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Monash Art Design & Architecture

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On March 16 1972, the first of the thirty three 11-story-high apartment buildings of Pruitt-Igoe was demolished, less than 20 years after its completion and first inhabitation.

The tragic fate of the otherwise praised and celebrated complex came as the result of unfortunate architectural decisions, made amongst a highly complex social, political and economic situation that was overseen — and perhaps underestimated — by the local government, architects and project developers.

What this story represents for contemporary architecture and urban design is twofold: on the one hand, the fate of Pruitt-Igoe is just another episode of Modern architecture’s lack of vision and excessive optimism, and on the other, it is an opportunity to reflect — and therefore revamp — a seemingly flawed type that nevertheless proves to be necessary for the sustainable development of the contemporary city.

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Rather than pursuing banal generalisations of density, rampant in commercial practice and some tertiary education institutions, this studio seeks to critically examine the possibilities and limitations of the superblock type, and then engage with the development of project-based investigations prompted by the following questions:

•Is the superblock evil?
•Are there any succesful stories about this type?
•Do we need a new type?
•Or do we need to retrofit, reprogram and integrate the existing type?
•Are there any examples from which architects could learn to avoid mistakes made in the past?
•Could potential new models be integrated and adapted to the economic, social and cultural landscapes of the contemporary city?

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In this studio students will engage in a personal and speculative design process determined by the interrogation, transformation and reinvention of a classic high-rise and high-density building, the superblock.

This process will depart from a critical examination of the type that should prompt the formulation of a specific problem, articulated as a research question to be answered through particular project-based investigations.

It is expected that these explorations engage with thought provoking methodologies infused by each student’s concerns in relation to contemporary architecture and urban design — for example, projects can exploit architecture’s potential to act as vehicle for social, political and disciplinary comment or transformation.

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Superblock Revamped! (2.0)
ARC5002 / Architectural Design Research Project
Semester 2 / 2014
Mondays & Thursdays
2 pm to 5 pm
Studio leader: Eduardo Kairuz

Image credits: Cyprien Gaillard, View of Sighthill Cemetery (from Pruitt-Igoe Falls) 2008

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