Inside/Out: De Allegri & Fogale, Laetitia De Allegri & Matteo Fogale

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment. 

The Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Laetitia De Allegri & Matteo Fogale of the design studio De Allegri & Fogale. 

De Allegri & Fogale are lead by a design approach that considers honest, premium and unconventional materials as well as functionality and longevity of the products. Laetitia and Matteo’s work celebrates the combination of industrial process and fine craftsmanship, finding inspiration in nature as well as day-to-day environments. They work across disciplines and industries on a variety of projects from industrial products, bespoke commissions, interiors and installations combining deep understanding of materials and making techniques as well as patterns, textures and colours. 

Both Laetitia and Matteo have a background in Industrial Design. Laetitia is from Switzerland and Matteo is from Uruguay. They both worked first at the well-know architecture firm Barber & Osgerby and after that worked separately under their own names. 2 years ago, they decided to do a project together and it worked out so well that after that they started a collaboration. 

For their projects they work at the Black Horse Workshop in East London. They like to make their designs themselves so they can do several tests and really feel the materials and the volumes. Other people from other disciplines are using the workshop as well, which is interesting for them because in that way they can learn from each other's skills and knowledge. 

Their aim was never to be good in one discipline. They are always interested in doing projects within different fields, like interior design, product designretail design, installations, … The red thread through their designs is the love for experimenting with materials. They really look into rarely used materials and find materials that look much more high-end and expensive than they really are. They love to take materials out of their context and create something different. It’s all about playing with the perception and the properties of materials. 

A first project they did together was a project for the London Design Festival in 2014, called -ISH. They started from recycled jeans. They wanted to give it a high class marble look. They sanded away the fibres until it became a glossy look-a-like of marble. It was a project about the illusion of stone look-a-like materials made from recycled and reclaimed post-industrial waste. In the end it didn’t feel like a cheap material, which normally is the connotation that recycled material gets. 

Aside from look-a-like-marble they also created look-a-like-slate with high pressed laminated paper, that got split which gave the natural stone look. 

They won the design awards with their idea and Cos approached them to design their window displays in London, Paris, Milan and New York, because they were launching a denim line. 

Because of the publicity they received from the collaboration with Cos and the design awards, M.i.h. Jeans approached them to design their window displays and their stores. With the M.i.h.’s 70’s heritage, free spirit and nostalgic, homey feeling in the back of their mind, they created furniture pieces playing with geometric and organic shapes and asymmetry. Again they used repurposed denim and other recycled elements such as yoghurt pots. These recycled elements were combined with materials such as brass and wood. 

For last years London Design Festival Johnson Tiles approached De Allegri & Fogale to design an installation that reflects their company. The location was on the bridge of the Medieval Renaissance gallery in the V&A. The brief was very open and without restrictions. They wanted to create something  bright. A play of perception, layers and colours. They wanted to create an experience and work with the actual space. Because they wanted to work with a transparent material, they made an installation with acrylic. The challenge was to find the sizes they wanted and the right colours. They didn’t want it to be just a rainbow-coloured bridge but wanted to go for a more elegant touch in colour choice. That’s when they found a manufacturer in France that they then worked with. Getting the installation structurally safe proved to be a difficult process. In the ideal world the elements would just stand on themselves, but it had to be calculated without the advice of engineers. After long discussions they finally found the most subtle solutions, which was having extra acrylic sheets in between the panels with were connected to each other with little metal connectors. For the flooring they wanted Johnson Tiles to make an overall gradient of blue tiles so they could show what their abilities were and how well they can control colour. 

After the exhibition Johnson Tiles wanted to throw the installation in the bin, but Laetitia and Matteo wanted to give it a second life, which they now did. The panels are now installed at the OXO Tower in London and you can see them until the end of February.  

For Salone Del Mobile 2016, they designed a pepper grinder and breadboards for ‘Makers & Bakers’ at Ristorante Marta in Spazio Rossana Orlandi 

And the last project they did was for Waste Not Want It by Bloomberg. De Allegri & Fogale were stuck by the hidden beauty inside the cables. In some way they wanted to integrate this material into furniture. They created a desk and seating from solid ash wood, which they made and steam-bent themselves. To keep some pieces together and to give direction within the texture of the table, they used aluminium shiny cables. This all represented the philosophy of Bloomberg, which is about transparency and connecting data and people.  

Hooke Park

With my thesis project platform, we went to Hooke Park, which is the Architectural Association’s woodland site in Dorset in the Southwest of EnglandWhen we arrived, we got a presentation about the history and the projects at Hooke Park from Martin Self, Director of the AA’s Woodland Campus. Many students weren’t there that week, so it was really quiet, which was a pity because we couldn’t see the people in action. On the other hand, this gave us a great opportunity to look around closely in all the buildings without disturbing anyone. 

The park covers an area of 150-hectare with 17 different species of trees. The trees and other natural growing elements are used for educational and designing purposes. It’s all about the construction and landscape-focused activities. 

The park gives the students opportunities to broaden their rural architectural expertise and to improve their knowledge of the self-sufficiency of the used materials. 

Before the AA arrived in 2002, John Makepeace used Hooke Park as an extension of the Parnham College and created a School for Woodland Industries, integrating furniture design with use of the surrounding materials. Makepeace wanted to make woodwork more bespoke. To start a school, you need buildings. That’s where Frei Otto made an entrance and made some hand-drawn sketches and gave the idea of buildings made of local materials. He saw the opportunity of making forest management more economically valuable, to use it in a productive way.  

Together with Richard Burton, Otto developed a master plan for the School for Woodland Industries.   

The first building they designed was the Prototype House in 1986, which is now known as the ‘Refectory’. They used spruce, because there was a need to thin out the woodland so other trees could grow.  

The second building on the masterplan agenda was built in 1989 and was the Workshop, which is a building constructed with a series of spruce arches. The building is excessively engineered with the process of bending the wooden pieces in shape manually. When working with your hands, you have a better feeling of the material and its capacities.  

The last building that was built before the AA took over, was Westminster Lodge in 1995, which was designed by Edward Cullinan Architects and engineered by Buro Happold.  

In 2006-2007 Andrew Freear and Elena Bartel proposed a master plan for the future of Hooke Park, which later got translated in students designing a new building every year, which they build and can use in the following years as well.  

2012 Big Shed 

‘The building is constructed from larch sourced from Hooke Park and local woodlands, and uses innovative screw connections to form the Roundwood trusses.’ 

2013 North Lodge 

‘The building has a primary structural frame of spruce sourced at Hooke Park that was fabricated and assembled using traditional pegged timber-framing techniques. The envelope is highly insulated with blown-in wood fibre, and is heated by its own wood stove and through connection to the campus’s woodchip-fuelled district heating system. The cladding is of timber slats.’ 

2014 Timber Seasoning Shelter 

The Shelter is made of beech, which is not often used as an architectural material. The purpose was to give back the value to the trees. A Norwegian boat builder created a steam-bent technique to bend the beech. He created a projecting machine which he adjusted manually so he could control the bending and have the correct curve bend.  

2014 South Student Lodge 

The lodge is made of a timber frame, clad in Western red cedar and reclaimed glass. It’s a play of building frames of potential volumes. Before it was built, the designers chalked out the volumes on the ground and walked through it to have a closer look at the circulation and how to inhabit, to embody the to-built building. 

2015 Biomass Boiler House 

The Boiler House is made from unused curved trees. It’s giving back value to those trees who are oddly formed because they followed the sun. A catalogue was made from each geometry of the trees. This is done by scanning them. After cataloguing the trees, it was a matter of composing them with the correctly fitting curve on top of each other.  

2016 Woodchip Barn 

Just like the Boiler House, the Woodchip barn was made from unused trees because of a malfunction. For this project the designers used fork trees. They wanted to enhance the problem and take advantage of the specific form, rather than to get rid of it. Also from these trees they made a catalogue by 3D scanning the trees. From non-standard-materials they made standard materials, and then made non-standard components from it. It became a digital exercise to compose the components and try out different configurations. They used the qualities of the wood to the fullest. 

After the presentation and the tour, I was already looking at the dates and how to enrol into a short summer course. It’s amazing and a dream to have so much space to really try out your designs and to realise a structure with your bare hands in the end. Despite the horrible weather and a long journey to get there, I was really amazed and so happy to have seen Hooke Park. 

BRIEF THESIS PROJECT

My interest for the topic of my thesis project started during the research for my dissertation about brutalism and a brutalist interior. During this search I figured out why I love brutalism so much and why I have such a big interest in this style.  

I like the way tower blocks are communities where all different kind of people are living and sharing at least one common thing, the tower, their building. The way this whole movement became an evolution of a certain way of thinking, of how we live together and how different cultures are brought together. 

It was all about the utopian belief in making new cities, making cities within cities and making a city within a building, creating high-density buildings. It’s about creating communities within a building.  

Aside from the positive thoughts the high-rise brutalist buildings brought with them, there were also a lot of negative critiques about these structures.  

Paved walking trails are pretty common in brutalist building projects. These ‘air paths’ for pedestrians were often places of criminality. Because of bad maintenance there were filthy slums, juvenility and the scary bits of society. In the end brutalism was often associated with poverty.  

Councils rehoused people from streets and neighbourhood communities, often breaking up extended families and destroying social links. The intimate association of house and street was ruptured. In particular, it meant that parents could not easily monitor children’s playtime.  

Peter Chadwick once said that there is this negative redundant space around the building which prompts anti-social behaviour. I can agree with that because I live in a 7- floor high brutalist tower block and I don’t know the people I live with because there is a lack of communication between the community. This is because there is not enough space, or at least space intended to start conversation. So first I thought about approaching this problem by creating little interventions within the communal spaces like the entrance, the elevator, the ‘air path’ and the roof. But this would become a too small scaled project, almost like a furniture installation.  

That’s when I started thinking on a largely bigger-scale idea. I wanted to reflect the positive and improve the negative elements of the brutalist high-rise interior into a similar structure. That’s when I came to the idea of a car park.  

You can’t go more brutal then a car park. A car park is designed for heavy and shifting loads of moving vehicles and the structures are made of heavy, chunky concrete. The structure of the building is left without any redundant ornaments. The building is there purely for its function. It is literally just stacking up floors vertically.  

Rethinking the function of a car park in London is actually something to really think about, especially in the nearby future. London is the most expensive city in the world to park your car. London has low levels of car ownership and it’s declining over the years because fewer young people in London consider having a car a necessity. Is there still a need for car parks? And what happens with them if they aren’t needed anymore?  

So I stranded upon this beautiful car park in Lewisham in South-East London, which is attached to a shopping centre. Lewisham is situated between Greenwich and Southwark. Why specifically that one? I had never been to Lewisham, but my practise mentor gave me the idea, because Lewisham is apparently upcoming and there is a planned regeneration of Lewisham town centre. A lot of new buildings are popping up and there are a lot of construction sites. I took the trainThe car park is within a 4-minute walk from the station. What shocked me is that there’s a waiting list of 14,000 people for council housing in Lewisham. So I really want my design to be council housing.  

In this car park I want to apply something of the way of the brutalist heroism to the idea of a new kind of interior, an improved brutalist interior, a Neo-Utopian interior.  

The built environment can be a challenging place for all of us, at every age and stage in our lives – whether as a child, adult, disabled, non-disabled, as part of our ageing population. How the home is affected as lifestyle and social/economic structures change through a life cycle is still a big challenge with the range of housing currently available. How does life changes from child to adult to old age affect the way we live? How does this approach the political and socio-economic side of living.  

In Belgium there is a new trend that’s called ‘Kangaroo Building’. The principle of kangaroo living is simple: old and young under one roof. The formula means that a younger couple moves in with an older couple. The original house has been converted into two separate dwellings. This has many advantages. For example, many young families that are inhibited by the high land and construction prices, can build. Older people, for whom their home is often too big when the kids are out of the house, can continue to live together "at home". In a broader sense, this means kangaroo is a win-win situation. The two entities enjoy each other's proximity and support each other. They retain their privacy and can still be assured that there is always someone nearby. As a resident of a kangaroo house, you decide how to live together-and-touch-apart- organizes.  

I want to propose a concept, plan, strategy, and building form that can work for people of all ages, paying particular attention to personal, social and economic changes in people’s lives over time. The aim is to foster more inclusive intergenerational communities. The multi-generation module will be designed to be inclusive for all, and can accommodate varied and changing life styles over time.  

It will be all about understanding the people – their needs, their concerns, and what they really want from a building – and engaging the more social aspects of the built environment that others overlook.  

It will be a concept that addresses the use of space throughout our lifecycle 

I will do this on the 3th, 4th and 5th floor of the car park and take sections as the Trellick Tower and Unite d’Habitation as inspiration.  

As my Artefact I created a construction of tetris-shaped blocks in different materials which are aging in 3 stages. “Generations” come in contact with each other and the open space between them is communal space to engage communication.  

INSIDE/OUT: ROBERTA MARCACCIO, DSDHA

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment. 

The Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Roberto Marcaccio of the architecture firm DSDHA.  

When architects give lectures about their work they tend to show a series of photographs of their completed buildings: striking images (often devoid of human presence) taken by third-party professional photographers, suggesting a totally unproblematic relationship between design practice, physical artefacts and their photographic representations. This lecture unpacked the complex nature of the relationship between architecture, buildings and photography, to then introduce the way in which DSDHA, as research-oriented architects, experiment with the photographic medium; treating it as a design tool rather than simply fixing on glossy images the final outcomes of our endeavours. 

http://www.dsdha.co.uk/ 

INSIDE/OUT: HILDE FRANCQ, FRANCQ COLORS

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment. 

The Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Hilde Francq of the Belgian trend agency, Francq Colors. 

Trend watcher Hilde Francq is a colour pioneer. Hilde started out in the bicycle business, where she introduced intense colours and prints to children's bicycles. They sold like hot cakes. This first-hand-experience convinced Hilde of the power of colour and trends. She wanted to apply her feeling for colour and trends to other branches, and so her company Francq Colors was born. She specializes in colour trends, working for clients from many branches: interior, fashion, lighting, hospitality, ... The company makes trend reports and consults on trends, gives seminars and workshops and supports companies with their marketing. 

The power of colour is immense. Research shows that the buying decision is to a large degree influenced by colour. Brands can build their image by choosing the right colours. So, it is important to stay on trend. To this end, Francq Colors carries out an extensive trend research every 6 months. Sociological, technological, economical, and political macro trends are translated into lifestyle trends, which are in turn translated to colour combinations, materials, patterns, textures and shapes. In a process that could be called 'reverse archaeology', Francq Colors constructs the near future by observing and selecting the right pieces of today. The result of all this is a trend presentation accompanied by a lengthy and richly illustrated trend report. 

Hilde gave an insight into lifestyle and interior trends for 2017 and 2018. Her presentation was built around six places, each one a metaphor for a lifestyle. Between The Monastery—symbolic for our disciplined approach to physical and mental health—and The Streets—the place of rebellion—she showed us how our lifestyles evolve and what that means for colour combinations, materials, textures, patterns and shapes in the next coming years. We received loads of visual inspiration. 

www.francqcolors.be 

INSIDE/OUT: STEVE JENSEN, ANARCHITEC

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment. 

The Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Steve Jensen of the architectural practice Anarchitec. 

Steve Jensen is an architect with 25 years experience. He calls himself and his firm "an archive of chaos". Steve came from the analogue to the digital age and saw an opportunity for this presentation to digitize and assemble all his analogue-age projects. He has this obsession to make things, to translate his ideas into reality. “I’m a maker. The way I work is about buildability.” It’s really difficult to understand the world and keep it simple he also added. It’s not all about purity.  

Steve talked about the reality within the world of design. We use other people’s money to create something. Each move is crucial. There are always things that set you back and problems you bump into. It’s finding a balance between financial pressure and creative response. 

He also said model making is the core of designing, it’s not just the plan and sections and mood models that are important. Also the technical drawings, the way things work. Contractors need detailed plans where they can zoom in and out. It’s all about bringing the reality to your conceptual thinking. If you don’t draw it, somebody else will design it for you. You need to think about everything. 

Big, Bigger, Biggest was the name of his presentation in which he showed the nuts and bolts of the design process from initial creative response to constructed reality in three of his (all built) projects. 

“Bigger is not always the best. When it’s little you have more control over it, keeping a hold over it.”  

Big 
Elemental

Shopping centre Leeds 
Bar/Nightclub 
Grade I listed building 
2000 – 2001 
85K 

Bigger 
Wilson Barb Residence 
Bethnal Green London 
Residential Conversion 
Victorian Conservation area 
2004 – 2006  
200K 

Biggest 
Vivienne Westwood Design Studio 
Elcho Street Battersea, London 
Design Studio & Offices 
2007 – 2012 
1,6m 

INSIDE/OUT: MICHAEL RIEBEL, HAWKINS\BROWN

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment.  

To kick off this year's series, the Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Michael Riebel from world-renowned architectural practice Hawkins\Brown. 

Michael studied architecture and sociology and worked as an art historian and architect throughout his professional career. At Hawkins\Brown, Michael heads the “think-tank team, which develops the research part of the design process. 

The lecture was a presentation of the firm’s research on creative workplace design and layout, including studying movement and communication patterns via a grid of Bluetooth sensors to understand the disruptive quality of layout design. 

Forms of knowledge  

In his talk he highlighted two types of knowledge. The ‘tacit knowledge’ and ‘explicit knowledge’.  Explicit knowledge is like a book, where the knowledge is just there under your nose, whereas tacit knowledge it’s hidden.  

In tacit knowledge the transfer relies on social experience, trust and collaboration: Despite the rise of digital communication the importance of face to face interaction has endured as physical space is the ideal stage for tacit knowledge transfer.” 

He used the Matsushita bread making machine as an example for a true interdisciplinary effort. It’s a cycle of knowledge. We know more than we know. 

“What we perceive is not the physical space, but places that offer action possibilities to us.” – James Gibson 

Affordances 

When the research team of Hawkins\Brown looks at lay outs of the space, they look at the firm’s ethos, what sort of vibe and environment they work in. With that information they look at 3 points: 

  • Proximity 

How do people talk to each other? For example, a desk with bigger than 90-degree and round of corners allows people to talk more to each other. It’s just the little changes that make big differences. 

  • Permission 

When am I allowed to talk to who in the workspace? 

  • Privacy 

You can make a space private, but not totally private. How far can you can control the privacy? 

Disruption - Disruptive technology 

“Fun and engaging” offices with a lot of distracting activities like football tables and slides can be nice but how far can you push that? With simple elements, you can obtain an environment that encourages certain behaviour.  

“When you’re standing on a flat plane, nothing happens. There is no brain activity. On the oblique, you have feelings; you feel the force when climbing and euphoria during the descent.” – Claude Parent 

Prove it! 

To prove all this theory, Michael and the research team are using an application on people’s phones so they can track their moves and see where the most social hang outs within a space are when it’s the best time and where to meet the boss, and so many other data. They base their designs on this information. 

The lecture was really interesting, because we live in a world where co-working is the new type of working and opens an endless possibility to designing for the workplace 

http://www.hawkinsbrown.com/ 

FIELD TRIP - BELL RINGING

Today our platform tutors took us on a field trip to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the Queen’s Bell Tower at Imperial and St Saviours Church, the Pimlico Bell. 

The underlying reason of this trip was not to get us to do something with bell ringing in our thesis project, but to take us through this journey to see which aspect of the whole cult of bell ringing triggered or intrigued us the most and why.  
The bell tower is an example of a space that exists for an ultra-specific purpose. It has a rich narrative of ritual, landmark, iconic cultural status and, of course, the activity of ringing the bells themselves. The bell, its placement, movement and sound are inextricably linked to the space of the tower, its site, materiality and structure of the building itself. In a very physical way, the tower is a very eloquent amplifier of the object it houses, the bell, and the activity of ringing. This reflects our project’s perspective well which is all about amplification.  

Bell ringing includes buildings, structure, cultural, senses, … The whole day we talked with people who has an obsession with bell ringing, so this journey was to help us find our own obsession.  

The first stop was the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which was founded in 1570 and is thereby the oldest bell manufacturer in Great Britain. First the foundry was located in Aldgate, but in 1670 they moved to Whitechapel Road, where the foundry is still located nowadays.  The manufacturer made one of the most famous bells in the world, Big Ben is the biggest bell ever cast at Whitechapel, and the gauge used to make the mould for the bell still hangs on the wall of the foundry moulding shop to this day. 

What intrigued me the most about the whole process of bell making is the number of people and processes that’s needed to make one big bell.  

After the Bell Foundry, we went to the Queen’s Bell Tower at Imperial College to observe the master bell ringers ring the bells in honour of Prince Charles’ BirthdayThe Queen's Tower is all that remains of the Imperial Institute, which was built to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. We did 324 steps from the ground to the base of the dome. The internal wooden structure of the dome is beautiful and is an interesting example of Victorian craftsmanship. From this floor, there is an astonishing, uninterrupted view of London in all directions. The belfry contains the Alexandra Peal of bells which consists 10 bells. The largeness of the bells is overwhelming. For the first part, we could stay on the stairs next to the bells, but I forgot my earplugs so I followed the bell ringing from the level below where 10 people were pulling up and down the ropes in a certain rhythm. The ropes have a Sally, which is the tufted handgrip on the rope, used to pull at handstroke. When the bells were ringing, the whole tower started shaking. I was surprised by the amount of strength, coordination and ritual that goes into the whole bell ringing. 

After the ‘concert’, we went to the St Saviours Church in Pimlico where a lady explained the diagrams of method ringing. Each bell strikes once in every sequence, or change, and repetition is avoided. I still don’t really understand it, but I think it asks a lot of practice. We also rang a bell ourselves, which is more difficult than it looks, because there is a certain rhythm you need to obtain. 

To end the day we talked about the bell ringing experience over a glass of wine with some nice jazzy tones in the background at Wilton’s Music Hall in Whitechapel. 

THESIS PROJECT

Second year and last year of my masters means thesis project! To start our thesis projects, our class got divided into five different platforms; matter, urbanism, display, systems, and obsolescence. Each platform has its own brief. Each brief is designed to be a provocation. They are designed to challenge our thoughts and allow us to engage with exploring a distinctive aspect of the design of interior space by creating our own thesis project out of each brief. 

We needed to give a top 5 of the platforms and in the end of the day we were informed in which platform we ended up. I was really happy because I got into platform Matter which was my top choice [Symbool]! We are 5 students in our platform and it is led by the founders of the design studio Studio Alt ShiftShai Akram & Andrew Haythornthwaite. 

The Matter Brief – 

Project: Context  

This platform calls for a fully embodied design process in which knowledge and experience are entirely assimilated within the imagined environment and are returned through material and encounter. The outcomes will be 1:1 scale, built to amplify a particular action or sensation.  

Design education largely focuses on the skills to imagine activities in a space and communicate those visually so that others can imagine it too. This platform focuses on experiencing first-hand the spaces you imagine – constructed and tested at real scale.  

We regard the building process as a performance/ experience that is equally rich as the built outcome. Material choice and construction methods are inextricably linked to a physical functional layout and the ideas that drive the project.  

The capacity to rethink, reinvent, co-opt and integrate existing processes into new contexts is an activity that requires active participation. David Pye wrote that the difference between craft and design is that craft seeks to flawlessly repeat whereas design seeks to find unknown possibilities.  

Model making, drawing and prototyping are vital skills to develop as a means to visualise and evaluate ideas. These skills allow ideas to become physical and by doing so the abstract findings of experiments and theory can find a tangible outcome / application.  

Final projects will be unexpected and extraordinary spaces – solutions that are driven by the unique parameters of each student brief - possibilities include a pavilion, a landmark, a set for a performance, a public engagement installation, a workplace of the future or a living space. The outcomes will be 1:1 scale environments/ installations that can be physically experienced- resulting in a series of site-specific objects, experiences, interventions and narratives.  

Project: Amplifiers  

We look closely at the connection between experience, material and space, and translate this relationship into a physical, experience-able outcome. The programme will ask you to deeply consider the effect of material on a space and to become fully conversant with your material palette, exerting complete control and mastery of construction.  

The Amplifiers are all about themselves and their site. They are interventions that are a kind of theatre – bringing a particular idea to focus sharply, they are specific and non-generic. There are many parallels between this project and the convention of a pavilion. Pavilions are commonly considered to be a building or similar structure used for a specific purpose. The Amplifiers go one step further and aim to heighten awareness of a particular aspect of the site/s- view, sound, smell, temperature, what happens there, etc. There might be one space with a programme of activities or many sites linked by a single idea. These are not mundane everyday space; these are destinations designed to provoke a particular sensation or idea.  

The aims and objectives of this platform are to:  

  • Examine how experience, context and inhabitation can be translated into eloquent spatial proposals through materiality, scale and structure.  

  • Conceptualise design ideas and processes, and rigorously transform them into advanced- level detailed constructions and/or spaces.  

  • Develop a series of built prototypes at 1:1 scale interrogating the physical experience of abstract ideas.  

  • Produce a series of interventions, insertions, installations into carefully considered sites around London, that will reflect and amplify a pre-defined activity / brief.  

  • Communicate your ideas through the appropriate mediums of designed spaces and experiences.  

ACCROSS RCA: IKEA X TOM DIXON. X RCA

One week in the year the Royal College of Art creates a number of interdisciplinary collaborative projects that explore new ideas, approaches and skills.  

One of the projects we could sign up for was a collaboration project between the designer Tom Dixon and the furniture manufacturer and retailer Ikea of Sweden AB. 

Delaktig’ is a new ‘living platform’ that Tom Dixon has designed for Ikea. The product is conceived as a set of components that can be customised, adapted and added to - an open platform to hack or co-create in your own way. The project provided us with an opportunity to experiment with the product and propose some ideas that explore its potential. 

Based on Tom’s lecture about collaboration and him working together with Ikea, who has a total different style than he has, Derek and I started a collaboration ourselves. Derek is a first-year Interior Design student at the Royal College of Art and had a similar idea as me, that’s why we decided to work together.  

We were both thinking in the direction of multiplying and connecting platforms/people. So, in all its simplicity we basically came up with a new element that you insert in 2 platforms to connect them. 

ASSEMBLAGE

The first project of the year is always a little project to get to know the new first year students. This year the project was about recycling leftover materials from last year. Aside from these materials we also got the Frosta stool of Ikea. The idea was to create something for a place inside the Dyson Building of the Royal College of Art. Our group found this amazing hidden place all the way upstairs a fire escape. Nobody comes there because all the doors are closed except the one all the way down. When we found this spot, we were thinking about an activity one wants to do secretly. And which activity is more secret than hooking up with somebody? So we created a kissing booth. With the idea of the love chair and the S-shape of it, we created a symbolised hidden sitting area. The box with the two seats can be folded down as a sitting area for lovers, or can be quickly hidden away so it looks like a fire hose.

A little ironic movie shows the love story of two alumni RCA lovers who found love in the secret kissing booth. 

DISSERTATION - CONCLUSION

Why is it that brutalist architecture knows an upswing these days? Because of the transcendent architecture, its heroic attitude and the way these buildings dominate their surroundings 

Maybe there is the additional possibility that younger people might have gotten a little bored with the sleek towers and bland quality of a lot of new architecture. We are unconsciously falling in love with the nostalgic aspect of the movement and the fascination for concrete.  

Brutalist buildings function well when things are shared, when there is a social cohesion, because that’s what the architects intended. This shows particularly in the tower blocks and high density building schemes with shared amenities. That’s what is part of the philosophy of the development: a sense that apartments are for immediate functional needs, whilst the cultural and social components of living are out ‘in the open’.  

Nowadays, most buildings are either for corporate use or impossibly expensive apartments in the private sector. In the Barbican there is a ‘public’ feeling in a way that very few modern developments have. This is of course an illusion, because the apartments are private and very expensive, but there is a sort of welcoming quality to the public space and a sense of exploration in three dimensions. This is certainly because of the beautiful open public terrace, the public arts centre and the path walks.  

When brutalism started, it was everywhere and in everything. All things were brutal, all things were concrete. Today, brutalism is still alive. Nowadays, it doesn’t only use concrete, but also adds steel, glass and other materials. Architects still design and build brutalist buildings.  

Architects like LiebeskindMies Van Der Rohe and even Zaha Hadid call themselves modernists, but are in a way also brutalists. They have a certain brutalist attitude and aesthetic in the use of powerful, repetitive graphic shapes 

During this search about why there is a revival I figured out why I love brutalism so much and why I have such a big interest in this style. I love the abstract, clean, geometric forms that are used, the story of repetition, the maze-like feeling. I like the way tower blocks are communities where all different kind of people are living and sharing at least one common thing: the tower, their building. The way this whole movement became an evolution of a certain way of thinking, of how we live together and how different cultures are brought together. When you’re on the balcony of a tower block you feel like you’re part of something larger.  

I associate the Stoic cool of Brutalism with the fact that we are looking to the essence today. Materialism has had its day and sobriety and tranquillity are the new luxury. The building and its construction is shown for what it is and celebrates its simplicity and poetry.  

Nowadays the progressive brutalist architecture seems to get the recognition it deserves.  

After my whole research into what a brutalist Interior is, I found out that the question should not be ‘What is a brutalist Interior’, but should rather be ‘How could the spirit of brutalism be rendered in interior design?’. It’s difficult to define a brutalist interior, because every architect has a different approach to the interior design 

Brutalism is all about the impression of the outside: a chunky block of concrete in different shapes. The inside of tower blocks is not as impressive as the outside volume of concrete. It’s about creating more living surface, high-density housing. In tower blocks the interior is trying to create a liveable place within a small surface area. In Lampens’ house this is not the case: his houses are large dwellings built in a completely different context. In all cases however the architect tries to create a more spacious vibe by using big windows. The relationship between outside and inside feels really important. In the Barbican and Arlington House, the less important rooms (in the architect’s eyes) such as the hallway, the kitchen and the bathroom don’t deserve direct light and views to the outside. That’s where Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower created an excellent solution by bringing the light in every room. The same thing happens in the Lampens house. Because of the window play, he creates incidences of light in every place of the house.  

In the tower blocks, the designer let the owner decide how to furnish the flat. In the house Van WassenhoveJuliaan Lampens designed the totality, even the chairs. In both cases it’s almost impossible to change anything because of the structure. All the systems, like heating, ventilation, electrics, water and the rubbish disposal are processed in the building. The problem being that today, these systems are outdated, which creates difficulties.  

The outside is very dense and overwhelming, but because of the big windows becomes airy again. The same thing happens inside, so in a way the exterior is reflected into the interior. In the tower blocks there’s no cohesion between the exterior and the interior, but in the house Van Wassenhove there’s a complete cohesion between them. However, in a way they are also juxtaposed, because the house is a play of geometric forms and the landscape is organic.  

This idea goes beyond just the interior. For most of the brutalist architects it’s more a political statement they want to make by building these chunky concrete buildings and megastructures. It was all about the utopian belief in making new cities, making cities within cities and making a city within a building, creating high-density buildings. It’s about creating communities within a building. It’s about breaking loose with tradition. In most of the cases the exterior gets reflected into the interior. Brutalism goes back to the pre-historic way of thinking, of admiring the materials for their inherent qualities as they are found.  

The socialist organisations had great belief in the future, progress, technology and this all starts with understanding the world and its needs. Concrete symbolised this future and technology.  

This dissertation will be a starting point for next year’s project. I will try to apply something of the brutalist heroism to the idea of a new kind of interior.  

DISSERTATION - HOUSE VAN WASSENHOVE

For my last brutalist interior, I decided to visit a residential villa instead of a tower block. The house Van Wassenhove is situated in Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium and is designed by Juliaan LampensLampens is one of the most important postwar architects in Flanders, although the recognition for his work is quite recent.  

When I arrived in the street where the house is situated, I drove past it. It was only when I really searched for it that I saw the house appearing behind trees and green. The building almost melted together with the surroundings. The concrete already turned greenish in some places. From afar it looked like a big bunker.  

When I entered the house, I didn’t know where to watch and what to explore first. The nice contrast of the concrete and the wood was the red thread throughout the whole interior.  

After my tour, I sat down downstairs for another half hour just looking around and being amazed by this creation. I love that the whole house is a play of geometric forms and a play of light and shadow. I absolutely love this place, but it’s too open for me to live in.  

I’m happy to share these beautiful impressions through some photographs with you… 

DISSERTATION - TRELLICK TOWER

To catch a glimpse of and feel the atmosphere of the Trellick Tower, I booked an AirBnb for one night. I booked a room in the flat of a very kind woman on the 18th floor. The apartment was a 4-persons flat with 2 bedrooms. The 2 bedrooms, the living area and the kitchen looked like they had about the same surface area and looked like squares. The owner of the place had kept the interior completely intact. I really liked and appreciated that she kept it the way it originally was. It’s just a really beautiful and authentic looking place. Everything is painted white; the floors, the walls and the ceiling.  

I could definitely see myself living in Trellick Tower. Everybody is very social and has a certain appreciation for the building. Waking up with the view from my room was amazing.  

This is my view of the Trellick Tower through the eyes of my camera… 

DISSERTATION - THE BARBICAN

Who would have predicted I would become an absolute addict to the Barbican? Certainly not me! At least 2 times a month I go to the Barbican to have lunch, have a little break on the terrace and a nice walk on the levelled walkways. This complex of buildings takes brutalism and utopian town planning to the next level. The apartments might be small, but the gardens and the lake compensate with a feeling of openness. For me the Barbican is a place to de-stress, an oasis in the middle of City London. The plants, the water and the bush-hammered concrete make the buildings look more natural than a sleek concrete tower. There’s something human about it.  

To fully explore The Barbican, I wanted to rent a room with AirBnb, but this proved to be out of my budget. So I came up with another plan to get inside. I searched for apartments for sale and found a 2-bedroom apartment for £1250000. Now I don’t think a real estate agent would believe that a 25-year old can afford such an expensive apartment. So my mother made a phone call that I was going to check out some apartments for her inside the Barbican. Her requirements: one or two-bedroom apartment, as authentic as it could be and I need to make as many photographs as possible so she has a better picture of the apartment.  

I visited 7 properties and these were my impressions through the camera… 

DISSERTATION - INTO BRUTALISM

My interest for the topic of my dissertation started at the beginning of my first master at the Royal College of Art. The whole year we did projects in Margate, an English east coast town. For the first semester I was assigned to the Arlington House, a significant brutalist tower block. After digging into the past and the architectural elements of the building I was intrigued by the brutalist way of building.  

This brought me to my first question: Why do I admire this style? How come I like these big heavy chunks of concrete? Is it because of the repetitive shapes? The material use? The brutalist aesthetic dates mainly from the 60s and 70s, and has become related to other celebrations of mid-century modern. Why does the brutalist style feel current and exciting for someone of my generation?  

I have also noticed I am not the only person interested in brutalism. At the beginning of 2016, several lectures about brutalism were programmed and a lot of books appeared about the subject. On trend websites brutalism was THE topic! There is a certain buzz, enough to speak of a brutalism revival. Which brings me to my second question: Why is there a revival of the brutalist movement? Brutalism is increasingly popular among students, designers, architects. Why is that? Could it be the ambitious scale of the projects or the emotional power of the forms that makes brutalism so attractive? Or is it the idea of living in a megastructure and sharing amenities? Or are there other reasons why brutalism is revisited by many architects, writers, etc., nowadays?  

After going to lectures and events, reading books and looking at a lot of photographs and hear people talking about brutalism, my last question is: What is a brutalist interior? Why are people always talking about brutalist architecture, but never about a brutalist interior? Does a typical brutalist interior even exist? Does it reflect the exterior? Is there a cohesion between the exterior and the interior?  

My dissertation was a search into the uprising trend of brutalism. It explored the idea of a brutalist interior mainly by looking at the interiors designed for Arlington House in Margate, the Barbican and the Trellick Tower in London and the house Van Wassenhove in Sint-Martens- Latem, Belgium.  

I wanted to try to understand what the design priorities of the time were and how they contributed to a way of living. It was also an inner search into what I admire about the brutalist way of building.  

In the next few blogs I will show some interior impressions from the The Barbican, the Trellick Tower and The House Van Wassenhove through pictures and will write a synopsis of my conclusion. 

ANN CARRINGTON

When going to pick up some things at school this summer I noticed an exhibition of RCA Alumnus Ann Carrington. She graduated in 1987 from a MA in Sculpture. Her work contains multiples of discarded and found objects, like knives and forks, wire, pins, coins, ...

I very much liked the way she connects these pieces and creates a new known form/object with it. The art pieces have a certain elegance, but are still very big and sometimes overwhelming because of the reflective and shiny metals. I would never buy an artwork like this, but it’s definitely an absolute joy to have seen it.

SHOW RCA - GRADUATE EXHIBITION 2016

The annual Royal College of Art graduate shows will took place across the College’s two campuses in Battersea and Kensington. The show 2016 gave an opportunity to experience the very best of emerging contemporary art and design practice from all the RCA's taught MA programs. Over 575 art and design postgraduate students exhibited their work.

RCA Kensington
School of Architecture – Architecture, Interior Design
School of Communication– Animation, Information Experience Design, Visual Communication
School of Design – Design Interactions, Design Products, Global Innovation Design,    Innovation Design Engineering, Service Design, Vehicle Design

RCA Battersea
School of Fine Art – Moving Image, Painting, Performance, Photography, Print, Sculpture
School of Material – Ceramics & Glass, Jewellery & Metal, Textiles
School of Humanities – Critical & Historical Studies, Critical Writing in Art & Design, Curating Contemporary Art, V&A/RCA History of Design

These are some of the projects I love the most. I was in particular amazed by vehicle design and textiles. 

BOX IT

“identity, noun. The characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is.”

The site for this project is 12 Arthur Road, Margate (the former Cecil Hotel). The site will house an architectural practice and we were asked to develop design proposals for a ‘reading room’. This room will house the practice library and will provide space for book storage, book display and reading.

Materials are at the centre of my project. They are very carefully considered. In this case, I started from a limited choice of only three materials: Oriented Strand Board, brass and felt. To add a touch of colour, I used green.

With these materials as a starting point, I created a modular system of cubes.

There are three types of cubes: one with one side open (these are the book shelfs), one with a drawer in (a box within a box), and the last one with the felt on it to sit on. The principle is really simple and creates a flexible design. The book shelfs are fixed, forming a grid. The seating and drawer boxes can be taken out, allowing for flexibility.