Design Studio IKA Academy of fine Arts, Vienna
Vertical Studio Summer Semester 2020
Michelle Howard and Antje Lehn

(Part of the years undertaking at the IKA called HITZE Takes Command)
Antonia Autischer
Daniel Bracher
Alexander Czernin
Jakob Grabher
Shrey Gupta
Alice Hoffmann
Ferdinand Klopfer
Lisa Prossegger
Normunds Püne
Salome Schramm
Sebastian Seib
Johanna Syré
Matias Tapia Fröhlich
Johannes Wiener

Maria Auböck
Angelika Fitz
Thilo Folkerts
Karin Raith
Francesca Guarascio
Giulia Toscani
Johannes Tintner
Marie Louise Oschatz
Father Martin Rotheneder

Burning Down the House II[1] addresses the state of crisis that architects currently find themselves in: should we use our skills to seal the earth with an impenetrable crust of constructions, or could we punch through preconceived ideas and regenerate our profession and our Earth? Architecture is political and we ignore that at our peril.
We found an incredibly sad, desolate, loud remnant of unsealed soil in the 9th district of Vienna, arranged a rental contract with the owners, Austrian Railways (ÖBB), and prepared to transform it into a garden using the Terra Preta[2] we made in the previous semester. Then Europe went into COVID-19 lockdown and our dark, pungent, humid super soil languished in our deserted studio spaces.
Surreptitiously, the students visited the site that, until the lockdown, had been a busy parking lot. This unique opportunity prompted us to perform a permacultural form of site analysis, where our observations, analyses and interactions were recorded in hybrid drawings that incorporated soil layers, plant species, human activities, sounds, weather conditions, hidden and visible water resources, using collage, line drawings and perspectives. As the once inhospitable site blossomed without a gardener because it was freed from the burden of “use”, so too did the students’ projects which, though very different from what we had planned, gained in depth and appreciation of the complexity and importance of a small piece of unsealed soil.

[1] For Burning Down the House I see: IKA Review Winter 2019
[2] Terra Preta, a super soil made by construction and combustion: In a conscious effort of calibration between conjecture and activism, we embarked upon the step-by-step construction of soil using traceable and low-impact production processes. Together with a collier family, we selectively felled trees, cut, split and stacked wood, covered it with evergreen branches, charcoal dust and earth, carried flames up to activate the process of pyrolysis and transform wood into charcoal. We created a new home for worms and microorganisms in a composter, which we maintained and nurtured in the studio. Together, charcoal and compost made the enriched soil that is the primordial tool for this semester’s undertaking.

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