University of Bath

Design Studio 3.2

Conflict, Identity and Resolution

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All life is conflict, both in art and life, this conflict remains unsolved – it is not perfect Henry Moore

Architects are often asked to undertake buildings for uses which are unfamiliar and often given projects of which they know very little at inception. This is likely to be as true in future as it is today with old world certainties replaced by future ambiguities. The task then is to establish, understand and interrogate the requirements of the ‘brief’ as given and develop the architectural possibilities deriving from it.

Creativity is the act of recognising conflict, intensifying that conflict and resolving it efficiently. Implicit in the resolution of a problem is a sense of the solution. The etymology of the word conflict derives from to strike together; implicit then is the idea of a relationship between two entities (con- together). Working with a series of sites across the city of Barcelona, Bath sought to propose and speculate how an architectural language could promote resolution.

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All this I give you Catalan expression (of biblical origin)

The approach from Bath is two fold; bringing together social objectivity with urban typologies.

The first: design an assembly chamber, a place complementary to the established parliament of the Catalan people that could tease out the complex stories of the future city.

What will be the future narratives of this international, but proudly regional city? In what setting would people come together? Who will yield control? How would confrontation politics be mediated? How would inclusivity be encouraged, while supporting identity? Would it be focussed on cultural politics or that of the everyday? Would it be a formal building or a flexible- even notional- space, open to interpretation?

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The second: to use the intervention of the assembly to address stresses in the urban fabric. Barcelona is a city of distinct concentrations of activity and architectural types. Between these, there are a series of liminal spaces that have to handle physical and social transitions. There is the gothic of the medieval city and the 19th century modernity of the city of the grid, the industrial port and the cultural capital, the boulevards and the side streets, the vernacular and the international. With spatial and aesthetic changes come subtle, but no less significant shifts in user groups and social characteristics.

Does the architectural language of the city demonstrate the characteristics of tension? Is it already in a state of conflict? How might edge spaces be vulnerable to dispute in future? Could a strategic intervention reveal and exploit the complex relationships between people, territories and neighbourhoods?

The responses form Bath tackle a range of scales and experiences. Students were charged to use their investigative skills to visualise and make real their understanding of the political, social and cultural condition of the city. Barcelona has its distinct curiosities particular to its own history, but there is a commonality in its make-up that can be applied to many international facing cities. The propositions express the theme of conflict, identity and resolution on the micro scale of an individual building or space with the macro scale of historical and future narratives.

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