Diploma 2 José Navarrete Deza, The Architectural Simulator, 2016-17

The Skins We Inhabit

Kostas Grigoriadis

Humans... build to shelter and protect but... they also build to define the ontological conditions and limits of selfhood. In many ways, then, the boundaries of the forms we build become the limits of our consciousness. And if we also accept that a being's mental states can never extend beyond those boundaries, then setting the right kind of limits is essential for who we are. -Lambros Malafouris

In the early twentieth century architecture's longstanding allegiance to mass was increasingly surpassed by its tendency towards more volumetric principles, with interiority and structure gradually disengaging from the envelope of a building. Partially instigated by the ground-breaking curtain wall, which simultaneously defined both the limits of a building and modernism's selfhood, design discourse shifted towards principles of top-down regularity, and composition. And so, what was initially a means of ideological expression in early modernism became standard practice in the years to come.

But in a contemporary context, what was abandoned - the idea of the envelope - has now become both the object and the subject of design: this two-dimensional plane is the last frontier of expression, allowing the unhindered realisation of architectural fantasies that are free from functional or market-driven constraints. A stylistic jungle has emerged, made up of 2D forms, shapes and sizes, in which the facade-centric self-definition of a building - how it is perceived by the city and the newness it is supposed to convey - veers between the subject of recent tragic incidences or comical aesthetic results.

Responding to this condition, the unit will question the modernist - hylomorphic - envelope-first design of buildings, shifting from an object-oriented understanding of architecture to a more procedural one, operating in the grey area where interiority and context conflate. Envelope and space will be reconsidered from a non-anthropocentric perspective, not as exercises in aesthetic embellishment, but as the new continuum between materiality, cognition and inhabitation. In this attempt to unleash architectural creativity from its two-dimensional entrapment our main questions are: how can we rethink the weak correlation between inhabitation and its defining limits? How can this rethinking be informed by contemporary material realities and a "hylonoetic" process of design?

Unit Staff

Kostas Grigoriadis holds a PhD in Architecture by Project from the Royal College of Art and a Masters in Architecture and Urbanism from the AA DRL. His work focuses on new material design methodologies and draws from cognitive and materialist theory.


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