Diploma 14 First meeting of the Persian Prince Humay and the Chinese Emperor's daughter Humayun. Persian miniature, School of Herat, c 1405–20


Pier Vittorio Aureli, Maria Shéhérazade Giudici

The garden is one of the most influential architectural archetypes of both Eastern and Western civilizations. Originally a walled estate, the garden can also be understood as a piece of land adjoining a house used for growing owers, fruits or vegetables. For this reason, even when gardens are public spaces they retain a domestic character. The history of gardens thus coincides with one of the most controversial processes of human history: the domestication of society.

Early sedentary communities did not only build homes but also started to de ne their own territory by cultivating land in forests, building boundaries and enclosing spaces. Gardens therefore embody the original ambivalence of the domestic space as both a way to give stability and orientation to life and as instruments to mark land property. This ambivalence permeates the whole history of gardens as protected places of care as well as displays of ownership. From Hortus Conclusus to the communal orchard, gardens conjure images of pleasure but also appropriation. It is precisely this mixture of delight and control that made gardens a reference point for the most ideological forms of western domesticity: the villa and the allotment. These two forms reduced the ambiguity of the garden and made it a potent symbol for the privatisation of land.

However, the garden is also a space of experimentation where nature was reinvented and manipulated – a blueprint for the organisation of the world outside its walls, or a deliberately idiosyncratic alternative that radically opposed the surrounding reality.

This year Diploma 14 will critically revisit this legacy to twist the garden archetype. We will explore the way the making of a garden blurs the traditional distinction between design and construction that, since the Renaissance, has ruled our discipline. From this perspective, gardens question the very idea of architecture as a prede ned imposition and can instead open up a space for communitarian self-valorization against the increasing commodification of public space. Ultimately, we will rethink the idea of garden as a way to envision new rituals and institutions of collective life.

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Unit Staff

Pier Vittorio Aureli is an architect and educator and co-founder of Dogma, an architectural studio based in Brussels. Aureli's research and projects focus on the relationship between architectural form, political theory and urban history. He is a Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture at Yale University, and author of The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011) and The Project of Autonomy (2008).

Maria Shéhérazade Giudici founded the publishing platform Black Square and coordinates the History and Theory of Architecture course at the RCA. She holds a PhD from TU Delft and has taught at the Berlage Institute, BIArch (Barcelona). Maria has worked on large- scale urban plans with BAU Bucharest, Donis Rotterdam and Dogma.

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