Diploma 14 Jongwon Na, Plinths: A Proposal for Civic Spaces in Seoul, 2015-16

Welcome to the Jungle
The Project of the "Void"

Pier Vittorio Aureli and Maria Shéhérazade Giudici

This year Diploma 14 will focus on the project of the "void". Far from being empty, the void is everything that is not occupied by buildings or other forms of built density, and it appears to us as a "natural" reservoir. This void can exist inside or outside the city, and it is often a contested territory where the tendency to enclose space for the sake of profit meets the resistance of the citizens desire to use it freely. The urban "void" is therefore a site of struggle, between processes of exploitation and reappropriation, and perhaps the most direct testimony to the enclosure of resources that marked the beginning of capitalism.

Our project looks to address this condition by defining strategies of de-commodification that can be made visible and tangible through specific architectural interventions. In order to advance this idea we use the concept of the park as our starting point. As one of urban modernism's most problematic figures, the park has been used to naturalise the conflictual history of urban territories. And within the modern city it has, often controversially, played the role of the "jungle": a piece of wilderness enclosed by the artificiality of the city. Yet the jungle is an ambivalent allegory because the more it celebrates a primordial return to nature, the more it casts a shadow on the city as an (un)governable place in which order and disorder are no longer opposing forces but, rather, two faces of the same coin. Indeed, the image of the park as pastoral retreat is often used to hide the violence of dispossession that has produced the contemporary city. The question of the studio will therefore be how to use the park not as an idealisation of nature and rurality, but as a territorial system that allows the reappropriation of resources and makes legible the forces and conflicts that produce our own urban condition.

Unit Staff

Pier Vittorio Aureli is an architect and educator. His research and projects focus on the relationship between architectural form, political theory and urban history. He is Louis Kahn Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture at Yale University and is the author of The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011) and The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture Within and Against Architecture (2008). He is co-founder of Dogma, an architectural studio based in Brussels and focused on the project of the city.

Maria Shéhérazade Giudici is the founder of the publishing and educational platform Black Square and the coordinator of the history and theory course at the School of Architecture of the Royal College of Art. She holds a PhD from TU Delft with a thesis on the construction of modern subjectivity through the project of public space. Before joining the AA, she taught at the Berlage Institute and BIArch Barcelona and worked on large-scale urban plans with offices BAU Bucharest, Donis Rotterdam and Dogma Brussels.

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