Exploration MSS3 Fall 2021

Disappearing Site


The following questions have guided the iterative research process in this project:

How can narratives in architecture be used as a tool to critically engage with the conditions of present day society?

How can a written story or fairy tale be conveyed in a series of architectural images?

Through its explorations the project taps into three main theoretical discourses 1)“Architecture and the image”, 2) “Architecture and fairy tales” as well as 3) “Architecture and preservation”. 

Architecture and the image

The discipline of architecture relies heavily on drawings as tools for communication and drawings are often thought of as more or less objective representations providing information on the buildings aesthetics, function and construction (Bernheimer & Bernheimer 2020). However: “Despite their seemingly sterility they [drawings] are intensely – though perhaps latently – personal. Architects’ drawings are products of a psychic space, a projection of how we see (or want to see) the world around us.” (Bernheimer & Bernheimer, 2020, p. 8)

Usually, architectural drawings are not thought of as being political, however as since the drawings and images produced contribute to much of the architectural discourse it is important to reflect on the impact these visual representations can have. One way to critically engage with the discourse on architectural imagery is through working with the concept of anti-reality. “Anti-reality is a concept based on abstract objects. It is a world without realism and pragmatism, where architects concentrate on exploring some ideas that can’t come true yet. It inspires not only the exploration of nonstandard ideas but also visual expression. Without limitations and standards, it is an experimental space between the dream and reality.” (AIMIR CG, 2020)

Architecture and fairy tales

As Bernheimer & Bernheimer (2020) state, using and translating fairy tales into architecture and architectural representations could help to develop the architectural discipline, daring it to critically engage with our current society and dare to make design proposals that speculate on bold and alternate solutions instead of following the status quo. 

“We do not imagine disaster, or emergency, or defect, which fairy tales are filled with. We avoid the unimaginable. The idealized architectural drawing is, itself, an unreality. This lends itself well to the exploration of the psychic and figurative spaces of the genre of fairy tales: stories that traffic in magic, require a suspension of disbelief, and transfigure the prosaic into the grotesque.”

(Bernheimer & Bernheimer, 2020, p. 8-9)

Architecture and preservation

Alonso (2021) states that a shift in perception is necessary in order for architects to realize that a building is just an assembly of materials during a short period of time compared to the deep time scale of geological events, thus, “[…] in deep-time architecture, a building in the present contains all its past within, carrying it as it continuously transforms itself into the future.” (Alonso, 2021, p. 142-144) 

Against this background it can be said that a building as we see it today contains all material transformations of the past, but also that the building will inevitably change in the future, and all it is, is just a redistribution of matter over time. In contrast, looking at time relating to a human lifespan, the coming and going of a particular building can have quite a large impact on both society and the individual. 

If we look at Gothenburg today − we might not see urban renewal on quite the same scale affecting such large parts of the city as in the 1960’s and 70’s, however there are several demolitions that have happened, and are happening around the city and just as in the 1960’s they spark a lot of emotions with various groups such as Byggnadsvårdsföreningen advocating for older buildings being preserved rather than demolished. The biggest argument for demolishing a building instead of preserving and restoring it is usually the high economic cost, where developers have to finance the restorations while still being able to make a reasonable profit. 

Of course one could also argue that nothing is for eternity and that the decay and eventual demolition is part of a building’s life-cycle. However, by constructing a new building in the same spot as the old, one enters into an endless cycle of repetition of destruction and rebuilding. What if we instead were to accept the “death” of a building?

This project uses visual representation as a tool to project a speculative design vision, which rather than providing solutions, sheds light on the tension between demolition and preservation and acts as an experimental way to deal with a building “that once was” by pointing towards a more symbiotic and nature driven future.

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