Unit Report Unit 1+2 July 2020
The Corpo-real master programme provides a lab-based community, located in Zwolle, where we investigate the implications of the idea of corpo-real. Here, ‘corpo’ stands for bodies in a general sense; not just the physical, but also the psychological, digital, spiritual or virtual. We investigate their relation to the ‘real’, meaning the reality of the here and nowand beyond. The French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty argued that the body-subject (‘le corps propre’) is more than merely an object; it is in fact an ongoing necessity for experiencing and understanding the world in which we live. We thus focus on researching this endless changing relationship between people and space. This is the foundation of our work with our students: the body as a repository of social reality and spatial truth.
We challenge our students to address recent and future societal changes, based on an understanding that whatever has worked well in the past may not suffice in the future, and that many of these changes are too broad and complex to address using existing methods. We therefore encourage our students to make good use of knowledge from other disciplines, through collaborations within and outside ArtEZ. Throughout the programme, students are introduced to, and learn to work with research methods from various disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, theatre, curating, or music.
We live in a time of large-scale, fast and urgent transitions, perhaps even a world in crises. We believe that future generations of spatial designers and interior architects can re-think, re-invent and re-search new forms of co-existing in our societies. They are able to engage with vulnerable groups, develop new strategies for participation of these groups and create inclusive design strategies.
Humanity has never changed as much as it has in the last 20 years, or even since the start of 2020. We are in the middle of a transition of the way that we live together. Globalisation is more than ever relevant in the recent developments that struck all continents. Critical thinking is an urgent aspect in our talks with students.
The Covid-19 pandemic has an immense impact on our societies. It increases social inequality and changes our perspective on health care and the way we live together or travel. The current events within the Black Lives Movement stress the importance of social inclusion and economic equality.
Personal and social [SPACE]
The subject of personal and social [SPACE] has taken a very special turn this year, especially in the last semester, due to the Covid-9 virus. A search that started with investing in thinking together about the topic of personal [SPACE] in Unit I. Thinking with each other as an umbrella method that takes you further together, gives you more depth and ultimately sharpens you in your own position as a designer, and in relation to the discipline and society, in unit II on the topic of social [SPACE].
Subjects that received specific attention were the phenomenology of space and the objectification of intimate distance, personal distance, social distance and public distance in relation to perception of space. These are topics that are currently very relevant and extremely precarious again. In doing so, we focused in particular on studies by Merleau Ponty, Edward T. Hall and Dinesh Nagar, among others, and we were fueled by cultural similarities and the student’s own fascination.
Other research methods that were discussed during the different units in relation to thinking and making were: theoretical research, survey research, empirical research, participatory observations and design thinking strategies. In order to anchor the method of joint thinking in the two units, we also started to read specific books that examine a direct relationship with the subject and the phase of studying within the units and discussed the ongoing desk research progress.
In unit I, the focus was specifically on broadening (making) research while unit II focused more on in-depth (making) research. Students were expected to read the shared articles frequently and (critically) relate to that text and reflect on it from their own personal experiences. This resulted in wonderful conversations that were rich in anecdotes.
In unit I, personal [SPACE], the broadening unit, we started out with the book Species of Spaces and other Pieces, by George Perec. In his book, he examines the question ‘what is space?’ I chose this book in particular because I think that George Perec has a unique view of space and that his observations could inspire the students to look- and think differently about space. But also, to become aware of their own capacity in creative thinking and making and to be released from presuppositions and to continue to cherish one’s own fascination.
Thinking through ‘making’
Unit II, social [SPACE], the in-depth unit, is much more about precision and ownership. Experiencing what it is to be precise, to formulate precisely, to make precisely. The making part, making physical models as part of the program came under pressure from the Covid-19 virus, as the students had to work from home. Each student developed their own new working method. It was very special to see that after a while a new rhythm was developed and that they could achieve the same kind of depth under these circumstances.
Both the personal development of the students as a spatial designer and also the relationship with the world were central in units I and II. Students were encouraged to reflect constantly on their own developments and on that of their fellow students, from different treated methods, including the many video call meetings we have had. Equipped with this intrinsic knowledge, they are asked to perform interventions, interceptions and changes. It is a continuous search for the questioning of space, in which all kinds of (making) disciplines are used to find future answers to various (social) topics.
Issuu link: personal and social [SPACE]
Henri Snel supervisor tutor Unit 1 + 2, master program interior architecture at ArtEZ