The first Core Design Studio of the MBIArch program, “Verticalscapes“, focuses on a “prototypology” that combines architecture, landscape, and environment. Directed by Iñaki Ábalos, the studio is one of the second term’s hightlights, and the cornerstone of the Architectural Design area of study. We’ve asked Javier García-Germán, partner at Totem Arquitectos and the studio’s Assistant Professor, to share some details on the theme of the studio and its relation to the MBIArch Master in Architecture program as a whole.
Tour de la Porte de la Chapelle, Paris, 2007. Project by Ábalos+Sentkiewicz.
Q: The studio proposes a departure from the skyscraper to the verticalscape: a “prototypology” that integrates architecture, landscape, and environment, through a new “procedural lexicon”. Could you tell us more about this notion of the verticalscape and how it is addressed in the context of the design studio?
JGG: A verticalscape is defined as a prototypology. But, what is a prototypology? Prototypology results from combining two words, prototype and typology, that belong to two very different design procedures. The first one is linked to experimentation and trial and error procedures, belonging to the realm of industrial design, whilst the second is linked to Claude Levi-Strauss’s structuralist conception of the city, which in turn gave birth to Aldo Rossi and Giorgio de Grassi’s.
During the last decade, authors like Iñaki Ábalos have championed the relevance of a hybrid conception of design procedures which mixes a traditional and disciplinary know-how with a need for experimentation that is related to social change and to the new technologies of material culture that have appeared at the turn of the century. This offers the opportunity to experiment new design techniques that first take into account the most obvious typological traditions —scientifically testing their certainties— and then enable new design procedures that introduce the arrow of time in disciplines that have traditionally dealt with temporal invariability.
This duality is present in the notion of verticalscape, which merges the typological qualities of the skyscraper with time-based strategies that are inherent to landscape architecture and other environmental disciplines. This duality is also present in the pedagogical methodology of the studio, as work is focusing on the production of physical and digital models which mutate as new concepts are incorporated.
Q: How is the focus of the studio atuned to the structure of the MBIArch program as a whole?
JGG: This studio has the role of integrating the knowledge students have acquired throughout the Fall term. Verticalscapes have the capacity of engaging a wide spectrum of issues that range from landscape to environmental strategies, and more disciplinary issues such as structural or energy systems. A verticalscape can be understood as a meeting point of architecture, landscape and environment, posing a new understanding of modern knowledge which aims at merging the biological and the social sciences. In this sense, the studio effectively combines the concepts that students have previously been dealing with in courses sponsored by the Energy and Building Technology, Architectural Design and History, Theory, and Criticism departments.
Javier García Germán, Assistant Professor for the Core Design Studio. Photo by C. Cabrera.
Q: How is the theme of verticalscapes relevant in the current context of architectural practice?
JGG: Architects are faced with an increasing range of action which contrasts with the limitation of their competences. Scale overlaps, differential time evolutions and conflicts between environmental needs and design opportunities displace the architect’s activity from the drafting boards to an expanded field where various professions and interests converge. This studio addresses this issue posing students to reflect on the possibilities that a verticalscape offers on incorporating the knowledge of various disciplines –landscape architecture and environment– to architecture.