With and Within

Any architectural site today is defined by a collision of forces—economic, political, environmental—that a single, professionalized form of expertise, like architecture, cannot decipher on its own. Whether in the biggest cities or most remote villages, the term “building” ends up feeling less indicative of a process of creation than the output of a careful coordination—an intricate choreography—of conflicting influences. This issue asks what it means for the architect to operate within a tangled web of players and assume a more humble, modest place in a rich ecology of practices.

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Untitled (The Things Around Us)


Untitled (The Things Around Us) was conceived by Francesco Garutti and Irene Chin, edited by Jesse Riviere, and narrated by Ralitsa Doncheva as part of The Things Around Us.

The video assembly Untitled (The Things Around Us) presents a heterogeneous series of environments, conditions, objects, and figures that have agency in 51N4E’s and Rural Urban Framework’s approaches to design. Formulated as a catalogue of “things,” in the philosopher Bruno Latour’s use of the word, the assembly presents the expanded ecology in which the architects work, and draws focus away from design or buildings as such. Instead, a dynamic panorama of natural and social forces across territories foregrounds context. The narrative unfolds as an aggregation of voices with which the architects engage in dialogue.

The Things Around Us. Installation view, 2020.

The Things Around Us. Installation view, 2020.

The video assembly’s fabric canopy and felt flooring borrow from the scenography of 51N4E’s and RUF’s interventions in Zurich and Ulaanbaatar, respectively. The canopy, in and onto which video is projected, mirrors the cabane at the Design in Dialogue Lab, Chair of Architecture & Urban Transformation at ETH Zurich, led by Freek Persyn of 51N4E, which creates a safe and versatile space for confrontation and co-production in an unconventional academic setting. Similarly, the assembly’s felt flooring takes its inspiration from RUF’s work investigating and refitting the traditional ger structure for contemporary urban use. Composed of compacted sheep wool, felt provides efficient insulation from Mongolia’s harsh winters, and is easy to disassemble and transport.

The Things Around Us. Installation view, 2020.

The Things Around Us. Installation view, 2020.

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