Air_Conditions: Restoring The Public Sphere


Maintenance is a key form of preservation and preservation is an act of maintenance. The unassuming banality of maintenance systems allows them to surreptitiously become constructive and destructive architectural acts.

Without maintenance, architecture quickly becomes obsolete.

There is an oppositional relationship between the inside and the outside world, but air is a medium that permeates both their climates. The interior and exterior can be understood as distinct territories connected through systems that subsist in the liminal space between them. We live in a second nature; in the artificial environment of our homes; in an illusion of healthy sterility. As cities adopt more indoor public spaces, social life is being transplanted into sealed, isolated interiors. Yet a strong public sphere requires spaces that are universally accessible and conducive to interaction.

By retaining only, the Oslo Munch Museums air conditioning system and its highly controlled climate, this project proposes a new form of public space that combines qualities of the botanical garden and the public bath. The architecture is an active ecosystem. The pre-existing grid of the building defines a new balance between control and decontrol in which social and civic space can be both ordered and fluid.


Who influences you graphically?

As each project asks for a specific language of representation, image-making is about the interpretation of an idea. Nowadays, because of the overwhelming amount and variety of mass-media, we are challenging how to use references in our way of thinking. In this project, I had trouble representing odors in space, essentially because they are invisible. Only the visual data of architecture can be represented. Since space, where we live, consists of air, light, humidity, temperature, and smells – all of which are invisible, transparent things. We represent only the materiality of things, that which is solid and visible. We draw the boundaries of space. I was looking at how science uses data to represent these invisible odors and air and I found fascinating that different types of graphs and technical drawings can be used for architectural thinking as well. I took this data and re-imagined them in architectural drawings.

What is your take on colour what defined the use of the monochromatic palette?

The almost sterile look of the images represents hygiene of the body and it is in contrast with the natural wildness of the proposing environments. By using a monochromatic palette, attention is drawn to space. It is following the idea that modernist building should be always clean and stay white all the time, does not matter the climate condition. I am trying to show this utopian vision about the clean environment in narrative pictures.

What was your work process in terms of concept and project development and the production of drawings?

By starting with the object of the painting, an analysis charts the constellation of air quality control systems that maintain it, and by extension the building that frames it. The scale of architecture comes out of the scale of the object – and just as the museum was designed to house one painting, embedded in its material details is an expression of the tools that maintain it.

Invisible systems manifest themselves through air conditioning units at different scales – building’s scale or scale of the window‘s fan. But this is just small part of the huge infrastructure hidden under the surfaces. Through an analysis of the building extensive air control system, the project speculates on how their appropriation could create an environmental condition that allows the building to be re-imagined.

The images are devoid of human inhabitation- what is the effect and purpose of this when talking about public space?

We have a new vision of cleanliness. Isolated and sealed interiors have begun to replace our exterior life. Our connection to the outdoors is decreased through a process of sterilization. A process which has created a new ideological position towards health and nature. Seemingly abandoned spaces showing the symbiosis of ecosystems with technology which maintaining them. The scale of the space is shown by human objects placed inside of the image, which can be understood as a frozen scene. Personal objects like a towel, a drinking bottle, flip-flops, lying around the space showing that person is somewhere around, maybe enjoying a pool.

What defined the format of the drawings- did you ever think of exploring a more sensorial medium which would enable a further exploration of the project thesis? 

The format of the drawings was based on the format of the final review and exhibition afterward. We had very free hands how to represent our work in the format of drawings. On the end, all drawings were scaled into the book as a result of the studio project. Now I am experimenting with the more interactive format of representation as an animation and film, but drawings are still very big part of my working and thinking through the project.


Roman Kekel is Czech student of architecture currently studying Master program at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway.