Swear Jar

Studio MUTT are… thieves? Too many architects strive for unprecedented forms and radical newness, creating siteless science-fictions, unrelated to past architectures and rejecting traditions. If sampling is a sin, this is our confession.

Our architecture is specific and in dialogue with the histories and character of a particular place. Accordingly, there is no universal collection of inspiration we draw on and our contribution is not presented as such. Instead, an archive of the things we’ve sampled and referenced in our projects is housed in a monumental swear jar, adorned with strangely familiar motifs, fragments and ornament.

How do you define inspiration?

Too many architects preoccupy themselves with new systems and unprecedented forms in the quest for radical newness. These siteless science-fictions are complex, yet they are unrelated to the rich complexities of existing cultures. Our inspiration is instead found in the everyday. We refer to Duchamp’s objet trouvé in its original definition as an artistic strategy rather than a physical, singular, as-found object or image. Our definition of inspiration is therefore global and broad, yet precisely specific to the context of a project and a place, and draws on ideas from urban, historical and social analysis to create a backdrop, not a background, to everyday life.

What are your micro-tools? Are these fixed or do these changes for very project?

Our mission is to create projects of character. We develop narratives to provide bespoke services and produce responses which are specific to place, context and vernacular. Accordingly, the micro-tools for this change for every project, but always rely on our readings, and misreadings, of the inspiration we come across.

How do you collect and archive these tangible moments of inspiration?

Our office is filled with objects, models, samples, images and drawings. These are tangible moments of inspiration from past and present projects. However, a more dynamic archive of inspiration is found in the Studio MUTT WhatsApp group!

How did you approach the brief?

Sampling and remixing are key tools in our design process, and we undertake close readings of existing conditions and cultures to create projects which are in dialogue with the histories and character of a particular place. There is no universal collection of inspiration we draw on and our contribution is not presented as such.

Instead, it is presented as our confession. In a recent interview we described ourselves as ‘thieves’, in reference to our working methods. Our piece, Swear Jar, is a peculiar collage of recognisable typologies, details and compositions, from the everyday to the exotic, removed from their context and presented as a monumental object. Every piece of material sampled for projects while making the piece has been inserted into the jar, forever archived.

How do you choose to mediate the work of your practice through social tools as Instagram?

We don’t consider ourselves writers. Instead, the Studio MUTT Instagram feed is a collection of interesting and engaging images from projects and research. Instagram and Twitter have proved valuable marketing tools in the development of the practice. They are powerful self-publishing outlets over which we have complete control and, perhaps more importantly, are free of charge. We started using Instagram to set out our ideas and our work in progress as the practice was established. It has now become a project of its own – an evolving entity in its own right – and is a companion to the more static website showing key milestones and completed projects.

How do you as an architect approach the idea of ‘instagrammable’ architecture? / How and to what extent has the mediation of architecture through social tools as Instagram impacted the very practice of this? / Is this new accessibility to architecture productive? / Between a digital and a digital publication of your work, which one do you prefer? Why?

Instagrammable architecture has always existed, albeit with other identities. Architecture has long been used to frame views of people and nature, and the ‘wow’ moment has been present in religious architecture for centuries.

Despite being more prevalent in the new briefs we consider in the office, our work does not set out to be Instragrammable. Instead, we aim to create projects of character which respond to the peculiar physical, social, cultural contexts in which they are located. This produces architecture which is unique, loaded with content and, in turn, often ‘Instagrammable’.

We strongly believe that image is not a substitute for the physical and spatial experience. Again, this is not new. London’s Victoria & Albert Museum has the incredible Cast Courts, opened in 1873, displaying a fine collection of 1:1 plaster reproductions of monuments and sculptures from across the world. For Victorian scholars with limited means of travel, this was considered far superior to looking at etchings or drawings.

Our interests lie predominantly in the building of our work over digital representations of it, whether it be a building, an interior, a model, or a book, and we believe that this should be experienced to be fully understood.