Atlas of Unexpected Spaces for Collectivity
Tomasz Bulczak @ 1st year, KU Leuven, International MSc in Architecture:Resilient & Sustainable Strategies
Atlas of unexpected spaces for collectivity inspire – verb [ T ] – to fill someone with confidence and desire to do something emergence – noun [ U ] (BECOMING KNOWN) – the fact of something becoming known or starting to exist
It has been now fairly established that people need first and foremost other people. How do we form our build environment with that in mind? Lot is a small town of approximately 4000 citizens located near the south border of Brussels, Belgium. It stays on the crossroads, of being a town or a village, speaking only Dutch or also French, being a collection of private asylums or opening up for collectively? Louis Wirth in his essay “Urbanism as a way of life” – points out main aspects of urbanism through sociology – heterogeneity, social separation and decreasing meaning of an individual. Considering Lot’s character, we can see that those city-like processes have already started. There is an inflow of people with diverse cultural background, current physical form usually doesn’t enhance collective spirit, and not many examples of bottom-up actions can be seen. Additionally, encompassing industries are growing, and the fear of them coming into Lot is mixed with a great opportunity of city investment they can bring. As Adam Caruso points out economy is more influential than architects.
With the introduction of abstract white spaces, finding new places for daily interactions became clearly needed. Current compact outlook of the streets doesn’t create that opportunity. The proposition was found in channelling that need through thin passages into the interiors of urban blocks. In this way we can create unique island for collectively. A synergic system of distinct characters. Each micro-public space starts with the gesture of giving an extra-value collective functions per urban block to share and looks for opportunities to densify. In the Atlas I proposed a set of options shaped by rules that are both general and specific to the blocks. As a result, the possibilities can be shown that can spark an enthusiasm for collective bottom-up change by its inhabitants. Only they can truly reshape the property structure to fit their needs. For purposes of my project I was eager to intervene the least possible and leave everybody with majority his private garden, hoping that created function will also open up some of those closed walls. The project also addresses the spaces in between city and industry to mediate the new model for Lot’s future development as a town and a way of absorbing newcomers with scarcity of land. I see a collaboration with interested industries as a driving force for finding solutions benefiting both sides for years to come. Heterogeneity was addressed through purposeful lack of focus. Created spaces hope to attract everyone. A division by aimed solutions, I found not needed.
Atlas aims to spark an impulse for bottom-up associations and industries to bring Lot together. As in Erwin Schrodinger concept of shared consciousness or Buckminster Fuller’s Spaceship Earth, they can perceive themselves as unity that can act successfully for their own sustainable future.
Who influences you graphically?
I’m mostly influenced by ever-shifting daily resultant aesthetics of my social media. Within that perhaps the most important role surprisingly play not the works of professional offices, but rather of other students from universities around the globe. I’m always astonished by the vast diversity of styles and creative ways of idea exploration. They usually can allow themselves for more freedom with their research through drawing, as they are not bonded with the daunting questions of client expectations.
I am also a part of groups for creatives with backgrounds in various artistic disciplines. It makes me feel like being a part of a world-wide set of individuals that influence themselves and shape the emergence of the aesthetics of collective intelligence. It is not an established canon, rather a mist of aesthetical feelings, created by many.
The practices would include Dogma, Boano Prišmontas, Studio Cadena and Atelier Starzak Strebicki. During the course of this project my biggest individual influencer was my tutor – Tomas Ooms – who made me think of drawings in a completely new way, sections especially. He was always eager to provide graphical inspirations and readings from which Flores & Prats “Thought by Hand” I found the most enriching.
How important was the initial research for the development of the project? How was this ‘digested’ and processed?
Instead of typical analysis that accompany most academic projects, I was using “Insert White” methodology* which had a crucial impact on the outcomes of the project.
In traditional analysis you gather data and observations and filter it through the funnel of external sources – these are the Doors of Perception. In early stages you would look for historical maps, local plans, external analysis. It narrows down your way of looking at the design task. The outcomes usually turn out to be very similar and differ only by elevation materials used or the quality of visualization.
In contrast my task was to go beyond that. It was to go through the Doors of Inception – a wide-open entrance for the cloud of thoughts, ideas, experiences, which I mostly acquired during visits to Lot, interacting with spaces, people and looking for internal feeling of what needs to be done.
Insert White was a tool, a first gesture for that. It’s an introduction of abstract, non-extant, temporary white space that generates the yet undiscovered situated knowledge. It helps to bring out the most of one’s unique understanding of the place.
I was initially focused on assessing the publicness of Lot spaces and inserting white planes in the areas in need. It made me also realize where are the areas with potential for publicness already, without any intervention. Based on that I developed a method of conveying that public whiteness from the areas of needs to available spaces. It was the basis for later design stages, so it was up most vital to the whole project.
What defined the use of the montage as prime medium through which you articulate your proposal?
Montage gives me the room for the synthesis of thoughts. It allows the vast freedom of expression. You can mix forms of certain cultural meaning, photography with abstracts or just focus on creating a composition with a given feeling. You add up elements that can be something completely different on its own, while still you are fully in control of the final aesthetics message and the richness of meaning. For me it becomes more and more a tool I turn to. Within it I can translate my thoughts and feelings towards the space and interventions with a lightning, nearly sketch-like speed. Which is vital, because nothing gets neither lost nor overwhelmed by the over-focus on realism. Working digitally, it can be both my quick sketch for exploration as well as a final fully developed drawing. Equally important is also to put my design in the character of the context in which it would exist, with the inclusion of photography. I think, most of all it helps to bring out the essence and gives a human touch.
What were your biggest concerns/objectives when constructing these perspective views?
The biggest ambition with them is to show the character of designed spaces in scope of publicness and the life that they might be filled with. With the large scale of the project more detailed aspects of buildings architecture were of lesser importance. The simple forms were enough. The focus was on displaying collectiveness of spaces with the interaction of landscape, forms and people silhouettes.
Diverse floor patterns were to suggest that those designed spaces could be visually associated through some common material strategy. It was vital for the concept as some of them lay in inner parts of urban blocks, so an invitation is necessary to bring people in.
As far as concerns go apart from the accessibility of some areas for proper photography, it was mainly the intention not to overwhelm the graphic with the architecture as it was supposed to be about the people.
In relating upon the term of the collective- what role do the silhouettes play within your views? What dictated their graphic identity?
Silhouettes had to be a center of attention being at the same time in line with a coloristic tone of the whole composition. Collective-wise I was at times joining them in groups, sometimes left as individuals, reflecting the society. With their placement I wanted to show the capacity of designed spaces for daily activities and interactions. An exposition of possibilities.
At a time of extreme whiteness within the realm of architecture, where it is now take as background rather than foreground, what dictated the use of the colour white?
The White was a kind of ‘What If’ asked within the framework of the design studio. The original Insert White was a kind a serendipity that emerged a result of an accidental observation by my tutor, during a print out of a map on few sheets. With the unavoidable margins of a printer, while putting sheets together, white spaces of paper emerged as well as an idea.
For me whiteness in the way I was using it meant a need of publicness and worked both as a foreground when mapping the spaces, that I felt need it, as well as a background, because I was designing directly on it. Having said that I have never used it to separate myself from the existing. The context was always to be kept in mind.
Perhaps an interesting observation would be that from the beginning of my drawing education I was encouraged towards filling in all blank spaces of the page to accomplish the full composition. Similarly, here with the design I was filling in all the whites to have a complete picture of what a collective Lot could look like.
Did you ever think of developing the project further to give it a proper space in our real realm?
In fact, it is a bit of a question on the limitations of the architectural education. The project core idea is for the outcome to be a result of a bottom-up collective negotiations, due to a complex issues of sites property as well as, in my opinion, a more truthful way of achieving publicness. The Atlas of Unexpected Spaces for Collectivity serves here a role of an inspiration – an invitation to the city, industries and inhabitants to deliberate together the commons of Lot. That’s why it rather tries to explore diverse possibilities than impose a fully grown architectural vision.
Developing it more deeply came across numerous times and I would certainly enjoy the task, but it doesn’t seem in line with the project objectives.
Most of all I would love to see The Atlas in the current form to spark a willingness in our real realm for these dialogs to happen. Perhaps it’s more of what the city needs than a finished proposal. I hope it will take place one day.
* – Doors of Perception > Insert White Studio > Doors of Inception (Tomas Ooms, 2017)