The best artists are inherently resilient. Nothing but adaptable, everything but easily crushed. No year proved this adage truer than 2020.
When the lectures, exhibitions, and openings largely stopped, they found alternatives. With context, place, people—the usual elements that guide designers, architects, painters, performers, and more—limited, they reassessed. In the end, they returned to the basics. All they needed: imagination and Wifi.
At SCI-Arc, great architecture emerged. The 2021 Undergraduate Thesis Weekend that took place in April showed the renaissance of a zeal—a distinctive kind of vivacity that can only be borne out of extraordinary times—to shape a better future.
“In times of crisis, we demand and hope that architecture helps us cling to the possibility of a better future,” comments SCI-Arc Director Hernán Díaz Alonso. “Our 2021 Undergraduate Thesis students, with the support of our incredible faculty, have renewed this energy for us over the past year. The work they’ve produced in the face of uncommon challenges continues the imagination, obligation, and commitment of architecture as a cultural production to improve us as a species. These are times of transformation and renewal for our society, facilitated forward by the creativity of our students. They are a vehicle for the changes we want and need.”
Since its founding in 1972, it has been in SCI-Arc’s DNA to educate architects who will imagine and shape the future. Located in downtown Los Angeles, in a quarter-mile-long former freight depot in the Arts District of Los Angeles, it is one of the nation’s few independent architecture schools, offering undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programmes.
Each year, Undergraduate Thesis at SCI-Arc prepares fifth-year B.Arch students to articulate, propose, and defend their ideas and positions on architecture as well as engage with professionals as peers and colleagues. In their final semester of design studio, students in SCI-Arc’s Undergraduate Thesis class complete the production of a year-long thesis project, which addresses a position in relation to contemporary architectural discourse and presents a highly developed building design project.
Aditya Jagdale, inspired by the Medusa heads in the Basilica Cisterns underneath Hagia Sophia, took on the rising political discomfort at the European Parliament. He envisioned its plenary hall as an ornamental canopy at the entrance of the new building. By deliberately misusing the existing parliament building, the project calls for and expresses the exigency for a different and more equitable future.
Santiago Alvarez and Malvin Bunata Wibowo used a queer tactic to distort and reinterpret concepts relating to care in architecture. They transformed elements that typically provide comfort—such as plushies, stitches, and blankets—in unfamiliar ways, resulting in different approaches to question conventional notions of caretaking. The goal was to address some of the infrastructure challenges relating to queer care in the region.
Victoria Carvajal and Corina Dow focused on the representation of conservation in architecture. “Our thesis proposes a new architectural approach to the conservation of (in this specific case) the American Landscape,” they share. Through chthonic—what is in or under the ground—means, they are able to repurpose whatever is extracted from the ground into the design of their project.
Their work is a reflection of SCI-Arc student resilience in the face of one of the most virulent threats to humanity in recent decades. The above represent a sampling of the boundary-pushing work presented at this year’s Undergraduate Thesis Weekend, which was held remotely and in real-time, so friends and family from all over the world could tune in. Over 70 jurors, critics, and architecture professionals from around the globe converge to discuss, debate, and dispute emerging questions in architecture.
“Since our move to remote teaching a year ago,” shares Undergraduate Thesis Coordinator Jenny Wu, “our students have used this opportunity to be inventive about how they work on their thesis, by transforming their digital work into compelling narratives and turning their own living spaces into creative laboratories for unconventional model building.”
Campus may be closed, but the distinctive SCI-Arc spirit of collaboration remained. Students and faculty members continued to work together in a fluid, nonhierarchical manner to rethink assumptions, create, explore, and test the limits of architecture.
“I’m super impressed that our undergraduates have been able to create high-level discourse about the architectural issues of today, all while being physically separated from one another,” relates Tom Wiscombe, SCI-Arc Undergraduate Programme Chair. “It sounds impossible, but they and their faculty have been crafty, relentless, and focused on establishing and maintaining a strong community throughout.”
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SCI-Arc主任埃尔南·迪亚斯·阿隆索（Hernán Díaz Alonso）说：“在危机时刻，我们要求并希望建筑能帮助我们抓住更美好未来的可能性。”“我们的2021名本科毕业论文学生，在我们令人难以置信的教员的支持下，在过去的一年里为我们重新注入了这种能量。他们在面临不寻常的挑战时所做的工作延续了建筑作为一种文化产品的想象力，义务和承诺，以改善我们作为一个物种。这是我们社会转型和更新的时代，我们的学生的创造力推动了我们的社会向前发展。他们是实现我们想要和需要的变革的工具。“
Santiago Alvarez和Malvin Bunata Wibowo使用了一种奇怪的策略来扭曲和重新解释与建筑中的关怀有关的概念。他们以不熟悉的方式改变了通常提供舒适感的元素–比如毛绒，缝线和毯子–从而产生了对传统护理观念提出质疑的不同方法。其目标是解决该区域与同性恋护理有关的一些基础设施挑战。