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Diploma 13

Porosities: The Giardini della Biennale as a Metaproject

Bostjan Vuga, Alvaro Velasco

Porosity is a measure that materially expresses empty space as a proportion of the whole, defining the internal voids and external limits of an architectural object. DIP13 will engage with porosity as an architectural metric, conducting research into how built interventions can affect the nature of established social and physical boundaries, dissolving the lines between internal and external, in and out.

Our testing ground will be the Giardini della Biennale: a non-porous territory in Venice. For half of the year, the events of the Biennale activate the Giardini. Throughout the summer, thousands of visitors come to see these exhibitions and the area is in constant, energetic flux. In the winter, however, it hibernates completely, hidden behind an imposing iron fence, unapproachable and cut-off from the adjacent neighbourhoods. 

Some locals say that the city stops where the Giardini starts. Maintained by the countries that own them, the permanent pavilions within the gardens are uninsulated and unheated. For the most part, these nations have no interest in making them available for use during the winter months. The Giardini are therefore always disconnected from the rest of the city: the fenced-in and tightly controlled Biennale form a barrier to their surroundings during summer and throughout winter all life behind the fence seems to vanish.

We will focus on designing small-scale architectural interventions that manipulate the porosity of the Giardini and exploring the potential that these objects have to inform larger urban configurations. Each proposal will be negotiated within the larger project of the overall unit – the transformation of the Giardini from a large, disconnected and exclusive area of Venice into a year- round, freely accessible site of communal benefit. Students will precisely map the site itself, develop physical models and design their own, precise architectural interventions.

Taking advantage of this non-site as a locus of open speculation, we will conclude the year by developing a manuscript of porosities – a critical and shareable tool to invert the logic of the Giardini, moving from a localised point of ‘imported geographies’ to machine for global cultural export.

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Bostjan Vuga is a practising architect, researcher and educator. Having completed a master’s degree at the AA and in 1996 he co-founded the architectural office, SADAR+VUGA. Bostjan is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana. He has taught design studios at the Berlage, TU Berlin, MSA Muenster, TU Graz and the Politecnico di Milano, among others.

Alvaro Velasco is an architect. He holds a PhD from the Architectural Association, as well as an MArch in History and Critical Thinking in Architecture. He has held teaching positions and been a visiting critic at the AA, UHerts, Leeds Beckett and the University of Navarra. His work has been presented in educational institutions in London, Paris, Berlin, Seville, Lagos and Algiers.

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The Architectural Association receives Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Lords of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.

The Architectural Association (AA), the oldest independent school of architecture in the United Kingdom, is pleased to announce that it has been granted the power to award its own degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards and is working to create some of the world’s most pioneering courses in architecture to shape and build the future.

Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Prospective students worldwide can apply to the AA Foundation Course (Foundation Diploma), Experimental Programme BA(Hons), Diploma Programme (MArch), and nine taught postgraduate programmes encompassing History and Critical Thinking in Architecture (MA), Projective Cities (Taught MPhil) and Sustainable Environmental Design (MSc/MArch), amongst others.

AA Director, Eva Franch said, ‘since our founding in 1847 we have never ceased to create new horizons, institutionally and academically. This is a significant milestone for the AA and demonstrates how we have grown and progressed as an institution that has always valued independence. Receiving TDAP marks a new era for our institution; these are exciting times for the AA. The process has required considerable work from all members of staff and students. I would like to take this opportunity to credit them for this major achievement’.

President of the AA Council, Victoria Thornton added, ‘the TDAP process has recognised our strong governance, academic standards, scholarship and teaching as well as the environment supporting the delivery of taught higher education programmes’.

The School’s application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers was supported by the Architects Registration Board, the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Open University.