Before the widespread availability of telecommunication, the working day was clearly defined, as production could happen only at specific locations. You either were at the atelier, office, factory, or not. There was no room for ambiguity. However, the post-fordist production does not depend on certain spaces, thanks to the advancements in telecommunications. No fax machines, no office chairs, nothing but a 4.7-inch screen. The production of the contemporary worker does not depend on time, it is totally disassociated from absolute time, it has its internal clock.
In a context that the border between the house and the workspace dissolves, housing typologies are still restricted to “traditional” nuclear family, and fail to express today’s dynamics.
This graduation thesis proposes various scenarios on contemporary domestic space and its relationship with production.”
What prompted the project?
“Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa.”
In such time characterized by seamless integrations of virtual and physical, social transformations and political unrest coming from the lower classes, being exposed to these cultural, economic and political phonema all around the globe, listening similar stories from different people of my generation on precarity, housing problems, working practices and living the similar experiences motivated me to think and produce around these themes.
I was interested in working on single person cell, its historical development and what it means for production. I wanted to design a monastery in the beginning. The other elements of the project, relationship with the industrial heritage and contextual occupations arrived through the process.
What questions does the project raise and which does it answer?
The project practically started by going after one single question, “what are the possible relationships of production and habitation in an urban context where the predefined programs, usages, architecture, urban spaces, physical and virtual environments increasingly merge?”
Then, during the studies, issues like whether sharing can be a luxury but not a constraint, integration of public and private domains, how to provide absolute minimum in a dwelling unit, interrelation with existing infrastructures shaped the final proposal.
What tools did you use to investigate the topic? How did you trace back the very notion of housing through history? and how did this then shape the proposal?
Beginning a project without an area or a program had challenges, and if was difficult to progress in the beginning, but putting forward that small text as a guideline for myself as the helped me to both understand what to investigate further and frame the project. became a pedestal every time I was perplexed about the direction I was heading during the design process.
Readings from figures like PV Aureli and Bifo Berardi, visiting Familistère Godin in Guise, France helped me to develop a deeper understanding of the topic, also I started collecting images, ranging from Schinkel’s Tent Room to Kanye West’s Sneaker collection, Hugh Hefner’s bed in Playboy Mansion or Hollein’s Mobilesbüro. and I think visual references, which ended up with investigations on design culture of 1960s, played a crucial role in understanding materials and roles of the objects in domestic space.
Taking a look at Serlio’s unpublished treatise “Housing For All Kinds Of Men”, Dom Kommuna, Corbusier and postwar Europe was not really a scientific research, rather a curiosity which reminded me the fact that the most everyday, banal object or detail has a certain history and they were “invented” at some point. -maybe parallel with what Koolhaas’ biennale was suggesting- It made me more comfortable with exploring, I think.
Could you expand further on how the Exhibition curated by Ambasz at MOMA influenced and informed the project? To what extent are the ideas proposed by radicals as Archizoom, Joe Colombo valid today?
Ambasz defined the exhibition “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” putting “environments” on the center of discussion. Ambiguous, unclear spaces which could be labeled as large objects or small architectures. Invited designers including Aulenti, Sottsass, Colombo were to design these environments linked to the cultural revolution of 60’s.
Defining spatial conditions through objects, increasing mix of interiors and exteriors, public and private domains might allow us to think of the world as a continuous interior, an array of endless endless domestic landscape defined by objects and technology. Archizoom’s No-Stop City, Bellini’s Kar-a-Sutra or Sottsass’ Environments are not only precedents of contemporary context however also projects underlining the importance of objects and technologies as basis of this abiding place.
Colombo’s Total Furnishing Unit for instance, might not be physically valid, but the core of the argument still works. Home Economics pavilion in 15th Venice Architecture Biennale exhibited an inflatable sphere where you carry your digital identity wherever you go, designed by Åyr, house becomes more than an everlasting space to store our stuff, a temporary network that can be expanded according to our living practices, through the use of services, apps, and other technologies. Classification of uses, functions, and dwellers are blurred and so called the space became delicate in a way.
What are for you key references for a successful re-invention or approach to the housing typology today?
Last century modernism was preoccupied with designing each domestic space for a predefined program which would be used by a specific family type. Contemporary fluidity and complexity creates the need for natural and reprogrammable networks of spaces that are able to engage with a large number of social realities. Housing should be a part of a broad system, combining public and private realm, exclusive and generic, physical and virtual environments.
Recently popularized “co-living” schemes -e.g. WeLive, Ollie, The Nate- offer a certain programmatic complexity makes “eating oysters with boxing gloves” possible as in Koolhaas’ interpretation of Downtown Athletic Club, however most of those models serve as an apparatus of condensation for likeminded individuals, instead of blurring the line, it draws a thick line against the city by creating “autonomous blocks for middle-high class” which accommodates everything you need. It is more wonder of marketing and makes architecture disturbingly trivial.
For instance, MAIO’s 110 Rooms in Barcelona, or Peter Markli’s “Les Hiboux” in Zurich are challenging programmatic divisions associated to nuclear family. These two projects seem less ambitious than those “co-living solutions for creatives” but they imply a lot more powerful gestures.
How and to what extent does the ground become and important parameter in thinking of the relationship between building and context?
The context project is located was critical in design process. It is a triangle facing consolidated urban fabric on west and a post industrial non-place on east, which will be planned in some future. This border condition provided quite interesting objets trouvés:
one unifamiliar villa, two small-scale industrial buildings, one depot and one private company office. All those existing developments had a distinct relationship with the ground. One intervention I have carried out was making the ground floor accessible and open as it could get, and penetrate the public space inside the buildings in a way. At the end, all the additions I have done on the site still have slightly different relationships with the ground, in the tower for instance, accessibility is not only limited to ground floor, or the library was placed “on top” of the main public space in the project.
The relationship with ground is what saves the project from being a “speculative real estate development” but makes it a hub where private and public, open and close interlaces and creates a complexity of dwellings, workspaces and open public spaces.
How and to what extent has the relationship between domestic space and space of production changed for the architect?
Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse envisioned a division of the city by functions, exclusively splitting living areas from production. Following decades, figures like Jane Jacobs took the opposite position against zoning and programmatic separation within the city. Today, such a division is preposterous. In contemporary city, functions merge expeditiously in the urban, productive and domestic realm. Workspace and home became indistinguishable from each other.
Huge number of people are working from home -and bed- also the workspace aggressively borrows domestic elements. carpets, tropical plants, gadgets, games and sofas, wooden stuff, happy hours. but it is going beyond that, digital sharing platforms enables people to market their domestic space and domestic activities. Apps like “Vrumi” make it possible to rent your home to a workspace during the day, “Gigster” lists your property for a filming location “HomeMade” enables you to sell your homecooked meals, turning the house into a production space.
How has our profession been affected by this new mobilisation?
I do not know if it is any different from any other profession. Some could say it democratizes the environment, if you have something interesting to offer, you don’t need more than an instagram account to publish your work and “be discovered”, but on the other hand, now, contemporary professional has to be more competitive. Bifo Berardi wrote, “If you want to survive you have to be competitive and if you want to be competitive you must be connected, receive and process continuously an immense and growing mass of data,under constant pressure to keep up, stay alert, and remain motivated.” Contemporary worker is a rabbit running after an invisible carrot, he does not mind unpaid internships, sacrificing a bit of today for suppositional sunny days in the future.
Rise in casualized work and constrained self-employment forces the worker to involve his entire life into the work, vanishing the distinction between work and leisure.
With the absence of a unified physical space of production 'the office' how and to what extent do communication platforms become the new digital reinterpretation of the office?
It is so tempting to view these platforms as new forms of workspace. Platforms like Google Docs, Trello, Slack, provide a lot more freedom than the previous defacto standard Bürolandschaft, however it trivializes the community and emphasise the individual, by creating collaborative workflows with colleagues probably based in another continent and works in another timezone than you: together but alone.
The absence of social bonds in these virtual or physical workplaces produces a replaceable work force effortlessly and detereriotilizes the worker. It is not easy to imagine similar representative bodies such as unions, -which workers of generations ago had- in the future, as human relationships eradicate in these idiorrhythmic virtual environments.
Ekin Fırat Kesimalioğlu (1993, Istanbul) is an architect based in Milan. Graduated from Politecnido di Milano in 2019, Ekin likes architecture studios offering decent working conditions.