The unit contends that we have entered a new period of architectural enlightenment where customary divisions between the built and the unbuildable, the inert and the reactive, the ideal and the real, have dissolved. Experimental design is no longer a remote discipline, confined to the flimsy and vulnerable materials of representation. In the post digital age, experimental design has transgressed the resistant protocols of manufacture and mass production and occupies the everyday. Space, the matter of architecture, is no longer real or digital; it is a seamless hybrid of both.

This year the unit’s reputation in the field of making and prototyping architecture will accelerate through a series of live projects at Kielder Water & Forest Park where the unit will establish an outpost residency. The year will be defined by three expeditions to site where students will explore and establish a role for experimental architecture, and they will build them. Unlike the work of the regulated and conformist, this repertoire of built work will operate as a collective research assembly and engage with a random and diverse audience outside professional or institutional boundaries.

Kielder occupies 650 sq km of managed forest in Northumberland and is centred on the largest man-made reservoir in Northern Europe. The territory is a confluence of opposing states from the man-made and the natural to the utilitarian and recreational. It is a manufactured terrain and the unit will adopt its dense mosaic as a laboratory in which to gestate, modify and release a new species of indigenous construct.

The work will be hosted by The Kielder Art and Architecture Programme who have invited the unit to pose provocative alternatives for elemental conditions such as station, observe, adapt and mobilise. The year will begin with a short project called ‘proto-prosthetic’ a design and manufacturing exercise in 2 and 3D which will introduce students to digital design and fabrication techniques. As a thematic undertone to the year, our expeditions to Kielder will be analogous to the three main fittings of bespoke tailoring the ‘Skeleton baste’, the ‘Forward’ and the ‘Finish bar finish’. Each expedition will take a separate route to Kielder combing the aftermath of Britain’s Industrial and Manufacturing legacy.

Unit 23 2009-10 Programme

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September 18, 2009