Do you believe in the brief?

47°22'35.4"N 8°32'53.0" I with jpg

teaching statement for a design studio in Switzerland.

We are in a state of climate and ecological emergency. The building sector accounts for 38% of all energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide when adding the building construction industries emissions. The manner in which we produce, operate and renew our built environment continues to curtail biodiversity, pollute ecosystems and encourage unsustainable lifestyles; virtually, in a chokehold by financial interests, architects, literally, cement the status quo. There is a compelling body of scientific work indicating our present trajectory will lead to catastrophe if we do not make ambitious and radical changes as a matter of urgency. This state of emergency calls for a new kind of professionalism, otherwise, it will cost dearly.
Beyond merely giving shelter, architecture has always meant to represent something not directly visible, a higher power of some sort. Architecture mediates societies. The built environment makes them concrete and tangible out in the real world. Other than reacting to each subsequent and entangled crisis that we are facing today, the architectural profession needs to come out of hiding behind aesthetics and communicate the values and virtues of a long-term strategy instead. Oh brave new world!

We (still) believe in the potential of architecture, thus architects, to make the world a better place first, and somehow nicer second. That is the necessary ambition. We place hope in the common procedure of open competition in our field. Such as this one, which allows us to be considered to teach a design studio.

Yet, in practice, although this procedure, basedon a meritocratic1 decision-making process that has proven its worth, seems unable to evermore produce buildings according to the bes conscience and knowledge of the architectural profession. A competition brief - the questioimplies the answer - is rarely more than asking for a state-of-the-art building; an immediat solution to an immediate problem. And so on. This needs to change.

1 „Meritocracy (merit, from Latin mereō, and -cracy, from Ancient Greek kratos ‚strength, power‘) is the notion of a political system in which economic goods and/or political power are vested in individual people based on talent, effort, and achievement, rather than wealth or social class. Advancement in such a system is based on performance, as measured through examination or demonstrated achievement.“ - Wikipedia - yes, Wikipedia.

Even though we accept the agency of the brief in itself we want to rethink its form profoundly. For us a brief needs to be critically reviewed through a number of lenses. First of all its form is too static:
Texts, diagrams and architectural drawings do not hold up with the times in which we are used to reading through complex amalgams of performance, irony, memes, theater, trickery, fast pace imagery and the likes.

The other thing that needs to be put to the test is the authorship of competition brief: An architectural
profession that wallows under the thumb of rusty institutions an selfish capitalist power structures will not be a part of shaping a tomorrow. Hence we need to sneak, demand or even crow-bar our way into the circles that pose the questions instead of merely catering aesthetic solutions as answers to those in power.

Norman Foster aka Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, OM, Kt, RA, HonFREng in The Competition (2013)

Architecture holds direct and indirect agency over individual and collective bodies beyond the standardised scheme of producing spaces following a template. To widen the role of architectural practice, we have to understand the rules of the game we are playing and eventually rethink them entirely according to one‘s Welt- and Menschenbild2. What interests us is the brief itself and how it comes to be. Therefore, we‘ll go upstream, where it is too deep to stand and we‘ll have to swim, in search of the opportunity to help shape relevant decisions, for which aesthetic beliefs are secondary, though not political ones.

2 „It is not surprising that the term Weltbild, when it probably first appears in its Old High German form at the end of the 10th century, is used with reference to Plato‘s doctrine of ideas in order to assert a difference between the truth-guaranteeing „ideas“ and their images in the mere world of appearances. „„Weltbild“ is thereby conceived as a model in which the mere shadows and depictions can be ordered and given meaning.“ - Pradeep Chakkarath translated with Deepl

This design studio oughts to understand the brief as the design task. What matters is posing the question, not the answer (yet). Thematically, we will spike into the chaos of crises and deal with energy, the energy crisis, respectively. Reflecting Switzerland‘s subscription to the climate goals issued in the Paris Agreement (2015) and the more recent notions for a long- term climate strategy (2021)f and urgent measurements to increase power production in winter (2022) - willing to disregard nature conservancy provisions - , the building sector has the chance to act, not only react. Much likely, with prepositions for new and sustainable power plants or potentially new nuclear power plants? Vital infrastructure constructions, generally dismissed as industrial architecture, have often been ignored by designers, although it is precisely the kind of architecture we all rely on. It is an area that needs to be re-valued and deserves our full attention to formulate a set of design briefs which explore the potential of a strategic and tactical agency in architectural practice.

3„In the future of architectural history, I think there’s going to be a re-appreciation of what we’ve generally dismissed as “industrial architecture.” [...] The field of industrial architecture is often done by anonymous corporations, not star designers. It’s the type of work that many may have avoided doing, but may come to be seen as an architecture that we’ve all been relying on this whole time. [...]
I realise that it’s low-prestige work, but it’s high social-impact work.
The opposite would be high-prestige, low social-impact work.
That is, industrial architecture is more socially useful than many “social practices” that invest a lot in self-congratulation before they end up making colourful park benches.“ - Benjamin Bratton in Non-Extractive Architecture

2-3 students work together as of their choice in order to provoke a discourse within groups.

The first part of the semester will be guided by explorations of existing briefs and their outcomes. In this part we want to outline themes of conflict in order to give the students time to find their personal area to focus on.
The second part of the semester will be focused on crafting the brief and developing tactics in order to make their work relevant for the public discourse. 

Issue a brief for a architectural proposal that engages with the current war on energy4 in a world that is facing the consequences of the capitalistic exploitation
of non-regenerative energy sources.

Locating a site in Switzerland that would be suited best for energy production is part of the research and crafting of the brief. Potential field research in the Kanton of Valais

Students will produce an artifact (or artifacts) in a medium of their choice (drawing, text, film, website, meme etc.) that will serve as a competition brief.
!!Provoke a reaction by the designer!!

Speculative Realism. Object Oriented Ontology. Assemblage Theory and whatnot.