Return to Eden – The School for Contentment
Yannick Warmerdam@ Studio MSc Graduation AE-studio, TU Delft
If the Human Species really aspires for a durable stay on this planet, sustainable technology won’t be enough. We need to learn how to be content and to not always strive for more. We should be critical about (technological) progress, does it bring us happiness or does it just provide us with higher expectations?
Contentment clearly isn’t part of our nature, but we might be able to learn it. For this purpose, the School for Contentment was designed. Gods and their Temples, that is how I would describe the attitude most of today’s architects have on their designs. All the steel and glass boxes only show the greatness of humanity and its architecture. Installations make sure that the only connections with nature that were left in the architecture, also vanish. The state in which the architecture is photographed after realization is presumed the perfect state, and the building should be kept that way.
I propose a Picturesque attitude in which a collaboration exists between architect, building, time and weather. The architect is not the main shaper any longer, time and weather are just as important for the result. The sensory experience of time, weather and the seasons becomes key, as well in interior as exterior. For millions of years our species evolved with the rhythms of day and night, winter and summer and the passing of a lifetime, we feel most at ease when sensory aware of these rhythms. Surely architecture should shelter us against the discomforts of the rhythms in nature, but it should keep us aware of them.
Who influences you graphically?
My graduation research was partly a research to compositions in the picturesque landscape paintings of the Old Dutch Masters like Jacob Van Ruisdael and Rembrandt van Rijn. The idea was to grasp the landscape-architectural quality of the compositions in the paintings and transfer it to landscape-architectural design. I translated a selection of Ruisdael’s and Rembrandt’s landscape-paintings and drawings into plans. After studying these plans, I found out that one schematic idea formed the base of every artwork. This scheme became my tool to design the most picturesque architectural compositions in the Dutch landscape. Patrice Pellerin is a French historical illustrator, I am enormously inspired by the way he uses strong shadows in his hand drawings, and aquarel to create atmosphere in the historical spaces and ships he draws in his book-series called L’épervier. In his land- and seascapes time, seasons and weather become remarkably tangible. In my design for ‘The School for Contentment’ the sensory experience of weather, the seasons and the passing of time were main themes. I tried to grasp this quality in Pellerin’s drawings and translated it in my way to my impressions.
What defined the use of the film as prime medium through which you choose to reveal the project?
As said, the sensory experience of different weather circumstances, the experience of the seasons, the passing of hours and years were essential in my project. This is characterized not only by seeing material and form, but feeling it with all your senses. It is about hearing the ticking of the rain on the canvas roof, the squeaking and moaning of the tight wood construction in the wind. It is about the different colours of light coming in at sunrise, midday and sunset. And about materials getting visibly older and overgrown as time passes by. The factors time, movement and sound are essential in explaining the atmosphere in my design. Using film, I was able to give the audience an experience that comes closest to the atmosphere in the ‘real’ building. This is something that would never have worked using only illustrations and physical models.
How does the booklet sit in relation to the animated film?
Drawing is time-consuming work, one should be sure what purpose the drawing will serve before one starts. It is possible to tell multiple stories using only one illustration, by applying it into two different media. Film was a tool to bring the experience of my design the closest to reality and transfer this to the audience. The drawings in the booklet are ment to give a more detailed look at the design and its interior- and landscape-architectural qualities. They use the same illustrations but communicate different messages.
What is your take on the sketch within the realm of architectural representation? How important of a tool is it?
The sketched impression for me is a design tool in the first place. It is the best way to consider design steps. Every detail you have to draw and think through; what is the texture of the material I chose? What does it look like exactly when treated in this way or the other. And what way does the shadow touch the material at the exact moment in time I chose for this impression? With every line of the shadow you draw, you feel the space that you designed. It takes time to make a detailed sketched impression, this time is – consciously or unconsciously – spent considering and weighing all the decisions you made for a space. Besides, as being a tool of architecture representation, the hand-drawing is something that stands emotionally and culturally so much closer to humans than the computer-generated image. Architecture is all about the emotional and cultural connection of people to a place, a good representation of good architecture should therefore try to find this same relation.