Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Year Brief

Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture
Master of Architecture
Modular Pathway
Year 2 (2012-13)
Course Code: ARJA11003 + ARCH11094/6
Credit Points: 40 + 40
Year 2, Semester 1+2
Course Organisers: Adrian Hawker + Victoria Clare Bernie

a City on a bend in a River


The Historic European City is drawn from the landscape in which it is founded. The city’s position, form, materiality, networks and systems respond to the rise and fall of the land and the materiality and
permeability of its crust. The city’s histories, narratives and mythologies are likewise tilled from the land, a land that has already been measured for its material, strategic and environmental wealth. A reading of the city in this way questions its separation from the land  – no matter how strong its boundary walls. Alternatively, the city and land could be seen as a continuum and the devices employed in the reading and working of the land – surveying, sampling, cutting, tilling and turning might be used as a way of engaging with its form.

Cordoba sits on a critical bend in the Guadalquivir River at the furthest navigable point inland from the Gulf of Cadiz. To the north lies the mineral wealth of Sierra Morena, to the south the fertile alluvial valley floor. Between the 10th and 11th centuries it was one of the most populated cities of Europe and, as the capital of the Islamic Caliphate of Cordoba that included most of the Iberian Peninsula, one of its intellectual and cultural centers. It was during this period that the key  treasure of the city, the Great Mosque was established. What is most extraordinary about this building complex is the fact that it has been enlarged through four clear but self-similar stages - a process that has increased its spatial field whilst retaining the relationship inherent between each of its key parts  – tower, wall, column, court, garden. It has spread across the land but its internal order has remained intact.

The Reconquista of 1236 lead to the redefinition of the Cordoba Mosque into the  Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. The renaissance structure of the Cathedral emerges directly from the grain of the mosque’s field of columns and seems to float. This doubling remains in the contemporary form and the consciousness of the City. It is the fulcrum from which the array of the city operates, held within traces of walls to the west, north and east – the southern edge being defined by the flow of the Guadalquivir.

This aqueous fourth boundary, that rises and falls with the melt waters from the Cazorla Mountains, will form the site and focus of this module. We will develop a series of rich individual architectural proposals grouped in an overall concept of a new porous southern edge to both the river and the city.
We will seek highly crafted and articulate architectures that draw from the reading of the city as a
continuum with its extended landscape. We will draw upon the language of the landscape and the manner in which it is surveyed to inform a series of structured moves that operate between the scales of
cartography and cabinetry.

Year Structure

a City on a Bend in a River operates through an unfolding series of moves that span across two semesters and are structured by two courses – Studio G in the first semester and Studio B in the second. The two courses have very different learning outcomes and particular responsibilities for meeting the professional accreditation criteria. We have reproduced the expectations and outcomes of these courses at the end of this document.

The work of this module will feed in to the documentation of your work that will be housed within the
archive of the Academic Portfolio 2, a separate course which is timetabled to run in parallel with a City on a Bend in a River during the second semester.

During the second semester you will also be expected to develop and publish a Design Report  - that
documents and reflects one of the two design courses that you have followed during the Modular MArch programme. The Design Report, like the Academic Portfolio2, is structured as a separate MArch course with its own set of learning outcomes, assessment criteria and tutorials.

We would encourage you to use the Design Report as a chance to document and comment on the work of a City on a bend in a River. We have structured the module such that there will be a gradual unfolding of an architectural and urban narrative and we have found that such work can develop a natural dialogue with the Design Report. The publication of the Design Report will therefore act as a catalogue to be read alongside the final exhibited work of a City on a bend in the River.

The Academic Portfolio2 and the Design Report will therefore require the continual documentation and
archiving of work undertaken in this module and so we recommend that you get into the weekly habit of scanning sketches and drawings, photographing models and constructs and cleaning up and backing up digital images.

During the first semester you will also be following a parallel course of Architectural Management Practice and Law. You will receive a separate introduction, timetable and set of briefing documents for this course. Just to note though, we are planning the field trip to Cordoba during Week 3 of Semester 1. This will mean that you will miss the AMPL lectures of this week. These lectures are, however, recorded and you should catch up with what you have missed on your return. AMPL also runs a three-day workshop during Week 7 of Semester 1. This will mean that there will be no formal design tutorials for a City on a Bend in a River during this week.

Module Structure

The work of a City on a bend in a River will develop through 9 interdependent moves. Each move will inform and be informed by another. The moves are framed to carefully pace the progression through the two semesters. They have been devised to help structure the narrative development of your architectural and urban propositions and each move will direct a particular set of architectural concerns towards the work.

Semester 1

Move 1 : Watercourse : Weeks 1 + 2

We anticipate that this two-week project will open out a set of themes, concerns and obsessions that will help guide you and structure your analysis when moving to and through Córdoba.

This first move will focus on a river, stream or watercourse with which you are familiar - a watercourse from your home, your childhood and/or memory. This move is concerned with engaging with the geographical, geological, historical, economical, cultural and political phenomena that are associated with waterways. It is equally concerned with developing tools of representation that will allow us to move beyond the merely analytical and pictorial and into a process of articulation and codification that have the potential to suggest and inform new and unexpected spatial strategies for engaging with and exploring the relationship between a city and a waterway. In the course of move1 we envisage that you will develop a vocabularly particular to your chosen watercourse. A glossary of terms relating to the nature of water and the landscape that holds it. A series of words and phrases that describe the movement of water as it travels from its source  – oftimes a moment of pooling – along a gradient, through matted grass, over water-worn stones to define itself in a tight rill, burn or stream. In indentifying and articualting this language of movement and containment we would argue that an architectural language of considerable potential will come into being. A way of thinking at the macro and micro scale that privileges the remarkable behavioural traits of a medium that takes its form from the vessel – city - that contains it.3

Move 2 : Córdoba : week 3

The work developed through move1 will be used to inform our navigation and reading of the city of
Córdoba and the Guadalquivir. We will look at the role the river played in the development of the form,
culture and ecology of the city. We will seek out clues to the hydrologic history of Cordova, to the presence of water as a cultural, economic and religious artefact. We will be particularly interested in how the contemporary city does, or doesn’t engage with the river and how we might develop strategic conceptual and narrative frameworks that might begin to test and open out a relationship between the two.

The extraordinary and architecturally unique Mezquita-Catedral (Mosque-Cathedral), the former Great
Mosque of Cordoba now the Catedral de Nuestra Señorade la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of the
Assumption) will act as a key point of reference here  – a fulcrum, a filter, a baleen, a  scaling tool, a
taxonomical device, a clasp, a labyrinthine gate …

Move 3 : Tracing Floor and the Jig: week 4, 5 +6

On returning from Córdoba, you will be asked to develop a series of crafted representational tools as built questions, observations and speculations with regard to the city and the river. These readings of the city allow us to think about and act upon another Córdoba, the Córdoba of the Studio and the project. They will foreground your concerns and in doing so, the imperatives of your design practice. They will, of necessity, edit the city to the essentials of your understanding and will form the point of departure for the investigations of the year in Edinburgh.

In asking for crafted representational tools we are drawing from two methods of built enquiry from within the conventions of Medieval construction: The Tracing Floor and the Jig.

The Tracing Floor a method of drawing out the key geometries and construction lines for the complex
carving of Cathedral arches, columns, doorways by inscribing their lines into a thin layer of plaster cast out across the floor of the Mason’s workshop. Each line for each individual carving is inscribed over the surface of the last until a complex interplay of elements evolves into a sort of ghosted map of  the Cathedral complex.

The Jig was a mechanical and temporary device that held the elements of construction in a meaningful
relationship with one another prior to being bonded or interlocked. Again, once removed from the site of construction, the Jig, through the length and proportion of its armatures and points of connection, holds a memory of the thing that it had been constructed to create.

It is anticipated that these two pieces, developed by group work, will be highly crafted and that their
material  choice and method of construction will be meaningful. The selection of wood, the direction of
grain, the deployment of the dovetail joint, the inlay of steel or brass all indicative of a thoughtful
engagement with the architecture of the tool, its function and associations. It is envisaged that this nascent architectural language will begin an investigation that will lead toward an appropriate architectonic that will inform your subsequent architectural projects.

Move 4 : Waterhouse : week 8, 9, 10 + 11

The traces of the mills of Albolafia, Alegría, Carbonell, Casillas, Enmedio, Lope García, Martos, Pápalo, San Antonio, San Lorenzo and San Rafael can still be seen in and around the Guadalquivir. These were the static mills and may have been accompanied by boat mills and certainly bridge mills. The first description of a bridge mill is traced back to 12thCentury Cordoba and describes a practice whereby the milling machines were placed on top of the bridge itself with the power harnessing equipment able to rise and fall with the water levels of the river.

These flourmills, or Molino, are part of a series of Islamic interventions that engage the city and river as a series of aquatic engineering works. Others include works to irrigate the fields of the Guadalquivir valley, channels to water the numerous patios of the city, the 300 bath-houses that were once the center of community life, workshops for the tanning of leather and the production of paper. Even the hydro works beneath the city were noteworthy enough to be included in the fictitious book, mentioned in Don Quixote, entitled 'Metamorphoses, or the Spanish Ovid,' in which he lists great wonders and inventions including the sewer of Vecinguerra at Cordova.

The most prominent mill, with its reconstructed wheel, is known as Molino de la Albolafia. This construction was adapted by the 10thcentury ruler of Cordoba to operate an ambitious chain pump to feed water up to 4the Alcazar Palace gardens. This was apparently dismantled on the order of the Catholic Queen Isabella due to extreme noise it made.

Molino de la Albolafia is sited on the northern most point of a series of islands in the Guadalquivir known as Los Sotos de la Albolafia which are now a protected wetlands site – unusually close to the center of the city. These small islands are home, particularly during the winter months to around 40 species of birds. Their unique and fragile status led them to be declared a protected Natural Monument in 2001.

Waterhouse, will focus on the development of a series of individually designed pieces of architecture and urban infrastructure that draw from the great moorish traditions of building with water and engage with the phenomena of the islands within the Guadalquivir. These proposals will attempt to weave new connections between the city and the river whilst acting as outliers and guardians to, and possibly extensions of, the ecology of the Los Sotos de la Albolafia site.

These architectural proposals will house programmes that specifically engage with the water of the river, adapting to its seasonal fluctuations. They will also contain a particular architectural moment that utilizes the potential offered by the presence of the passing water of the Guadalquivir to alter the internal environmental conditions of the proposals. This moment will form the focus for Move 7.

While this work will be undertaken individually, students will work in clusters of three to develop a larger infrastructural proposition and in turn these five groups will consider the potential coexistence of each urban proposition.

Move 5 : a City on a Bend in a River (i) : week 12

This final week of Semester 1 is set aside for drawing together the entire work of the semester to form an exhibition. This exhibition, complete with a series of associated pamphlets and catalogues, will form the basis from which the assessment and examination process will take place. These examinations will take place without interviews with the students.

Semester 2

Move 6 : a City on a Bend in a River (ii) : week 1

The first week of Semester 2 will involve the reworking of the exhibition for public reviews. Over the vacation period students will be expected to consider which aspects of their proposals they will wish to focus on for the detailed elaboration period of Move 7. Students will present these considerations at the reviews.

Move 7 : Tracing the Course of a Detail : week 2, 3, 4 +5

Working with specialist consultants from the fields of structural and environmental engineers we will, during this period, develop a study of the material, structural, constructional and environmental aspects of the developing Waterhouse. We will consider how appropriate material choices, construction techniques, and specifically crafted details can articulate the poetic and narrative concerns of the proposal.

We will place particular emphasis on how the architectural proposal comes into contact with the water of the Guadalquivir – how it resists or weathers in response to these waters. We will be looking at ways in which the projects can respond to the seasonal fluctuations of the waters and how the presence of water can be harnessed to affect and influence the environmental experience of the architectures interior.

As we scrutinize the micro-ecology of the Waterhouse proposals we will continue to speculate upon the
significance of move7 for a further macro-ecology of the Cordoba – Guadalquivir edge.

Move 8 : Tracinghouse : week 6, 7, 8 + 9

Operating as a partner to the Waterhouse proposals, the Tracinghouse returns to the readings of the city
developed in the first semester of the course.

It will draw from the interior of the city. In doing so, it will remember the events, rituals and routines that have orchestrated the spatial forms, organisation and experiences of Cordoba’s internal grain. It will not be seen as a separate project to the Waterhouse. Instead, the two projects will form a counterpoint, a
simultaneous sounding of voices that operate over the texture of the city. This process will, once again,
present a narrative reading of the historic form of the city. In doing so, we will begin to respond to a wider field of urban concerns.

Drawing from the investigations of the previous  move we will be looking at how the development of a
detailed architectonic strategies and ecologies might inform a wider attitude to the city and its environment.

Move 9 : a City on a Bend in a River (iii) : week 10 + 11 + rev week 1

This period is once again set aside for the preparation of an exhibition installation. This exhibition will form the focus of the examination process for the end of semester 2, this studio and this module.

We will, through the development of this exhibition, aim to reveal how the projects developed throughout the two semesters of this module, engage with the historic fabric of the city in a bold, yet sensitive way –how the rigor of the narrative threads of our architectural proposals, a rigor that operates across the full spectrum of scales, intertwine with histories and cultures of the city.

The work presented here will be read alongside the Design Report that will act as a catalogue to the

On Drawing

When we use the word drawing we are thinking of it more as a verb than a noun. Although we expect high levels of craft, precision and detail within your drawings, we do not see them as purely for presentational purposes – as a means of convincing others of an already worked through idea. Instead we should think of drawing as a performative act – as the process of investigation itself. A good drawing is one where it is constantly ‘drawing out’ unexpected themes, ideas and directions or testing them through a process of drawing. In the Beaux Arts tradition there was a kind of drawing that was referred to as a devis, a sort of ‘device’ or tool that one would use as part of an investigation rather than as a means of purely communicating the results of an inquiry.

On Studio

The Studio is a remarkable resource. For a venture based in a distant city, it operates as a double. You are in Cordova for a week. You are in Studio for a year. This is the place where you will make, draw, build, unbuild, think, critique, invent and imagine all the other cities of your imagination. To engage with the programme of study set out in this document you must work in the studio. Our conversations with you are 6focused and planned. The conversations that you have with each other are not, they are peripheral, anecdotal, lateral and as such vital to evolution of the culture, the world, of your work.


The nine moves will not be assessed independently. Rather, the assessment will take place in two
moments - at the end of each semester and in relation to the learning outcomes of Studio G then Studio B

Learning Outcomes

Studio G

On completion of this studio, the student is expected to demonstrate:

LO1 – The ability to develop and act on a productive conceptual framework both individually and in
teams for an architectural project or proposition, based on a critical analysis of relevant issues.
LO2 – The ability to develop an architectural, spatial and material language that is carefully
considered at an experiential level and that is in clear dialogue with conceptual and contextual
LO3 – A critical understanding of, and the development of skills in using, differing forms of
representation (eg. verbal, drawing, modelling, photography, film, computer and workshop
techniques), to explain a design project.

Studio B

On completion of this studio, the student is expected to demonstrate:

LO1 – A sophisticated approach to the programmatic organization, arrangement and structuring of
a complex architectural assemblage in a loaded contextual situation (eg. the built, social,
historical, technological, urban and environmental contexts).
LO2 – A knowledge of how to develop the structural, constructional, material, environmental and
legislative aspects of a complex building to a high degree of resolution, with reference to
discussions with a team of specialised consultants.
LO3 – An understanding of issues relating to the questions of sustainability, and its concomitant
architectural, technological, environmental and urban strategies.
LO4 – A critical understanding of, and ability to present complex design proposals through
appropriate forms of representation (eg. verbal, drawing, modelling, photography, film, computer,
installation, performance and workshop techniques).

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