Design Studio IKA Academy of fine Arts, Vienna
Bachelors Winter Semester 2017/18
Michelle Howard and Luciano Parodi


Uselessness rarely matches our expectations and disappoints a priori but it can also fascinate and liberate because it contradicts the logic of use equals value. Yuval Noah Harari, the author of “Homo Deus” predicts that we are moving towards a world divided into two groups, the useful and the useless. But could uselessness be contemporary humankinds most valuable tool?

The Wall-Fitter: This part of an ongoing investigation into a proposal by Gottfried Semper, who argued that the wallfitter has a most important role to play in the history of Art. The current fear of and antipathy to migrating peoples is not new, they were often prevented from practising the skills of settled folk. One exception was the weaving of baskets which fit their lifestyle in that the raw material was free and they could be transported easily.

The Wooden Gridshell: The Mannheim Mulithalle (Frei Otto and Carl Mutschler 1975) is the inspiration for our research, an ultra-thin and lightweight structure. Having withstood over 40 years of neglect it is at risk of being demolished by a body politic who maintain it is useless. The high point of our excursion on wood and Gridshells.

The Vessel & the Body: This stage culminates in the construction of a woven vessel whose dimensions should relate to the body. In preparation each Student was asked to choose a weaving method to investigate thoroughly weaving three panels 1m in diameter in different scales and then constructing three small inter-related vessels, whereby the definition of the word vessel was left to them. This work was observed using video, photography and collage to create a document containing sixteen useless ideas. They used newsprint because it is strong, flexible, recycled and having served as a vital carrier of news, it is discarded as useless.

Weaving Wood and Competition: 6 teams of 3 students worked together to develop the final projects which provide the basis for a competition to design wooden structures for two 1000m2 exhibition halls in Lower Austria. They built 1/5 scale models using an innovative engineered plywood, only 1mm thick with a bending radius of 7cm. Rather than erring on the side of fatness we tried to USE LESS materials thus proposing an alternative approach to sustainable constructions.

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