Intermediate 10 Dor Schindler, Compass/Ladder, 2016-17

Valentin Bontjes van Beek, Winston Hampel

In Goethe's 1707 poem "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", an old wizard leaves the workshop to his student with instructions to fetch water. Empowered by his newfound freedom, the novice enchants a broom to perform the chore - which it does more than sufficiently, again and again, until it has flooded the establishment. Eventually the apprentice is left with no option but to attack the bewitched besom:

"Crash! The sharp axe has undone you.
What a good blow, truly!

There, he's split, I see.
Hope now rises newly,
And my breathing's free."

Cut to Milan in 1958, onto the sudden change in surface tension when Lucio Fontana slices his canvas; to a London hospital and the breathless moment when the umbilical cord between a newborn and its mother is snipped; to Baron Haussmann incising axes into the historic fabric of Paris; to another budget cut to the NHS; to the glistening cut given to a diamond in the rough; to the disturbing yet seductive slicing of the eye in Luis Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou; to this academic year, as Intermediate 10 focuses on the moment and aftermath of such forced rupture.

When something is cut out of (or into) a given context, a new composition is stimulated. The initial focus will be on the existing - that which comes before us, a process not unlike the survey of a newly discovered land, species or language (bearing in mind that sometimes one must set out for India to reach America). It will be our task to establish a position that allows us to perceive, record and evaluate, only to then transform, subvert or even endorse our enticing findings with an informed design proposition. Our venture could lead to the cutting of the Gordian knot, or to the severing of the re-growing heads of Hydra - or even right back to the apprentice's troublesome cleft broom:

"Woe betide me!
Both halves scurry
In a hurry
Rise like towers
There beside me.
Help me, help, eternal powers!"

Unit Staff

Valentin Bontjes van Beek runs vbvb studio in London, has taught at the AA since 2001 and is a professor at the Munich University of Applied Science (MUAS). He trained in Germany as a carpenter and worked as an architect in New York with Bernard Tschumi and Raimund Abraham before returning to London to practise and teach.

Winston Hampel studied architecture and design in Hamburg, Paris and Stuttgart, where he received his diploma, before graduating from the AA's History & Critical Thinking programme. He has taught in the First Year Studio, History and Theory Studies and in the DRL. Having worked in Germany and France, he is now in a collaborative practice based between Munich and London.


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