DS7 2017-18: Remembering the Present

Perhaps most important though most difficult to convey in brief, “the Past,” by definition, no longer exists. It is not somewhere “out there” waiting to be recovered. The archive is not a repository of the past, only of certain artifacts that have survived from the past, and we encounter them in the present.
– Series Z: An Archival Fantasy, Yosef Hayim Yerushalm

Lead Tutors: Manijeh Verghese, Danielle Hewitt
Technology Tutor: Madeleine Kessler
Structures Tutor: Francesco Mazza Pungetti

Architecture is a continuous archive. It is a repository for wealth, events, materials, people and their related histories and stories; a portal through which we speculate on the past and reimagine the future. Archives exist to negate our fears of forgetting. Lazily, and perhaps sometimes dangerously, we allow the apparent authority of the archive to stand in place of memory, as a trusted material witness. But the archive is too subjective, too static, to fully reflect a place, time period or institution in its collection. This year DS7 will continue our exploration of ‘the continuous present’, a thickened territory that acknowledges the constant flux of time, by challenging the archive as a typology and transforming how we understand, collect and remember the present.

Unlike a museum, the archive is defined by the processes of storage (where time is collapsed), and of retrieval (where time is re-expanded and explored). It is this spatialisation of time, between the retracted and the re-enacted, that we will take as a strategy to explore the role of the architect who is ‘forced to confront the inevitable interplay between construction and destruction’. Travelling to Brussels, we will work with architecture collective Rotor and their Deconstruction unit to understand the changing configurations of the city as well as the afterlife of buildings and how constituent elements are removed, catalogued and repurposed. Visiting their vast warehouse, we will mine for treasures waiting to be reinserted into the city. We will chart the trajectories of a single building element, tracking its origins, travel and current location.

Back in the UK, our site will be Battersea, a place of both dramatic change and continuity, with London’s largest building project – Nine Elms – underway and George Gilbert Scott’s Battersea Power Station reimagined at its centre. Here, we will redefine the archival process as one of assembly and disassembly as we find new and inventive ways to record change and reuse building fragments in the city. From the displaced New Covent Garden market to the influx of people via London’s largest heliport, to the ongoing remaking of the Battersea Arts Centre after a damaging fire, we will invent new languages to draw this movement of programme, people, building fragments, and histories. The archiving of the city will be explored with reference to the experimental preservationists ‘tool-box’, through methods of reconstruction, replication, re-creation, and re-installation. And we will develop critical strategies for the ongoing re-finishing of the city that can never be finished. Projects will be situated at the fulcrum between construction and deconstruction, making, unmaking and remaking, memory and truth, fiction and reality.

Research trip to Brussels, Belgium: 21-25 October 2017:
5 day trip, travelling by Eurostar from London St.Pancras to Brussels Central Station, and staying in a hotel in Brussels City Centre.  The trip will include a workshop with Rotor Deconstruction Unit, visiting Office KGDVS and 51N4E as well as the European Parliament, and a day trip to Mons, Belgium to visit the Mundaneum, the index-card based visionary precursor to the internet. Estimated costs: £450-500 pp (including museum entry fees)

Image:
Archive
Thomas Demand
1995
Silver dye bleach print, face-mounted to acrylic
72 3/8 x 90 7/8 inches (183.8 x 230.8 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the Young Collectors Council, 1997
© Thomas Demand

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