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Summer School Unit 2: London's Ark-itecture




Architectural Association

Together with Elena Palacios Carral, Unscene Architecture co-founders Madeleine Kessler and Manijeh Verghese taught a summer school unit in 2013 at the Architectural Association. The tale of Noah’s ark is a cycle of creation, un-creation and re-creation. The Ark was a boat built for the salvation of the prophet Noah, his family and pairs of every type of animal, to shelter them from the biblical flood and later re-populate the earth with their offspring. This summer we will build London’s Ark to collect and import cultural ways of dealing with water. Rather than paired animals we will pair London with various other cultures in order to learn from, and transform the way the city engages with water. This will be London’s Ark-itecture.

The ark is a collector. It travels from place to place, observing, archiving and appropriating. It is a vessel that navigates between cultures, resulting in surprising adjacencies: Koolhaas’ fictional floating pool of swimmers that travelled from Moscow to New York now plays host to the mass-bathing rituals of the Kumbh Mela on the Ganges River in India whose ephemeral mega-city is bridged by scaled up versions of the acqua alta platforms of Venice, the sinking city: cleaved by canals and prone to flooding. The ark merges these contexts and cultures together as it charters through the turbulence of the choppy sea. The ark allows for the different
spaces intrinsic to water to be transported, transferred and translated to the deserted shores of London.

The three-week summerschool followed the journey of the ark. Pairs of students came together to build its outer structure; travelled to other cultures in order to research spaces created by water and through rooms within the ark, collected these ideas and translated them into mini-universes capable of being imported into London. We did not alter the watery terrain of London but rather the methods by which we utilise it.

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