The theme of the year “Forgotten Country” invited students to undertake a process of concentrated research to examine and respond to the recent intensification of change being experienced by the countryside. This severe transformation and transfiguration is demonstrated by a variety of practices and is increasingly shaped by technology, immigration and climate change. Although more than 50% of the world’s population now inhabits only about 2% of the land, the dynamics of the countryside have become far more complex than that of the city. The global market economy and the concurrent political environment keeps reminding us of the importance of the countryside. The question is how we can revitalize and reinvent the countryside as a meaningful answer to current and future trends? Can we create building typologies for human (re)inhabitation and invent sustainble uses of the land, its materials and resources? To start the year we examined wide-ranging themes addressing the metamorphosis in life, culture and use of the rural landscape in England; folklore, authenticity, nostalgia, tradition, migration, automation were a few of the areas being scrutinized. Students then collaborated in groups of 2 or 3 to create a variety of Hybrid Artefacts, physical objects imagined from and inspired by one or more themes associated with the changing countryside. Each artefact was conceived, designed, tested and produced through studying and utilizing a traditional (analogue) craft combined with at least one digital technique. The investigation was brought to the rural environments of Tuscany, where we visited a marble quarry, production centre and a robotics workshop in Carrara and where we toured the provinces of Lucca and Siena. Students instigated their main individual thesis projects, writing their own briefs and selecting their own sites - whether in Tuscany or England – and devised their own programmes. The challenge, as always with DS16, was to form critical and experimental spatial and material responses to a social, cultural, political, economic and environmental context with an explicit civic endeavor. The studio’s normal wealth of physical models and 1-to-1 components was curtailed by remote learning, when more involved spatial, technical and experiential resolution was adopted, sometimes represented by other techniques, including animation and hand drawing.
Thanks to our guest critics: Yeoryia Manolopoulou (UCL/AY Architects), Michiko Sumi (UCL/KPF), Yannis Halkiopolous (Piercy & Co), Al Scott (If-Do), Sophie Cole (Mikhail Riches), Liam Spencer (Thirdway Architecture), Amy Martin (Thirdway Architecture) and Lewis Toghill (Architecture Social Club). And a special thanks to Matter of Stuff and Garfagnana Innovazione SRL for their fantastic hospitality in experiencing the world of Carrara marble.