We've reached the halfway point of the semester, which is both incredibly exciting and slightly scary - time seems to fly by so quickly!
We hope you're all enjoying the semester so far and that you don't feel completely buried by work. Remember to keep eating and sleeping regularly and looking after yourselves!
This week has been a busy one, with the Undergraduate Buddy Groups re-uniting over snacks and good conversation on Tuesday evening, followed by OxArch's 4th talk of the In Conversation With... series, featuring Anna Parker from Intervention Architecture.
Submissions for Issue XII:REBEL are still open! We welcome written, drawn, photography and modelling submissions - so get creative and see where the REBEL in you takes you! Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance to be featured.
This week on the blog, we are featuring postgraduate design studio DS4 and their recent exhibition on Belgrade at War. (Text by Zhonglin Yap, DS4)
DS4’s interests are based on a direct physical engagement with the city and architecture, and a commitment to thinking through making. DS4 site the research in the Baltikans project, a collaborative exploration of the former socialist controlled fringe of the Baltics and the Balkans. This year students will be working in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and the former capital of Tito’s Yugoslavia and now the site of a deeply contested public realm.
The first task given is to work in groups and construct an installation. Consider that the construction is in part a habitat, a place for occupation whether real or imagined. While it should be immersive, students will need to consider multiple points of view, a horizon line and different scales of reading.
The city of Belgrade, also known as the ‘White City’ and the capital of Serbia, has experienced a significant amount of change throughout its history. A constant fight for the possession of Belgrade was seen in previous centuries due to its convenient and strategic position, where a total of 115 battles took place and led to the city being reborn repeatedly – at least 44 times. This has allowed for the city to be highly rich in history, as each different era, conquest and significant event that has taken place, all have left fragments and traces which can either be appreciated or despised in today’s Belgrade.
The project initiated by looking at man-made disasters based on war and political and social conflicts. It was indicated that through all these struggles, the most important and significant support of the city has been the people of Belgrade – those who make, form, build and develop the place – before, during and after the conflict. Even with so much evident destruction, the city has been able to regenerate every time due to the strength of its citizens and the will to recover and thrive.
The concept of the Phoenix is used to resemble the idea of a cyclical process that sees ‘Destruction’, ‘Recovery’ and ‘Rebirth’ as the main stages of regeneration, and ultimately simulating the way in which Belgrade has existed throughout time.
The project developed through an exploration of materials that could illustrate these three stages and the installation’s final structure is divided into layers that capture the essence and the traces of each phase (see Figure 2.0). The 20th century was chosen to be the focus for the installation, and the video sequence is split into three different periods of this time: 1) Between WW1 and WW2; 2) During the Socialist Era; 3) The late 20th century Belgrade. The installation is based on devastating events that have negatively affected the society during these periods, but also on the way people have worked to repair the damage in order to continue to grow.
Destruction: The first part of the installation symbolises the city’s urban fabric. An abstract representation of different city components such as buildings, streets and institutions are portrayed through wired structures that were covered in tea bag paper, loaded with elements that would be released downwards through the process of ‘Destruction’. Fire was chosen as the element for destruction, and the idea was that each ‘structure’ would also represent a moment of time, within the chosen time period, and labelled with a particular year where chaos and conflict took place in the society.
Recovery: The middle part of the installation resembles the strength, resistance and resilience of the social structure that have been present in the city. A net was chosen as a method of support for the falling structures and allowed for certain structures to be ‘rescued’ as well as a way of filtering certain elements to go through. The idea was to demonstrate the way in which the destruction process, in this case produced by man-made conflict and politics, is challenged by opposing forces, who in the case of Belgrade, have mainly been its people and the way they have worked to rebuild the city. During this process of recovery, the net was stitched back using pieces of cloth containing events that took place during the chosen period and that encouraged the city to prosper once again.
Rebirth: The bottom part of the installation represents the traces and fragments left from the previous events. ‘A recording of history’ that photographs a 3D result and maps out the damage that has been done to the city. The idea was that this part would work as a tray that contains a removable sheet of cardboard that would be stained or affected through the medium that dropped from the destruction and recovery stage. The sheet of cardboard was covered in water, and materials such as tea and instant snow were released from the structures once they were burned, and filtered through the net, which created a new profile on the cardboard. Broken plaster and pieces of rocks were also used to suggest war destruction, which were also labelled with events that had taken place within the era, and that left negative marks in Belgrade. The rebirth is illustrated as a new ‘topography’ that is created through these remains and how these become a memory of the past through a physical form.
These drawings are a representation of what has happened; how these memories are still present in the city; as well as new opportunities to rebuild the city on a blank canvas. New wire elements covered in tea bag paper are added on to the top part of the installation structure each time, and the cyclical process repeats itself 3 times, in order to demonstrate the 3 different time periods: Between WW1 and WW2; During the Socialist Era; and The Late 20th century Belgrade.
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