by thierry berlemont
In a previous life I used to be an architect and partner in a Brussels based architectural firm named RAUW. We started in 1998 as a collaborative practice. The name ‘RAUW is both a word and an acronym. RAUW is the Dutch word for ‘raw’, while RAUW also stands for ‘Realisatie van Al Uw Wensen’ (Realisation of All Your Wishes). The name was chosen to be a constant reminder of the task that lay ahead of us when we started. To respond to a duality, a short-term and a long-term view, a problem solving and an explorative approach, a smooth, rational, politically correct side and a rough, ‘uncooked’ spontaneous side…’. Besides our architectural activities we also focused on architectural graphics and drawing. This was an activity that we developed with a certain degree of autonomy from our architectural practice. Some digital traces remain and can be found on the outdated websites rauw.org and amplify.be
In 2008 I took a break from architectural practice to be able to focus my attention on aspects of architecture that I could not develop in the context of the office. As a consequence my activities shifted towards architectural education and research. In 2011 I started a PhD at Chalmers. The project I am working on bears the (provisional) title ‘Invisible Things, a journey through organizations of matter in architecture’.
The project focuses on architecture’s built and tangible reality and how to bring that about, i.e. the construction subjects of architecture. It is concerned with the processes and acts of fabricating, assembling and shaping architecture, with understanding matter and the inexhaustible possibilities to transform it into architecture, as well as with getting your hands dirty and going into the action of making architectural things.
In order to be able to construct architecture we need to understand the theories of making as well as the practices of it. Unfortunately, when it comes to learning about making and constructing architecture, we almost automatically and exclusively end up in the realm of technology (and science). However, both fields of knowledge are not well equipped to deal with all facets of making, since they are primarily oriented towards producing certainty, control and prediction and acutely lack sensibility for aspects that are not quantifiable, calculable and certain. Aspects of making that are characterized by doubt, mess, imprecision and ambiguity are absent, avoided or solved.
It is necessary to complement the traditional instrumental and quantitative approaches of architecture’s physical making with qualitative and interpretative one’s. The existing paradigms must be put under critical scrutiny and questioned with regard to their explicit and underlying thoughts, methods, systems, organizations and theories.
An attempt to do this is what the Invisible Thing’s journey is about, at least for an important part. Valuing and dealing with apparently simple though often neglected underlying questions – how to make/construct/materialize architecture? How to understand the richness, complexity and organization of making? How to learn about it and how to teach it? – is another part of the challenge. I will try to create keys to interpret and understand ‘making’ architecture in a more comprehensive and exhaustive manner – one that is complex, interpretative, approximate, sensitive, particular and ambiguous besides being exact and abstract. Hopefully this can lead to a certain degree of (re)-identification, (re)-framing and (re)-formulation of principles, (re)-consideration of theories, (re)-telling of stories, (re)-construction of pedagogy, de-familiarization of familiar approaches and consequently their (re)-discovery.