Visiting School

Designed Geographies
School of Design, Singapore Polytechnic

21–30 July 2010

For the fifth year running the Architectural Association migrated to southeast Asia to offer an intensive introduction to the school’s approach to architectural education and design. The workshop investigated instrumental forms of urban density – ‘Designed Geographies’ – and developed alternative ways of observing and reading the city to generate strategic frameworks for its evolution. Building on research initiated in last year’s workshop, participants took the
contrived geographical setting of Singapore as the starting point for a broader reflection on prospective tools for dense urban fields.

This year’s focus was on artificial expansions of specific urban conditions and their new geographies. The design potential of
operational growth was investigated through new strategies that were able to adapt to multiple, fast-changing urban inputs. By relating the preset topographical limitations and geopolitical conditions of Singapore to an exploration of territorial discontinuity at various scales, we begin to develop scenarios that – paradoxically – allowed for an extension of both uniqueness and diversity.

Traditional mapping techniques were tweaked by appropriating strategies from the field of geography, yielding new readings of the coastal thresholds from which design proposals emerged. In parallel with an introduction to modelling and digital fabrication
techniques, participants developed an analytic approach to various representational tools. This studiobased design workshop was divided into small groups, each of which were directed by AA teaching staff. Each unit approached the shared agenda of Designed Geographies in a distinctive way, offering a broad introduction to creative design processes, critical
forms of thinking and urban research. Common discussions and presentations provided platforms for sharing questions and knowledge.

Nathalie Rozencwajg has been teaching at the AA since 2004. She is cofounder of rare architects, based in Paris and London.

Michel da Costa Gonçalves is cofounder of rare architects and former project architect for Shigeru Ban and AS in Paris. He is director and author of the ‘City’ series for Autrement publishers.