Towards a Relational Architectureis a Master of Architecture Studio at the University of Technology, Sydney, led by Professors Andrew Benjamin and Gerard Reinmuth. The studio is based on the assertion that buildings are located within a network of relations. Any one object therefore – the building as object – is an after-effect of a network of relations. At the outset, these relations define a given urban condition. However, these relations are neither fixed nor immutable. They are always potentially transformable. As a result, this creates a setting – a site - in which it is possible to interarticulate analysis, design and critique. The design process is then able to distance the immediate determining effect of contemporary conceptual and political delimitations. They can be reworked thus creating openings for architectural interventions. These interventions whether within the work of a building, or at the urban scale are understood as the creation of third spaces.[i]
What emerges with the creation of third spaces, is a new thinking of autonomy; namely, autonomy-within-relationality. Rather than a strategy of separation or addition what becomes possible is the creation of interventions that might have a transformative effect. Such propositions occasion an architecture whose appearance and urbanism are neither structured nor determined in advance. Rather, there are openings and possibilities that while allowing form, function and place to be interconnected, these constitutive elements can be transformed or reconfigured in the process.
This theoretical framework underpinned the work of the 2018 students as they began their analysis of this year’s project – the regeneration of the Daesun Wheat Factory in Yeungdeungpo, Seoul. This much-anticipated and thus contested project in Seoul brings questions around the regeneration of industrial heritage in a city that for the first time in history has a shrinking population. The site has a key role in the miracle of the Han River – an unbridled phase of development undertaken during a dictatorship in the 1960s and 70s and which provided Korea with the foundations of its economic success – with its establishment of industry south of the river in the 1930s. Now the site sits amidst a fragmented context containing transportation infrastructure, shopping mall, residences, historical markets, light‐industry, artist lofts, and a red‐light district.
These issues provide a perfect scenario into which to locate and developthird space. Leveraging off the site’s irregular geometry and juxtaposition of multiple warehouses and silos of different types, we propose that conventional development approaches are not possible and that the site will inevitably be punctured by an array of fissures, interruptions and vague terrains. The site may exist therefore as both as a major commercial redevelopment and a more subversive network of third spaces. The programmatic catalyst will be a small public arts library, a resource that supports the fledgling arts community in the area. This requires a rethinking not only the logics of development on the site, but of the typology of the library - which has transformed rapidly in the last 25 years from a container of knowledge and a place of research to a recreation and meeting space between home and work that focuses as muck on interactivity and entertainment as knowledge dissemination. Within the context of the studio the realization of the program necessitated the creation and realization of third spaces.
This combination of brief, conceptual frame and current development context at Daesun has been specifically designed to engage students in a larger project, to explore, demonstrate and challenge our assertion that thinking architecture through relations offers an escape hatch from the conceptual limitation of the discipline.
[i]For a discussion of this terms see the essays by Gerard Reinmuth, John Hong and Andrew Benjamin in Terroir. Third Spaces. Melbourne. Uro Publications, 2019.