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80 608 Re-store Municipal Monuments

Emnenavn på Norwegian Bokmål: 
Re-Store Municipal Monuments
Credits: 
24
Course code: 
80 608
Level of study: 
Master
Teaching semester: 
2018 Spring
Assessment semester: 
2018 Spring
Language of instruction: 
English
Year: 
2018
Maximum number of students: 
15
Person in charge
Amandine Kastler
Course content

“Architecture involves some detective work. You look at things, you look under and through things because they are a source or knowledge, signs of momentary resourcefulness.”   Irénée Scalbert 

In 1963, the municipality of Asker erected a building of radical international style in a rural field situated twenty-five kilometres to the west of Oslo. Rising above the surrounding agricultural landscape, Asker Town Hall and a string of other modernist town halls constructed across the country, herald a new era of municipal authority. The town halls epitomise a paradigm change in the way Norway is governed through the architecture of its newly built institutions.

This semester the Re Store studio will focus on the preservation and maintenance of regional town halls. Working with Asker town hall as a case study, our initial emphasis will be on the existing – a process of surveying container and contained to appreciate how the building functions both as a symbol of local identity and an instrument calibrating the ebb and flow of everyday life. It will be our brief first to observe, record and evaluate the existing infrastructure, and only then subvert and transform our latently propositional findings into design proposals.  

The studio is concerned with three distinct scales: the territory of the municipality, the town hall as its nucleus, and the citizens and bureaucrats that operate within it.

Municipality

Empowered by the 1965 Building and Planning Act, Norwegian municipalities became key agents of local democracy. As part of the effort to build a social democratic welfare state in Norway after the war, municipalities were given new responsibilities previously handled at a national level, such as education, healthcare and planning.  The municipality assumed the role as conductor of national policy into the provinces with the town hall acting as their monumental manifestation.

Municipal territories originated from the informal boundaries of the church parish. Subsequently modern infrastructure connected areas previously separated by topography, sea and natural barriers. Distances shortened, and municipal mergers took place. Current governmental reforms aim to reduce over four-hundred local municipalities to around one-hundred.  The reformation and consolidation will leave many town halls no longer fit for purpose or obsolete. These monumental pieces of municipal architecture stand in stark contrast with their context as isolated instances of international modernism dotted throughout the Norwegian countryside.

Town Hall

A microcosm of the municipality, the town hall is the civic centre, where processes of governance have a direct casual effect on the territory that surrounds it. Asker will merge with two neighbouring municipalities as a part of the national municipal reform. Whilst the Town Hall continues to represent and serve the local municipality, the impending growth of its administration means it will soon cease to be fully fit for purpose.

Oddly perched on a hill overlooking the town below, the seven-storey tower flanked by two low-rise podium buildings form a classical modernist ensemble. Set against the backdrop of rolling hills and pine forest, the tower marks its importance in the landscape. The low podium grounds the building and welcomes visitors in from below.

An early example of the work of Lund & Slaatto, the building is uncompromising and consistent in its construction. However, like many modernist icons, it has reached the threshold of its material obsolesce and requires costly maintenance and restoration.

The studio will challenge the understanding of the Town Hall as a ‘complete architectural object’ by exploring it as an ensemble of elements embodied with their own meaning. By tracing the patterns of use from the residues of human occupation, students will develop an understanding of what has been used and how.  This work will grow out of the translations between observing, drawing and making - to discover possibilities in what already exists.

Bureaucrat and Citizen

In a political climate that celebrates corporate prowess, the image of the public-sector worker in popular culture is one of dullness and inefficiency. In this narrative, the interaction between local governance and the public plays out in slow motion through the hatch in the wall of a grey room. From their offices bureaucrats write the policies that affect the strategic planning of their local municipality. The choreography of policy-making and its implementation has a distinct spatial dimension.  Following complicated routines full of checks and balances their decisions control many facets of everyday life.

Although Asker town hall is today appreciated and in many ways considered exemplary, the public reception of the building was varied.  Town halls built in the post war era were frequently associated with bureaucratic inadequacy and criticized for being insensitive to their surrounding context. The studio will challenge the stereotypes of the past, to understand how technology and infrastructure can enable new forms of public interface, while centralisation aims to limit bureaucratic inefficiency.

Through a series of workshops, the studio will work closely with actors in the local municipality to develop strategies that address issues such as changing municipal requirements, future governmental consolidations, and the material obsolescence of the building’s aging modernist structure. 

Additional Teacher

Erlend Skjeseth 

Learning outcome

The studio will provide a foundation to critically evaluate different ways of approaching the re-use and transformation of existing structures at varying scales. Students will accrue knowledge on how to formulate individual architectural proposals based on close observation and analysis of present conditions. Students will learn to analyse and adapt existing infrastructure to develop operational forms of architecture. Actively working with current issues affecting Asker Town Hall, the course will provide insights into the ongoing public discourse around the preservation and adaptation of the many town halls left affected by municipal reform in Norway.

The studio will provide a basic introduction to aspects of the history and techniques of preservation. For students to develop their understanding of urban preservation, it is strongly recommended to take the Urban Preservation elective course taught by Even Smith Wergeland with this studio.

Working and learning activities

The studio will be divided into two stages:

The first stage will use the survey as a record of the spatial relationship between the town hall, its users, and the larger urban context of the municipality. Students will collaboratively amass an index of municipal systems. Students will survey elements of the building and its relationship to the wider area through a variety of techniques of measurement and recording. Qualitative judgements will be suspended whilst quantitative research is accumulated. The survey will include urban planning, procurement processes, maintenance specifications, and most importantly the physical performance of local governance.

During the second and more extensive phase, students will use these ingredients to form the basis of individual design proposals for Asker Town Hall. These architectural interventions will negotiate the scale of the user, the building, and the wider urban context. We will develop proposals for the adaptation and appropriation of the Town Hall, and in doing so, generate a personal approach to preservation.

Teaching will consist of twice weekly desk tutorials, seminars, pin-ups and reviews with invited critiques. Students are expected to be active participants in group conversations, to attend all studio meetings, pin-ups and reviews, while keeping up with a rigorous level of production.

In combination with the studio meetings, the course will involve numerous trips to Asker Town Hall as well as related institutional buildings around Norway. A series of joint seminars and workshops will be organized in collaboration with Asker Kommune in Norway and with the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.

The studio will be evaluated by submitting assignments and participation, judged as “passed” or “not passed” (according to AHO regulations for master studies).

Mandatory courseworkCourseworks requiredPresence requiredComment
Presence required Not requiredAttendance: Students are expected to be present and working during all studio meetings, which occur twice a week. Students are also expected to be present during all seminars and reviews. Absences from studio meetings and reviews will affect the final grade and multiple unexcused absences will result in course failure.
Obligatoriske arbeidskrav:
Mandatory coursework:Presence required
Courseworks required:
Presence required:Not required
Comment:Attendance: Students are expected to be present and working during all studio meetings, which occur twice a week. Students are also expected to be present during all seminars and reviews. Absences from studio meetings and reviews will affect the final grade and multiple unexcused absences will result in course failure.
Form of assessmentGroupingGrading scaleComment
Portfolio assessment (Vurderingsmappe)IndividualPass / failThe final grade in the course will be given based on:

- Attendance and design production for twice-weekly studio meetings: 30%
- Midreview presentation: 30%
- Final review presentation: 40%

Oral presentation is a part of the portfolio assessment.

Mid review and Final review: Work presented for both the mid review and the final review will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

- Conceptual Clarity: Students should demonstrate proactive engagement with the material and self-motivated intellectual pursuits that enhance their own design ambitions. Students are expected to clearly articulate their ambitions and the intellectual underpinnings of their work in pinups and desk crits.

- Technique: Students are expected to execute all assignments with care and precision.

Assignments will be evaluated not only on the basis of the ideas, but also to a large degree on the quality of the execution. Students are responsible for planning sufficient time for developing appropriate and thorough representation.

Portfolio: The care taken in the compilation and design of the portfolio will be considered in the final assessment. The portfolio is to be formatted and printed at A2 or larger. Each student will also be required to design a portfolio booklet at A3 to accompany the printed portfolio.

Deadlines: Students must complete assignments by the given deadline.

Vurderinger:
Form of assessment:Portfolio assessment (Vurderingsmappe)
Grouping:Individual
Grading scale:Pass / fail
Comment:The final grade in the course will be given based on:

- Attendance and design production for twice-weekly studio meetings: 30%
- Midreview presentation: 30%
- Final review presentation: 40%

Oral presentation is a part of the portfolio assessment.

Mid review and Final review: Work presented for both the mid review and the final review will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

- Conceptual Clarity: Students should demonstrate proactive engagement with the material and self-motivated intellectual pursuits that enhance their own design ambitions. Students are expected to clearly articulate their ambitions and the intellectual underpinnings of their work in pinups and desk crits.

- Technique: Students are expected to execute all assignments with care and precision.

Assignments will be evaluated not only on the basis of the ideas, but also to a large degree on the quality of the execution. Students are responsible for planning sufficient time for developing appropriate and thorough representation.

Portfolio: The care taken in the compilation and design of the portfolio will be considered in the final assessment. The portfolio is to be formatted and printed at A2 or larger. Each student will also be required to design a portfolio booklet at A3 to accompany the printed portfolio.

Deadlines: Students must complete assignments by the given deadline.

Workload activityComment
Individual problem solvingDesign production for twice-weekly studio meetings: Students are expected to be self-motivated and ambitious in their development of their design proposals. During each twice-weekly studio meeting, students will discuss their work with the tutors. Students are expected to revise and improve their work for each session in accordance with brief and in response earlier feedback from their tutors.
ExcursionStudents are generally expected to participate in all planned studio excursions.
Students are expected to attend all site visits to Asker Kommune.
Forventet arbeidsinnsats:
Workload activity:Individual problem solving
Comment:Design production for twice-weekly studio meetings: Students are expected to be self-motivated and ambitious in their development of their design proposals. During each twice-weekly studio meeting, students will discuss their work with the tutors. Students are expected to revise and improve their work for each session in accordance with brief and in response earlier feedback from their tutors.
Workload activity:Excursion
Comment:Students are generally expected to participate in all planned studio excursions.
Students are expected to attend all site visits to Asker Kommune.