“This used to be our home” is an illustrated short story authored by Bojana Papic and Yann Junod, which addresses the topic of borders and modern-day colonisation. The story was recently awarded an honourable mention in the international Fairy Tales 2019 competition that invites architects and artists to explore architecture as a tool for storytelling and communication.
The project is a fairy tale inspired by a series of contemporary cases of colonisation that the authors encountered throughout their academic research. In the contemporary context, the topic of borders, nationality and state sovereignty is often discussed through the lens of migration. On the contrary, “This Used To Be Our Home” gives voice to the numerous marginalised societies and territories that are being colonised and whose integrity is continuously threatened. The story is about the people who are suffering the consequences of these invasion and is told from their perspective.
Using the contemporary architectural drawing techniques, Bojana Papic and Yann Junod explore the expressive and poetic potential of line drawing, blurring the boundaries between the artistic, social and technical dimensions of the discipline. Although they are rooted in contemporary and localised realities, the illustrations are made abstract and extraordinary. They are comprised out of a series of elements carefully stitched together to illustrate the fantastic and at times contradictory world within which the story is situated. Each illustration is composed separately and tells its own tale, while together they form a coherent whole and enrich the short story by giving it several layers of interpretation.
The depicted architecture is used to locate and contextualise the events but is also an actor of the story. It reflects human actions as well as political, cultural or economic influences. As a result, the story resonates with everyone – witness as well as victims of the contemporary forms of colonisation.”
What prompted the project and the interest to partake in the Fairy Tales competition?
We were interested in taking a part in Fairy Tales 2019 competition due to the creative freedom which such competitions offer. The competition represented a great opportunity to reflect on topics that reach beyond the realm of architecture into politics, social sciences and creative writing. The fantastic and fictional rather than solution-oriented nature of the competition allowed us to explore these topics in a more playful manner and to take risks. The possibility to construct a project through creative writing and illustrations was an excellent occasion to experiment with representational techniques and graphic languages.
How and to what extent are competitions as that of 'Fairy Tales' key for research within the architectural realm?
The competitions such as Fairy Tales enable architects and designers to explore alternative means of expression and representation such as creative writing, filmmaking and illustration (digital and analogue), and give them a valuable opportunity to reflect on a plethora of topics beyond the world of architecture. As such, they both strengthen our skill set, but also enrich our discourse and deepen our understanding of the world within which we operate.
What is for you the difference between notions of drawing and images within architectural discourse?
Drawings are more abstract. They are a working tool that is a part of the process and are used for exploring and reflecting. Thus, we understand “drawing” as the process of exploration rather than a specific technique or media. On the other hand, images are a representational tool and are more final in their nature.
What is your take on colour?
In general we tend to use colour only when its inherent properties support the concept of the project. “This used to be our home” explores and pushes to its limit the expressive and poetic potential of line drawing and contemporary architectural drawing techniques.
As part of the process we tested out many different versions and colour schemes. However, after a thorough analysis we concluded that colours do not add any value to the project concept as a whole and do not complement each illustration to the same extent. Therefore, we eventually settled on the original black and white version, which made all the images more coherent as a series. The radical neutrality of this colour scheme puts more emphasis on the content and the details of the images.
What is the importance of the drawing as testament to ‘unbuilt’ architecture?
Representations of unbuilt architecture definitely hold a great capacity to further influence the architectural production long after their conception. Built work can sometimes be even better understood or rediscovered through its conceptual representation. It can be argued that many architects have been more influential and recognized through their conceptual projects and representations than their built work. Aldo Rossi, Peter Cook and the radical collectives such as Archigram, Archizoom and Superstudio, as well as the more contemporary practice Design Earth could be listed as their representatives.
How important is narrative in the construction and articulation of an architectural project?
Narrative is inherent in the conception, development and representation of any architectural project. Each architectural project has a “story”, a unique project concept, which is used to argue and justify the project design, to present it to the clients and the public. Furthermore, the formed narrative is not only a means of communication but essentially gives the architect the intellectual backbone to take coherent decisions and develop a language that reacts to a specific context; built, as well as social, political, economic or artistic, etc. The stories told by buildings or their representations are therefore witnesses of the society and the epoch of which they are the product.
What tools were implemented in the development of the project, from concept to research to execution?
“This used to be our home” consists of two elements: a short story and five illustrations which complement the text. The concept of the project was based on our academic research conducted in Israel, Cuba and Georgia.
Throughout research different tools were used, from desk research, to interviews and mapping. The short story was written as a synthesis of the research findings and personal experiences, and was told from the perspective of a fictional character. Once the first draft of the story was completed, the illustrations were sketched and constructed in form of a digital collage. Through that process we explored and developed the general concept of each illustration, defined the composition, the atmosphere and the main elements. Then, we drew each element in a CAD drawing tool, where we also stitched them together, determining their final composition. Finally, the illustrations were processed in Adobe Illustrator where line weights were edited and textures added.
What is for you the architects most important tool?
The most important tool is the one through which the architect can develop the narrative, or the concept of a project. In our practice, until now mainly academic and theoretical, research has been both the catalyst of each project and the foundation of their narratives. The project is then further developed through different media, from creative writing, to drawing, collages and models. The use of these tools depends on the personal approaches as well as the nature of the project itself.
Yann Junod (Switzerland, 1991) completed his undergraduate studies at EPFL and at TU Berlin and completed his masters in architecture at EPFL in Switzerland.
BojanaPapic (Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1992) completed her undergraduate studies at University of Edinburgh in UK and completed her masters in architecture at Political Architecture: Critical Sustainability at KADK in Denmark.
In 2018 Yann and Bojanaco-founded Luftschloss Collective, an experimental design collective, which practices context-sensitive approach to architecture and socially sustainable urban design informed by research. Through their work they seek to blur the boundaries between disciplines, situating themselves in the space between urbanism, architecture, design and social sciences.