Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse, May 6-8, Geneva /

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Archipelago Team
Not a Closed Statement
03.05.2021

In anticipation of the Archipelago broadcast, we asked Natacha Guillaumont, Nicolas Pham, and Javier Fernández Contreras about the concerns that preoccupy the students and faculty members of their respective institutions. What are people talking about? Do their conversations cross disciplines and if so, how might traditional disciplinary boundaries be challenged?

'Nowadays, students and teachers often question the issue of living together, the sharing of domestic spaces, the creation of common spaces, the quality of public spaces, and what is called the “intermediate scale”. Issues around these topics are sometimes difficult to state. It is the way in which these spaces are used that is currently at the heart of many discussions. We are seeing an interesting pendulum effect, because current concerns are similar to those of the 1960s and 1970s, when, in a break with traditional academia, architecture schools took an interest in sociology, psychology, politics, etc. We are reliving, in other ways and through other topics, the beginning of a period that has similarities with the one I mentioned. Ecology and the threat of the collapse of biodiversity, over-consumption and the dematerialisation brought about by digitalisation are creating a new demand for the meaning of things, for the reasoned use of materials, for reuse and for relationships between people. In short: an ethical demand.

The urgency of climate change has gripped the discipline with a scope and speed rarely seen before. This is a real revolution, the scale of which we could not have measured even a few years ago. It merges with and reinforces approaches that were already developing within the discipline, such as specific attention to a project’s context, the use of raw and local materials, and attention to modes of habitation. These issues are suddenly becoming dominant.'

Nicolas Pham
Associate Professor, Head of Architecture Department, HEPIA

'Climatic disturbances are increasing pressures on spaces, users and their ecologies. Our relationship with tangible spaces is fading. Real, biodiverse open spaces with living soils, not those of roof terraces or planters on concrete slabs, are disappearing. Only these spaces will allow for the development of trees and forests that will benefit future generations. The distance from the principle reality of the land, of construction and planting is problematic, but so is our distance with our experiences and our feelings about landscapes.

The idea of “relationship” is central to landscape architecture, much more so than that of object or form, for example. The disciplinary boundary is always open for us and is a porous limit that can be crossed, inviting both notions of real space and multi- and interdisciplinary practice.

Prioritizing collective work at a timescale mindful of plants, water cycles, and soils grounds our uniqueness as landscape architects.'

Natacha Guillaumont
Associate Professor, Head of Landscape Architecture Department, HEPIA and Co-Head of the Masters in Territorial Development

'Interior architecture is a collective practice that includes colleagues, users, clients, suppliers, regulators, politicians and society at large. It is through conversation that students build the consensus needed to realize their projects. Interior architects develop society through space: the expression of scenarios of equality, the reduction of energy consumption, the integration of minorities and respect for diversity are all social constructs linked to the techniques, materials and iconographies of contemporary interiors.

Our work at HEAD focuses on repositioning the role of interior architecture within contemporary constructs. We live in a critical time for our profession, for its epistemological definition and function. Today, interior spaces are laboratories of late, liquid or post-modernity: whether through renovation projects, ephemeral scenography or art installations, interiors have become a boundless field for the exploration of cultural, environmental and political programmes that transform the contemporary condition.'

Javier Fernández Contreras
Associate Professor, Head of Interior Architecture Department, HEAD

In their hopes for Archipelago, all three emphasized the event as a point of departure rather than an end. Javier summarized it as such: 'Archipelago is not a closed statement, but rather an open hypothesis from which to progress. The examples and discussions that will be presented are platforms to develop new glossaries and new tools to understand the contemporary condition of architecture, landscape, and interior architecture discourses.'