DIPLOMA 9 - WORLD WAR

ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE

Teaching & academic research, 2017 to present.

Diploma 9, is a critical design studio at the Architectural Association in London led by Stefan Laxness and Antoine Vaxelaire (co-founder of TOI T).

In 2008, while the world was reeling from the financial crisis, Michel Serres published a short essay, World War, warning us of a more pressing and irreversible crisis: climate change. Serres argued that the climate crisis forces our generation to go back to the etymological meaning of crisis, from the Greek word Krisis – to decide, to make a choice. The climate crisis relentlessly asks us to make that choice: rely on antiquated strategies and die, or design alternative environments and heal. The inability to do so reveals a systemic and global crisis across all our institutions. Today, we must make an important choice; to decide and design our crisis, or wait and suffer the consequences.

Crises are always latent until officially declared and crisis response already shapes the world around us. It ushers in far-reaching legislation (the war on terror), it creates intergovernmental bodies (the United Nations) and it alters our beliefs (the role of governments). Therefore, crisis response reflects the anxieties, urgencies and the cultural project of those with the power to act.

Crisis inevitably affects the way we live, move, build and occupy spaces. Crisis response amounts to a declaration of war on a condition. Often such wars have territorial organisation at their core and architecture as their ultimate product. As spatial practitioners, we therefore have a role to play: first in the spatial acknowledgment of crisis, and secondly in the design of theatres of war.

DIP9 will fully indulge in a state of crisis. We will start by acknowledging a current condition as a crisis, dissecting and revealing its full extent. Using existing tools, data sets and key theoretical texts, we will survey and measure the spatial and anthropological dimensions of a crisis. By highlighting key moments in time when we as a collective must make clear and irreversible decisions, we will set precise time-frames in which to respond to a crisis. 

The design responses to such decisions will be theatres of war; highly frictional territories that mediate between architectures, citizens, institutions and technologies, grounded in real-world conditions and supported by trans- disciplinary expertise. Ultimately, the projects will deploy architecture as a tool to produce collateral benefits from a state of crisis. Throughout the year, the unit will challenge how we present objects and documents of architectural production to transform them into weapons of mobilisation.

Extended Brief

Student work - 2018

Student work - 2019

Image: Ryan Cook, WORLD WAR E, Diploma 9, 2018–19.