96 Hands

96 Hands, 21.09–05.10.2010

Welcome to the studio. To open our first semester at the ETH, we will ask you to design and build a structure from discarded materials, reclaimed and re-used to provide shelter and a place to meet - the primary purpose of architecture. Wooden palettes with nothing more to carry, hoarding with no construction work to enclose and old timber beams cut too short to span may appear today as rubbish, valueless and passed utility and even passed beauty. We will seek to find new ways to assemble them into a public space that transcends their origin. Using simple hand made assemblies, the modest cast offs will be mined for new constructional and structural potential. Gravity, hammer and nails and handsaws will form the grammar of the new structure.

But remember Vitruvius; alongside firmness and commodity there should also be delight. This not about junkyard chic; our entry in to the world of bricolage is about making beautiful things from the world that surrounds us, embracing scarcity as the font of invention.

The project will be in three parts, the first 24 hours will be an intense design laboratory to survey the assembled material and propose a structure that will transform and transcend the original materials into a new place.

This is not a competition but we will, collectively, select a proposal to build or combine several ideas into a kind of architectural skvader or even select only a fragment to develop into the complete structure – opportunism and flexibility are central to the creative bricoleur.

The second part and the most demanding will be the building. You will have just under two weeks to complete the task. Your ninety-six hands are the greatest asset but to organise forty-eight people to work effectively is also the greatest challenge. Anticipating the sequence and physicality of work will be as important as the aesthetics of your design.

The third part will be the celebration: to host events and talks and any other architectural experience you can conceive for the neglected but peaceful corner of ETH that the structure will inhabit.

Finally, it is our intention to repeat this project at the start of every semester using the same material again and again. Your structure will be the first of a series of transformations of the same material. We ask you not only to consider the origins of things and their immediate potential but also their futures beyond.

We must give special thanks for great support to the Block Research Group, especially to Marcel Aubert and Prof Dr Philippe Block.