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UNIT 9

Sub.Zero Architecture

Harald Trapp, Robert Thum

What happens, when the ground as “an assumed architectural datum” (Eisenman, Diagram Diaries) is questioned? Does this really mean an attempt to move “from thinking to feeling, from the head to the body or to the ground”? (Eisenman, Diagram Diaries) And is it right, “that once in touch with this uncanny space, we begin to understand it as an unactualized form of architecturally produced nature that reorients the houses to the earth”? (David Gissen, Subnature) Modernisation from the 18th century on was connected to the rapid development of an infrastructure that was mainly inserted underneath the surface of the city. What started with sewers, drainage and power-transmission soon was extended to transportation. With this came a programmatic extension through the cluster of functions attached to points of high user-frequency. The public networks of vectors condensed in stations filled with control rooms, ticket-booths and small vendors for a variety of products. Additionally, the vertical expansion of the city needed deeper foundations and added new layers of subterranean spaces. Now the increasing conservation of the traditional city-scape and the growing demand for space in privileged locations adds a bizzare mutation to the urban underground: the extraordinary demands of luxury living need a vent against the restrictions of overground development. In contrast to the rhizomatic nets of service tubes, transportation tunnels and their stations, this new architecture consists of encapsulated cells that seem to re-enact the origin of human dwelling: the cave.

Berlin, Germany Catania, Palermo, Sicily

The combination of property prices, legal limitations for building on the ground and the increasing desire for privacy, exclusion and security culminates in the extension of “iceberg-houses” into the ground. This results in excessive excavations, multi-story structures completely and intentionally separated from neighbours and urban life. As the term “iceberg” suggests, these structures are not restricted to the underground, but settle underneath either existing or new buildings above the zero level. But in distinction to the traditional extension of houses into the ground, subzero-architecture inverts the ratio between above and below. What appears on the city surface is reduced to a small part of the volume that clusters around the entrance to the underground. Sub-zero architecure is a pure interior without an exterior. It is the spatial expression of an increasing interiorization of private life that reduces houses to non-urban-entities. It is a new heterotopy. “Oligarchs and overcompensated money market raiders, Premier League footballers and their agents have burrowed under Chelsea and Kensington for generations, commissioning Dr No fantasies of swimming pools and cinemas and state of the art gymnasia in which no uninvited civilian will ever set foot. These windowless sets, finessed by fashionable architects, are like parodies of facilities promised for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. And nobody but the owners can get at them.”(Iain Sinclair, Into the Underworld) But “deep urbanism” is not limited to these pioneers of luxury and retreat. More and more public initiatives

UEL yearbook 2015  
UEL yearbook 2015  
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