In observing the work of Sigurd Lewerentz and Mies van der Rohe, Adam Caruso has spoken of their work making ‘a material basis for form.’ He continues: ‘Both architects are concerned to reveal the secret life which lies latent within their material. Both suppress structural expression to give the material an autonomy from technique, intensifying the idea of the material.’
While so much of the history of modern architecture has used materials to explore ideas of lightness and transparency, Atmospheres unit is interested in engaging with the qualities of solidity and mass, with tectonic concerns of a more massive and homogenous means of construction. The architecture critic Jonathan Meades talks of the Calvinist mentality being engrained in the built fabric of the Scottish landscape, with its blindness to prettification, and sense of aesthetic bereavement. This unit is interested in these qualities: the more archaic origins of our architectural heritage, the weight of historical buildings, the notions of proportion, weight, familiarity and sense of permanence, with powerful material presence and expression of gravity. Underlying all this is the idea of the emotional potential and physical qualities of materials and their construction, and the atmospheres that these have the potential to create.
Atmospheres unit is drawn to the more modest approach to architecture, in ideas of a cultural continuity, and seeing history as a contextual frame of reference. We look at the notion of normality, as opposed to the extraordinary in an architectural sense. In many respects we resist current architectural tendencies towards the extraordinary, really looking at the existing territory of the city to validate the existing context. That is not to say we are not interested in the idea of newness, we very much operate in the contemporary realm, but we are seeking an architecture which almost seems like it has always been there.
Within the wider year theme of tectonics, the aim is to investigate and challenge the design development process, focusing on the relationship between form and material, with the purpose of developing a generative process, to allow the emergence of essential material and spatial principles in each project. We pursue a more substantial constructional language, where space and surface are intrinsically linked to the physical qualities of the structure and materials of the building. We seek to reinforce in the students the importance of looking at and observing architecture, thinking about texture and surface and engagement in the craftsmanship of design to learn how buildings are assembled.