Interiors Buildings Cities

Autumn 2016: MSc1 The House in the City

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Design Studio:
The House in the City
Coordinator: Susanne Pietsch

MSc1 is structured as a series of parallel studios, run by a dynamic mix of practitioners and academics and collectively concerned with interpretations of a common theme, the House in the City. Understood ambiguously, as in the German Haus, the concerns of the course are not the representative monuments of culture, nor the private houses of individuals.

Instead, projects explore those buildings that stand between, housing our collective urban life and oscillating, in our consciousness, between foreground and background. Carefully wrought, spatially rich, generous and adaptable, such buildings have the capacity to evolve over time and to engage in a territory that might encompass both extended domestic and intimate public life. As discrete elements, subservient to a larger whole, they play small but significant roles in structuring urban fabric and defining urban space, simultaneously taking pleasure in the heterogeneity of the contemporary city and bringing it into order.

Through individual projects, each studio addresses how such city houses might be made, experienced and inhabited, in time and space and in response to the particularities of place. Through careful drawing and iterative making, their individual characters emerge in a welcoming interior, through a moment of figuration or in the refinement of a façade.

There are 3 studios:
Studio 1: Interiors and figure
Studio 2: The corner house
Studio 3: Hôtel Particulier

Studio 1: Interiors and figure
Tutors: Dirk Somers, Merijn Muller

This MSc1 studio focuses on the domestic interior as a basis for the design of a stacked housing figure, and starts from the hypothesis of a slim tower that contains only two apartments per floor. The diversity and transition of spaces serves a starting point for the exercise, differing from the objectives of many housing assignments.

There is no direct context for the project, but an idea of context: a non-determining suburban setting, where a free-form building seems suitable set in Milan and its material culture. In this way, the site is both generic and specific: the generic site, a suburban or even urban estate with trees, offers freedom of thought regarding arrangements and the figure; while specificity is found in the narrative contained within the culture of the city itself, and the fact that the project’s context is its place in an urban culture that has developed both visual and material specificity.

The work of the Milanese architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni (b 1913) serves as a collective source of inspiration, both at the level of design on a small scale and the elements, arrangements and figures of the interior, and at a larger scale, wherein apartments come together and their interior forms produce a complex figure at the scale of the collective and the city. The studio is particularly interested in those buildings that articulated the intense relation between inner and outer spatiality. The idea of the interior forging a close relationship with the outward appearance of a ‘house’ in the city is one that can be found in the work of several Milanese architects. It formed a tradition that connected post-war Milanese plan-making to the city’s bourgeois tradition of collective living.

The studio is one of a proposed series that seeks to draw relevant lessons from the concerns of Milanese architects in the period 1950-1970, whose architecture was responsive to all scales and situations: from the domestic to the civic and from the individual to the metropolis. The rich and contested material culture of the city was inscribed in the work of these architects, whose works constitute exemplary models for practice. 

We also recommend to participants that the studio project is developed in partnership with a history or theory thesis paper, which we recommend is pursued from the beginning of the semester, and concerned with figures and effects of the post-war Milanese architectural context with relation to the suburban dwelling, such as Caccia Dominioni, Castiglione, De Finetti, Gardella, Mangiarotti, and Ponti.

Studio 2: The corner house
Tutors: noAarchitecten (Philippe Viérin & An Fonteyne) and Sander Laureys

The corners, and the buildings they form, mark out the city. Often higher and more visible than their surroundings, they form orientation points within the urban fabric. Their expression determines the mood and appearance of public space. In the example of the corner plot, the inseparable link between urban planning and architecture is made visible. The special relationship between the corner and the city operates in both directions. Living on a corner is unique. You take part in the life of the city from your place in the interior, you benefit from light on both sides, from multi-directional perspectives and views, and also from a range of urban spaces.

We direct our attention towards Brussels, a city where the interwar period was significant for the rise of the middle-class apartment buildings, a type of residence that was well suited to corner plots. This yielded an architecture that allowed itself certain formal freedoms and, as such, had a positive effect upon both the city and the interior. With their expressive façades, a consequence of the shape and composition of the rooms inside, they not only offered a generous way of living, but also played a formal role in urban representation. The entrance hall celebrates the moment of arrival and is often placed on the corner, as is the main space of the individual apartment, the drawing room. The latter often had a round or multifaceted layout that further emphasised the potential of the angular condition. Another feature is typpical, many of these buildings had a communal roof terrace accompanied by a room where residents could meet.

However, things went downhill after corner buildings in the city had enjoyed their heyday. In many places, the corner lost its role as an essential component of the built environment. This development went hand in hand with changes in attitudes towards public space. Over the course of the last century, spatial assignments were increasingly viewed from the perspective of their function. The street stopped being an extension of the home and, instead of being a place to spend time in, became a space for the traffic that served to get us from A to B. Neighbourhood shops and cafés, often sited on corners, vanished from the street scene. Pedestrians and children at play were forced out by fast-moving vehicles. The corners were truncated to improve the traffic flow and were no longer viewed as a necessary component of the newly formed suburbs. Street blocks were swapped for freestanding buildings, slabs with just two ends and no corners, because corners upset the efficiency of the generic plan. The will and the ability to resolve corners, to see their specific quality and to use them in the design of generous places to live and urban spaces, also gradually declined.

Recently we see signs that the decline that went on since the postwar period is coming to an end. There is a renewed interest in cities and city life. The corner has made a comeback after half a century of reduced interest and loss. Although the corners will not be ‘charged’ with public and commercial functions exactly as they were in the past, the evolution is encouraging. The corner has once again become a design task. There is a renewed awareness that we need corners in order to make vigorous urban and suburban spaces.

This semester we will analyse some corner buildings from the interwar period in Brussels. We will investigate whether this Brussels typology is suited to answer a renewed interest in living more closely together in the city. We will design corner projects that use the specific nature of the angular condition to the advantage of the city and the interior.

— Brussels, July 6th 2016.

Studio 3: Hôtel Particulier
Tutor: Floris Cornelisse, Marjolein van Eig

In this studio we will be working on a design for a small-scale city hotel. The hotel will be integrated into the historical centre of Delft, providing a perfect base for guests to explore the city and its many places of interest. The historical city will also form the academic backdrop against which the design will be benchmarked. Architectural townscapes by 17th-century painters like Saenredam, De Hoogh, Vosmaer and Vermeer will be reassessed and play an important role in the evaluation of the place, its architecture and its social significance. 

The boutique hotel is on an intimate scale with space for some eight guest rooms, and can be seen as a private townhouse along the lines of the French ‘hôtel particulier’. This kind of residence, which is closely tied to the redevelopment of Paris between the 16th and 18th centuries, was soon taken up and imitated by the practitioners of Dutch Classicism in 17th-century northern Dutch cities. In the studio we will examine this type of small city mansion and analyse it in terms of use and representation. The use can be read in the floor plan as a collection of rooms with a particular hierarchy, proportions and furnishings. By contrast, the street facade expresses the hôtel’s identity as a semi-public establishment and mediates between inside and outside. 

The notion of the city hotel is based on a transitory communality among hotel guests in personal, comfortable surroundings. The daily rituals of morning, afternoon and evening, such as bathing, breakfasting, reading, dining and sleeping are given due emphasis in the interior. Following the example of the Parisian ‘hôtels’, the question of how we might interpret a collective light court, garden or laneway will also arise. As such the hotel is a typical building block, where both the front and rear exposures of the city come together in a public-private atmosphere. A temporary accommodation that will later on remind people of the city they once visited.


Fundamentals I
Coordinator: Susanne Pietsch

This course aims to develop skills in the appraisal and understanding of common considerations and problems in architectural design, particularly in the architecture of the interior and architecture made in relation to existing structures and urban conditions. Methods are used that join processes of observation and analysis with processes of making design–– particular to complex buildings and interiors––in seminars and tutorials.

Fundamentals II
Coordinator: Mark Pimlott

Purpose of this course is to deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of the public, urban interior in relation to the design project. This semester students will develop an indiviual research trajectory adjacent to their own design project. Students will apply the tools and methods from the Fundamentals I according to their personal research themes. 

The compulsory general courses of the MSc1 Architecture that run alongside our programme are:

Delft Seminars on Building Technology

Delft Lectures on Architectural Design

Delft Lectures on Architectural History