Unit XX: Designing Histories
This year Unit XX has examined the complex and contingent relationship between memory, artefacts, and monumental buildings.
Operating at the intersection of architecture, history, mythology, and preservation, the unit has sought opportunities to challenge and question conventional notions of monumentality, situating our enquiries within the city of Vienna. We began with an intensive programme of critical research, with film-making and physical model-making workshops introducing the unit methodologies and initiating discussion on the unit themes and philosophies.
Examining both topographic and thematic areas of interest, students were tasked with a series of short design activities and produced conceptual and propositional drawings, collages, physical model-work, and fictional and factual writings, as a means of developing critical rigour, unlock serendipitous design attitudes, and develop intuitive modes of expression. Blending digital and analogue modes of production, students utilised film-work as a narrative and a creative device to further expand architectural storytelling and nurture critical thinking.
Contextualising the writings of Alois Riegl and Aldo Rossi within contemporary paradigms, we have tested the philosophical dimensions of architectural preservation. We have generated new heritage; propelling monuments that strive us to be located within an historical moment and yet be adaptive to change - in this sense, to being part of the present, as well as the past.
In addition to theoretical texts, students drew widely upon literary, cultural, and artistic sources to expand individual lines of enquiry and develop the mythological and mythopoetic attributes of their work. Tracing Vienna’s architectural genealogy, students exchanged in ideas and stories with architects past and present. We are not historians, but we are interested in generating new meanings on top of old - of thinking historically in the present. Where does memory end and when does invention begin?