ideal is the standard to which we must work. Something has happened along the way that makes the compromise permissible. Ideal must again become the target. We must teach how to bridge. 6. The train of thought in most schools of Architecture is to fit a certain fashion. No longer is there an engaged process going on. Instead of why and how, it is looks and games and slick renderings. This educational dilemma is repeatedly agreed upon by architects and faculty to which we speak. It is further confirmed in our visits to schools. It has gotten to where it is like we are speaking a foreign tongue. 7. We must learn to play. This is the most rigorous of ventures. It is not light. It is total absorption into making, finding, discovering. One must be very attentive, even lost. The phone cannot ring. Most of the world does not know this. It is Light. 8. We want to regain authenticity. Architecture as a Way. Into Risk. Into Uncertainty. Into Joy. Most of the world is scared of this. 9. We see too much of the world as ‘them’. It lies out there. Beyond. It is not us. Those deaths, that war, this famine doesn’t really concern us. It is ‘their’ problem. Those statements are heinously false. Them is forever Us. If you think ‘it’ is not here, it soon will be. We will use Architecture to better figure, navigate, move, see. We will use Architecture to listen. We will use Architecture to GO IN. Be with. Work along side. We will use Architecture to re-build, to transcend boundaries, to combine disciplines, to practice humanity. Imagine an Architecture of humility. We will use Architecture to house refugees, to remember the cost of war, to move water, to regain the vernacular, to slow development, to invent the vernacular, to realize dreams. We will use Architecture as presence. It will put us there. We will absorb from Vienna. We will spring into Eastern Europe and surrounds. We will go to Sarajevo and live amidst Moslems. We will learn other cultural views, other Good(s), other phonetics. We will go to Sarajevo as a laboratory in Peace. We will practice what we learn. We will take design process and translate it into Peace-making. Into oases making. Into hospitality. Into vulnerable risk. Into healing.

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We will learn to see again. 10. We will make Architecture a cross between guerilla warfare and contemplative prayer. If you doubt this is needed, look at the world. 11. The need for Architecture as defined by Umbau is far greater than any current supply. What is being supplied via schools and practice is not even close to what we actually need. Umbau will be a mustard seed. Every second’s delay is that many more deaths to AIDS, to insurrection, to genocidal mindsets, to the useless waste by famine, to fundamental blindness. Every second’s delay is that many more acres cleared, that many more nonrenewables mined, that much more hell-scape built. There are multiple clocks ticking against us today. Umbau cannot get here fast enough.

4 GK VanPatter: I understand your interest in casting away the worn-out models. We are glad to hear that you are getting some inspiration from NextD. It sounds like you are engaged in an exciting adventure. Who do you have on your development team? William Tate: Basically it is our board of eleven at this time. We are operating like a series of probes around the world. Our board includes Nazif Hasanbegovic in Sarajevo working on lining up projects and support there. Michael Tusing has an amazing circle of friends and people dedicated-to-the-Good, whom we are beginning to meet. When you meet Michael’s friends, there are Picassos on the wall, opera in the air, and one thousand tangents. Hans Gyllstrom is with Citicorp in New York, and we are working to get Hans and a group of his fellow CEOs involved in Umbau both in terms of projects and support. Hector Lasala, who is one of the best design professors in the world, has connections in Latin America, the Kennedy Center, and the entire southeastern United States. Robert Collins, our American Carlo Scarpa, has glass manufacturers waiting to develop new prototypes for us. Robert has as well the landscape of Maine that breeds the unique thinker. We have no idea what to expect out of Maine, so we lust for surprise. Kevin Deck has been to Vienna with us and will help to develop the design cell. We want Kevin to realize his dream of an American EOOS (an industrial design firm in Vienna that is a real model for Umbau). Shelby Tolliver has a world of contacts via music, computers, corporate America. He is at the forefront of our warfare with suburbia and the typical mind-numbing bureaucracy of 90% of what’s out there. The other Tate, Karen, is the pusher, the lightning rod, the conscience, the healthy prioritizer-reminder. Internationally, we are very fortunate to have the great Mexican architect, Ricardo Legorreta, and the Austrian wonder, Gregor Eichinger. One, they have formidable contacts. Two, they practice Architecture like we want the Umbau graduate to do. Three, we want them to come to Umbau and create sparks with frequency.

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Each member of the board is working their own webs of contacts and realms of influence. You can tell an Umbau board member on the street. They are the ones walking around with a radar scope on their heads. We have pursued both grant support and certain celebrities who seem to have an affinity for Architecture. We are working at better cultivation of these contacts and relationships. The world is waiting to help. As we become known, we will develop critical mass. The buzz will grow. People will thirst to be a part of Umbau. They will help us become a big strong lever. Umbau is very much on the lookout for co-conspirators. We want people to be involved with Umbau, contribute to Umbau, travel with Umbau, and help change the world via Umbau. We need socially committed people who are looking to make a difference. It will be a legacy of real impact for the twenty-first century. Imagine being linked to projects for: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

A Design-Peace Center in Sarajevo A slow city in metropolitan Atlanta A strip development that has been defused/reclaimed/healed/subverted An educational program on Architecture in the elementary schools A design project for reconciliation between America and the Arab world A project that will commemorate freedom in South Africa Design thinking applied to rebuilding Bam, Iran A prototype for refugee housing in Uganda A study in Viennese urban space applied to the American suburb A study in Sarajevo places applied to the American suburb Lessons from Bam applied to the American suburb Reclamation of the marshlands in southern Iraq A series of gardens built in Sadr City, Iraq A series of gardens built along the West Bank where the wall now is A bridge across the former no-man’s land in Berlin, where warring actions come and exchange gifts. Raw guts here. Think Hutu and Tutsi, Bosnian and Serb, Sudanese and Sudanese, Palestinian and Israeli, Chechen and Russian . . . .

Just imagine. We want to establish an international crossroads, one that will intersect Vienna and Sarajevo and Staunton. We want to attract people like flies. Never will our student body be that large, 120 maximum, but we want many, many people to come hang out and figure out things they would never figure out otherwise. Thus, we must have two jazz cafés, a world class library collection, a world class drawing collection (hand drawing), an outdoor cinema, and an ice skating rink. Not to mention our lecture series that will rival any school on the east coast. The school of Umbau will be a serious hangout for citizens, all youth, visiting architects, foreign diplomats, NGO operatives, entrepreneurs, designers, people with questions, missionaries of charity, jazz musicians, actors, drummers, scientists, violinmakers, NextD practitioners. We want them roaming through our studios, sitting in the cafés, talking to our students, meeting with our faculty, coming to the summer movies, perusing

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our books, skating under the stars in winter. We want other people to join us in Vienna and in Sarajevo. Can you imagine? Also, I must add that we are going operate a number of income-generating facets to Umbau. These will include the following: Industrial Design Cell: •

Group of 3 designers. Generating prototypes. Networking into production.

Peace Tank: • • • • •

Special projects bringing design to Middle East peace process Will be a collaborative of design firms, Arab design firms, and KaosPilots Will also infiltrate into China, Africa, South America, as needed We will breed the citizen-architect We will out-Al Qaeda Al Qaeda. The US Army cannot do this. Umbau must. It is not anti terrorism. It is about peace.

Continuing Education: • • •

Courses offered for recharging of practicing architects AIA continuing education credits Intensive design workshops

Endowments: • • •

Campaign for paid mentorships with best cutting edge architects in the world Sponsorship and endowments for Studio Sarajevo Via corporations, private sponsors, foundations, sheikhs

Assets: • • • • • • •

World class Architecture drawing collection. They will give them to us. Extensive library collection Networking: You come to Umbau to do what you cannot do anywhere else in the world Our students: Energy-fire-rigor Our faculty: Teaching regained. We change lives, push societies, recover the planet. Our graduates: Want a marine? Want transformation? Want to heal? Want another way? A barn, a skating rink, cafés, an outdoor cinema, the best spaces in Vienna and all of Bosnia-Herzegovina. What more could you want? Welcome to the twentyfirst century. . . and to Umbau.

5 GK VanPatter: Its sounds like quite the party, but I’m sure you want it to be much more than that. Having lots of cool stuff going on at your school will likely attract lots of adventuresome young people, but how will you deliver the steak in addition to the sizzle? If we think about the history of operational models within the Architecture business, it is clear that a celebrity/master model dominated for generations and Page 8 of 13


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still does to a large degree. That model – where there is a master and everyone else is their apprentice – does not sync well with where organizations are today, with where cross-disciplinary innovation is today. I am guessing that you intend to introduce a different kind of model. Can you tell us something about the model? What is the role of cross-disciplinary innovation at Umbau? William Tate: The purpose of Umbau is to make a difference. There are two parts to that statement, one of which is the making – that must be the guts of the school. Not to emphasize the made object as a goal, but we will take pleasure in the made thing as a result of our process and our thinking. These will reflect a level of excellence and authenticity of search. The visitor will be inundated with models, prototypes, sites, posters, silkscreens, books, etchings. At Umbau, one must walk in and drink from it all. We will draw and build Architecture. It will be evident. People will come and visit and maybe not understand at first, but it will be contagious, they will pick up on a certain spirit. This will be a test of Umbau’s mettle. If the visitors get it right away, we are not stretching enough. If the work is not somehow intuitively contagious, then we are not sparking enough. One must come to Umbau and gather questions. Generate questions. Ponder questions. Reflect upon the never-before. Recover the most ancient. The other part of the statement is the difference that will become more and more evident. This pertains to the design process, the way of thinking. This is the heart of Umbau. We are starting a breeding ground of change, of lateralness, of journey-asa-way-of-life. We are to regain design process in all its power, subtlety, order and unpredictability, aha’s and blindness, rigor and madness. The projects and work must speak to the whys and the meanings of human existence. So our contagion is to act as a cultural resource. There is a good model for what we are trying to capture. It was in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century. In those coffeehouses of Vienna, people of all backgrounds gathered to work out and reflect upon Architecture, art, politics, music, psychology, economics. The unique thing about Vienna is that the people mixed disciplines. Businessmen, architects, artists, composers, writers all sat at the same tables. They could discuss ideas and relevance. It was not the choir preaching to the choir, which we architects are much too inclined to do. So can we make a cultural oasis. I prefer the word oasis to that of party, because there is a certain stillness or quiet or pause of the oasis image that is equally necessary to the activity. The positive aspect of the word party is its vivaciousness. The downside is its loudness. We have too much LOUD today. Can exuberance and listening coincide? You are right about the hazards of the ‘celebrity/master model’. We are leery of this, while at the same time espousing the crucial role of mentoring. What Umbau is in search of is excellence. Where is it being realized? Who is doing Good Work? Who is making a difference? And this is going on and it is happening. We want our students to have the opportunity to spend time around such people and to ‘absorb excellence’. To see these people struggle to the decision, to meet obstacles, to adjust to change, to tune a team. It is not to put these people up on a pedestal, but to recognize their commitment to the Good and to see how they navigate to it. Page 9 of 13


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A definite temptation in Architecture is to go and work for the famous and to then have the god’s name on your resume. And this often can be quite valuable as an experience, but we are cautious of the famous. Fame carries heavy loads in terms of distraction, pride, and insensitivity. Or it can. We are after the ‘young Turks’, which is not about age, but refers to the architects that are quietly doing Good Work and doing so tenaciously. We much prefer the ‘undiscovered’, which of course makes them harder to find. We have had great success in Vienna, but it has taken eight years of cultivated knocking. Vienna tells us there is a whole underground of excellent people working and making and re-thinking and mattering. They are out there. The Good is not about names or pedigree. Our task is to create initiators, not idolaters. One fellow architect told me about his school, and how they got this famous architect in, and then another famous architect in, and the list was a veritable who’s who. He went on to say that when architect A was in, they did stuff that looked like A. When architect B was in, they did stuff that looked like B. And my friend was beaming at the apparent ‘success’ of this. I was incredulous. They missed the point entirely. I feel again my sense of tragedy even as I write this. As to the interdisciplinary nature of design, that will be our warp and woof. Actually the inspiration for Umbau came through attending a rehearsal of the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Lecoq is a mime school: about 80 students, a 2-year program, international, and world class. You could sense a philosophy of acting innovation here, pertinent, engaging. I immediately began thinking of doing the Lecoq equivalent for Architecture. So while there are echoes in Umbau of a Bauhaus, a SCIArc, or an Architectural Association, our real genesis goes back to a mime school. That and Henri Labrouste. Umbau’s position is definitely one of confrontation to the norm. That is why we have turned to Fast Company, to KaosPilots, to U2, to the Grameen Bank, to NextD. Here we find a resonance and reciprocation of process and ideas. We find people talking our language. We are finding that within the classifications of ‘social entrepreneur’, ‘martial artist’, ‘bass guitarist’, there can be a strong complement to what Umbau is about. When one looks at practices of design firms such as Bruce Mau, IDEO, Jean Nouvel, EOOS, these practices consist of cinematographers, writers, dancers, poets, scientists, psychologists, engineers, historians, in addition to the architects and the designers. The composition changes to fit the project nature. This seems real and authentic to us and the best way to move with the paradigm shifts that are upon us. Gregor Eichinger, one of our board members and a marvelous architect in Vienna, has been teaching design studios off and on in Vienna, Basel, Los Angeles. One studio he taught was located in an old cinema in Vienna. They would do exhibitions, watch films, talk about books, present projects. Then Gregor had an exam. For the exam, Gregor would be sitting in the storefront window of the cinema. To the empty chair in front of him, one by one, the students would come to sit for the ‘exam.’ Gregor’s exam was to tell the students, “Ask me a question.” That was it. Some would blow it off, that it was Page 10 of 13


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ridiculously simple. Some were annihilated by it, what can this mean? Some took it and made a great question. These were the ones that pushed and delighted Gregor. The question told the relative position of understanding and depth. • • • • • • • •

We want to breed self-starters who will initiate the not-yet. We want quiet, unsung heroes to help us find the way. We want to celebrate collisions of heritage, culture, and mind. We want to understand foreign languages and give them new phonetics. We want to inhabit culture. And offer it. We want to practice permeability as a strength. We want rigor that is sap to the tree. We would like to stump Gregor, but that is impossible so the desire must suffice.

6 GK VanPatter: Let’s return for a moment to your “just imagine” list of possible projects. I see numerous projects there that would result in building outcomes. Does this mean that inherent in what you are teaching is the notion that what will be output is a building design of some kind? In the land of NextD, starting with a brief to create a building is a form of framed challenge. There is nothing wrong with that, but let’s understand what that is, what that means. What that implies is that before design engages, the problem has already been framed up. Inherent in the yet-to-be-developed solution is the notion that it will involve construction of some building. This logic can be found in most of our specialized disciplines including Architecture. It is a logic that comes to impact what is taught in the classroom and how it is taught. The problem with this kind of logic is that the world today rarely presents itself as a series of prepackaged problems. Most often what the problem or opportunity really is, is not clear at the outset. So jumping to the notion that the solution is a building might be premature. The skill-set for navigating unframed challenges is very different from the skill-set for creating building solutions to framed challenges. You can see how this comes to impact what your graduates are then capable of doing. If you are teaching them framed innovation skills but expecting them to take on the unframed challenges of world peace, there are likely a few disconnects there. The reality is that the skills being taught might not align with the types of challenges they are facing. So to cut to the chase, we are talking about the alignment of skills (being taught) with expectations, with stated goals. Historically, our traditional design education institutions have not done a very good job recognizing and acknowledging such process disconnects. That’s one reason why we are here talking about it, making the disconnect visible. We seek to make students much more aware about what they are being taught, what they are buying, why and how it fits into the complex universe they now face. You mentioned KaosPilot. So let’s take a look there. There is nothing inherent in what they are doing that would presuppose building outcomes as solutions. Like NextD, they seek to create challenge and solution architects rather than building architects. So my question to you here is, what is the nature of your intention? Help us better understand how that works or will work at Umbau.

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William Tate: We are a school of Architecture. A formidable task before us is to get things built. It is something we want to do in a way that is inspiring, poetic, affordable, transformative. Much of a school’s work lies in the way of projects that are theoretical, and then to apply these lessons into making real. At Umbau we want to activate the “making real,” but not at the cost of losing the ideals we have learned. Here lies the formidability of the quest. There is much at odds with doing new or different things. Two important laboratories for us are Vienna and Sarajevo. In Vienna, we will see what our Viennese friends are ‘making real’. In Sarajevo, we will go there specifically to build. It is our chance to make real. And then our graduates continue on in the practice of subversion. But it is building. With craft, with sensitivity to materials, with invention, with environmental awareness. Our task is to build phenomenologically. The senses will matter. All the senses. It will matter where you are. Also, on a program level, we see Architecture as ranging in scale from the door knob to the city. It is both of those poles and everything in the middle. We must address what the hand touches, as well as the in-between space of the urban fabric. And landscape. When someone gets a project, whether from a client or in a studio, the program is merely a jumping off point. The list of needs is helpful and gives us a direction to work in, but there is so much that is unspoken. Here is where we play. We must interpret, invent, fill in. It is often in the unspoken (which will be referred to in many other ways during the project) that becomes the heart of the project. Here is where we can actualize the hidden dreams – be it a city, a couple, a non-profit, a school, whatever. Thus, a vital contribution of Umbau will be in the Architecture we help to realize. We indeed aspire to make a difference with what we build. And then we must address learning. At Umbau we will stress HOW TO THINK, not what to think. It is all about process and the full ramifications that this kind of thinking entails. It is the creative act, which again, is not formulaic, but does call upon a kind of ‘knowing’. Can we cultivate the rigor, sensitivity, awareness, and tenacity to see us through? Design thinking/creative thinking is in short supply today. There are many cells of excellence, but at large, it is not active. We need to cultivate a process thinking that can react to any situation. It can translate, move over, shift, bridge. Architecture will be our vehicle of operation. It is like Japanese flower arranging. At face value, flower arranging sounds like a purely aesthetic exercise. It requires skill, material, technique. There are desired outcomes, and even a strong tradition of form lies within its history. But the Art of flower arranging deals in creating conditions of peace, tranquility, harmony, beauty. It teaches about life at a deep and profound level. The flower arranging is a vehicle for gaining wisdom. Can Umbau do the same with Architecture? Your phrase describing KaosPilots as ‘challenge and solution architects’ is a good description for what we are seeking to do at Umbau. However, even the word ‘solution’ may be too rigid for the complexity of our world today. We are much in the way of Page 12 of 13


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navigation, improvisation, subversion (in a healthy sense), seeing. We have to play off of fields, circumstances, accidents that are often beyond our control. But we have a power of scent. We read the wind. We can scale walls and ford streams. It is an operational mindset.

7 GK VanPatter: I can see that you are optimistically engaged in an exciting adventure that takes considerable courage to undertake. Let us know if NextD can help you going forward.

NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN

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Into the Immeasurable: Understanding the New Umbau School of Architecture