Diploma 17 Yuan Zhai, 95%, Diploma 17, 2017–18


Dora Sweijd and Theo Sarantoglou Lalis

‘Instead of using a paintbrush to make his art, Robert Morris would like to use a bulldozer.’
–Robert Smithson, Towards the Development of an Air Terminal Site, 1967

The industrialisation of building products has liberated the world from our imposed intervention. 95% of the built environment has not received any input by architects, and integrated digital libraries effortlessly fuel production lines of building elements combined and recombined in an endless eld of abstraction where architecture can be everything. Fully automated production techniques will indulge our dream of effortlessness: a world without physical labour or slavery. But while drifting into voluntary servitude we strive to seek something else within this motion. As Gilbert Simondon wrote, ‘Human reality resides in its smallest details’ and one could add, is indistinguishable from its technological dimension. More than anything else, technology shapes our culture; it influences our intellect, our very way of being, our existence.

This year, Diploma 17 will reflect on the deep implications of the digital in architecture. Our investigations will be focusing on two main considerations. On one hand, we will develop an understanding of the shifting changes in occupancy, and on the other, we will critically re-think the politics of how architecture is produced. The ambition will be to unravel the digital’s vast cultural, social, and political ubiquity and to highlight its impact and pervasive role in all aspects of design, fabrication and experience.

This unit will enthusiastically seek intense design experimentation for ambiguous proposals situated at the intersections between technology, landscape and art. We will explore the socio-political role of architectural form seeking greater physical engagement, participation or resistance. We propose to speculate on, and develop elaborate but nevertheless affordable, production strategies. Through the use of ‘detournement’, we will intentionally subvert digital fabrication and robotics by imagining spaces for collective emancipation, individual fulfilment and pleasure. As usual the unit will search for greater corporeality in the production and communication of architecture – mixing the use of both physical and digital media – and challenge a culture of the flat in favour of a new materiality nested within digital practice.


Dora Sweijd and Theo Sarantoglou Lalis are the founders of LASSA, an architecture studio based in London and Brussels. Theo has taught at GSAPP Columbia University, GSD Harvard University and both were visiting professors at Lund University and Chalmers, University of Sweden. They have been teaching at the AA since 2009. They have lectured internationally and led workshops in Europe, Asia, Australia, the USA and South America. In 2010, LASSA was awarded an REA European research grant in partnership with world-leading specialists in research as well as institutions throughout Europe and Switzerland.

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