Open Studio Sydney
Constructing the Commons
3 . – 7 . 7 . 2017
The global Open Studio Constructing the Commons focused on the relevance of the commons and the practice of commoning today. The Studio chose Walter Gropius’s boarding house project, Germany’s contribution to the Werkbund exhibition in Paris in 1930, as the starting point for the two-week workshop. The heart of Gropius’s Wohnhotel is a “communal area with the elegant atmosphere of a modern club, without a trace of mandated collectivism, containing both collective and individual recreation activities …”. Gropius’s contribution to the exhibition did not only present contemporary design, but also his vision of collective living for a future society. The Open Studio Constructing the Commons examined Gropius’s ideas from 1930 and related them to the current spatial practices of commoning, aiming to construct a new utopia of the collective dwelling based on existing social practices, understanding space as an agent of the commons.
The two-week studio was divided into two parts – one week at the Bauhaus in Dessau and one week at the University of the Arts (UdK) in Berlin. During the first week in Dessau the participants from UTS (University of Technology Sydney) and UdK got together for the first time and negotiated a common ground for work- ing together based on reading “On the Commons.” The first week ended with a presentation of critical refections and design questions concerning collective forms of housing for possible futures that in turn became the starting point of the second studio week in Berlin.
During the second week in Berlin the participants negotiated new group compositions. Again using the exhibition setting of Walter Gropius from 1930 as a point of departure, at the end of the studio the participants presented a design of the possible future of commoning. Transforming the university into an exhibition site the five groups presented five full-size models that illustrated their ideas for the future of collective housing. The groups not only asked relevant questions but also, by means of a 1:1 design sketch, suggested how this issue may be addressed from an architectural perspective.
University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building, Interior and Spatial Design Program
University of the Art Berlin (UdK)
College of Architecture, Media and Design, Institute of Architecture and Urban Development
Heads of studio
Christof Mayer (raumlabor berlin)
Prof. Dr. Markus Bader (UdK)
Anna Kokalanova (UdK)
Werner Möller (Bauhaus Dessau Foundation)
Torsten Blume (Bauhaus Dessau Foundation)
Questions for Christof Mayer and Markus Bader
Your Open Studio worked for a week in Berlin and for a week at the Bauhaus Dessau. What was your studio about?
Christof Mayer, Markus Bader: This year’s Open Studio, called Constructing the Commons, dealt with the theme of commons and commoning as a contemporary topic of urban dis- course. As in previous years we engaged with a socially relevant theme, which we then studied based on a concrete example from the Bauhaus world. The participants had prepared for the subject in advance by reading the text “On the Commons” from the publication An Architecture and by working out an outline for the start of the studio. Walter Gropius’s Wohn- hotel, which he had designed for the 1930 Werkbund exhibition in Paris, served as our architectonic example. What’s great about this example is that although it was never realised, it was presented in the exhibition in 1:1 spatial installations as a narrative for a new society. This offers an excellent basis for an appropriation and translation of its content into the present courtesy of a new narrative.
What is your approach to this year’s theme, Substance?
The annual programme of the Bauhaus on the theme Substance states that “young people should grasp the world through the senses, through touch, so that they can re-think it”, and talks about “learning as an experimental process”. This is pretty much what we aim to achieve with the Open Studio. But for us, the sensory and haptic experience is not gained through work with materials, but through learning from experiences and the experience of the lived-in world. Our participants had to not only address the theoretical and architectonic aspects of the theme of commons and commoning, but were also expected to organise, prepare and share all their meals together. We there- fore brought our truck with us, which then served as a mobile kitchen. Taking action is fundamentally important to us. The experience of a potential is better than the concept of a potential.
To what extent are material studies and the traditional materials sciences, which were an integral part of les- sons at the Bauhaus, still relevant to teaching in art schools in the 21st century?
We believe that the Bauhaus training is still relevant. However, it must also be brought forward to the present day. As I mentioned, experiences are our materials and they allow us to approach questions through experimentation or, rather, to de ne questions more precisely and put them to the test. In the process we also do a lot of work 1:1, but for us this is less about the material than about testing situations 1:1. That’s also what we did again this year. In the second week at the UdK in Berlin the participants constructed their hypothesis, in this case as a re-enactment of the 1930 Werkbund exhibition. You could also call it a recreation, which also pretty much describes this way of working.