The End of ContextNatasha S Sandmeier
‘Ruin must be a fantasy, veiled by the mind’s dark imaginings’ – Rose Macaulay
‘So the object itself was changed by its context and therefore it became a new thing’ – Robert Rauschenberg
This year Diploma 9 moves from the room to the ruin. Last year’s work on the room created unprecedented unit projects by virtue of an intense internalisation of our ongoing aims and agendas. Students were able to create incredibly singular, self-contained worlds comprising invented rooms that no longer represented the city, but rather embodied and suggested entirely new forms of the city. The goal this year will be the same: to continue rethinking what it means to make an architectural portfolio as an essential dimension of what we call an architectural project, and to craft its individuality in new, unexpected ways. The ruins we will challenge are the dead spaces (and portfolios) we already know, and we will force them to undergo radical transformation.
Our ruins will not be those of lamented lost buildings or ancient cities. Instead, the remnants we embrace as precedents are the places where connections between people, histories, spaces and culture have already begun to fray. In Diploma 9 context is all about relationships, real or invented, built between objects, places and spaces. This year the idea of the isolated ruin – where these ties are in danger or at worst broken – is one we will use to further threaten architecture’s belief in context. From Rauschenberg’s Combines to Duchamp’s Fountain and Piranesi’s Carceri, we will consider the ruin as something else entirely: as points able to reveal architecture’s capacity for displacing time and place. Our goal will be to show that once reconnected by absurd links of our own invention, new contexts can emerge and spawn the imagination and invention of fantastical, new architectural forms. The ruin will become our tabula rasa.
Natasha Sandmeier is an architect and partner of Big Picture Studio. She was Project Architect for the Seattle Public Library while at OMA. She has been Unit Master of Diploma 9 since 2007, and was Intermediate 2 Unit Master from 2001–6. She also directs the AA Summer School.