Remco Roes & Koenraad Claes
4 assignments of the course ‘Envisioning / Imagining Architecture + Space 1A + 1B’
10x3 3-hour seminars
156 models of their ancestral homes
72 abandoned models found in the faculty of Architecture and Arts of Hasselt University
3 large piles of junk
10000+ photographs/scans generated during various exercises
1 week wandering around Berlin
The point of departure for this visual essay is an ongoing series of ‘INTER-MERZ’ seminars that Koenraad Claes and Remco Roes have been teaching at the department of Interior Design at the faculty of Architecture and Arts (Hasselt University, Belgium) and at ENSAV La Cambre (Brussels), from 2016 onwards.
A crucial aspect of these introductory lessons in ‘Envisioning/Imagining Architecture + Space’ is to stimulate an experimental, intuitive and uninformed approach towards a collection of derelict everyday objects on the one hand, and a series of architectural models on the other.
Initially these two ‘scales’ were contained within separate exercises, but after the first year they were confronted with each other in the form of a book-publication, which was the starting point for the exercise of the following year. Those most recent results have subsequently been taken on a stroll through Berlin, in order to prepare the next publication – in the form of a visual book of assignments that attempt to provoke the reaction of the students towards a specific urban context. This growing series of book-publications is now a structural part of the course that allows us to curate the students results, draw (visual/spatial) conclusions and determine future directions. Besides being a didactical tool, the collected material in the publications has come to develop its own aesthetic and logic – a thinking of its own. It allows us to explore a plethora of interesting occurrences that happen ‘in the margin’ of the more sensible and didactically responsible teaching, as ‘collateral damage’ that has an autonomous (artistic) value.
We have attempted to arrange the images in this essay in such a way that they trace the thread of ‘scale’ as it presents itself through the project. The images are meant to be read as self-sustaining visual argument in which the notion of scale gets stretched, mixed, muddled and diluted with other concepts. We believe this is the strength (and essence) of a visual essay: it is through this unarticulated, unconceptualised visual nature – which brings together amalgamous constellations of meaning – that it proves its worth besides any argumentation that occurs (solely) in words. (For a more elaborate enquiry into the relationship between words and images in the visual essay as artistic research instrument we refer to Roes & Snowdon (2017 & 2018) and Roes & Pint (2017)).
At the end of the essay we have included an optional ‘reading guide’ in which we elaborate briefly on some of the ‘resonances’ we have found between our project and the notion of scale. We do, however, strongly suggest an initial uninformed reading of the piece.
Scale seems most obviously present in the models – that are literally ‘scaled down versions of an actual space’.
A scale shift occurs (in both directions) when these models are confronted with everyday objects (a corkscrew becomes a monument, an ancestral home becomes a container for a precious stone).
Scale in artistic practice
While (interior) architects typically ‘think’ using scale models as tools to realise larger (urban) interventions, artists think by using matter, which results in an altogether different functioning of scale. The model, when considered as a work of art, is both tool and result. Unlike in any realistic architectural context, there is not necessarily a hierarchy between the model and something ‘else’, something ‘bigger’. At the same time, the individual work remains embedded in an infinite web of possible (conceptual) relations. It is precisely from this position of freedom that we invite the students to work and think, provoking an experimental approach to (urban) space and ways of seeing. The series of intermerz publications and seminars aims to become a platform for architecture students as well as art students to facilitate this ‘autonomous exploration of (urban) space’.
Scale of the city
The city provides the perfect platform for an individual, autonomous exploration, precisely because of its web-like complexity. By wandering the streets and surrendering to this fabric on a ‘one to one’ scale it provides participants with decent source material that resonates with individual fascinations, yet remains connected to the general direction of the course. The act of traversing a city is, in fact, not so different from rummaging through the junk piles of discarded objects, or browsing through the images gathered from the various intermerz exercises.
Scale of the classroom
This complexity is also mirrored in the ‘didactical’ scale of the project itself. The materials that make up this essay originate from extremely varied origins and contexts. How can the complexity of ‘operations’ that occur over an extended period of time, across various similar but distinct exercises, be scaled into something coherent and graspable? How can all that detail be scaled into logical containers or delineated concepts?
This, of course, introduces the question of scale in relation to the digital (the environment in which the publications – but also this visual essay - are made, the environment in which all the archived material is stored). The analogue works exist in striking contrast to the screen-lit world of images – in which the notion of scale is as good as absent, due to the immaterial zooming in and out onto patches of pixels – or worse: vectors. In the virtual domain, the environment can act as an open matrix with absence of any absolute measure. As it turns out, in this visual essay the absence of context in the virtual space becomes the perfect playground. Sculptures, objects, installations and the two-dimensional face physical abstraction when they lose their specific context in the real world. The screen acts as a portal to an ‘environmentless environment’. The scale of these non-objects becomes subjected to the pinching and pulling, scrolling and zooming of the spectator.
Roes, Remco & Pint, Kris (2017) The visual essay and the place of artistic research in the humanities. In: Palgrave Communications,(3), (Art N° 8).
Roes, Remco & Snowdon, Peter (2017) Until I see your dream in dark skies: About Spaces and Intentions, Bodies real and virtual. In: IDEA Journal, 2017, p. 16-47.
Roes, Remco & Snowdon, Peter (2018) Conversations between interiors. In: Journal of Interior Design 43(1), p.65-77.
All images: © Remco Roes, Koenraad Claes and students, 2016 - 2018
Participating students: Shauni Adriaens, Lien Akkermans, Fadime Arslan, Maya Bex, Melanie Boeckxstaens, Anke Claes, Isabelle Cox, Shari Danckers, Anouk De Beukeleer, Anneleen Dekkers, Bram Dirkx, India Feller, Isabelle Franck, Danique Geraerts, Jasper Goris, Liam Guns, Lennert Haest, Anouk Heyligen, Chloë Jaspers, Magdalena Karwasz, Yasin Kazankaya, Céline Kellens, Silke Kerkhofs, Nevin Kucuktopal, Sarah Légère, Eline Lievens, Ekatériné Lortkipanidze, Maity Molenbroeck, Oumaima Nacer, Nerea Pellegrini Casas, Phaedra Schreurs, Nina Spooren, Michiel Swinnen, Dries Thijs, Tugçe Togayer, Busra Toprak, Britt Traarbach, Nikki van Appeven, Goele Vanbrabant, Anne Vandecraen, Jorn Vandeurzen, Jill Van Doninck, Niels Vangeneugden, Seppe Vanhoudt, Josje van Ziel, Lies Verheyden, Stef Verheyen, Melanie Waelbers, Senne Wellens, Pol Wijnen, Yvana Wintraecken, Brent Wirix, Nina Baeten, Glenn Bamps, Beyza Batmaz, Kaat Berben, Eline Bogemans, Stef Boutsen, Sandra Braeken, Elke Brusselaers, Davide Campanella, Famke Camps, Myrthe Claes, Eline Daems, Sarah Denruyter, Dilara Djogic, Chlo‚ Eraerts, India Feller, Jeffrey Geybels, Gamze Gezer, Immig Groven, Liam Guns, Mike Habraken, Erica Herremans, Tine Huysmans, Wilko Janssens,Chloe Jaspers, Chaima Kerkeni, Veronique Kremer, Kimberly Lievens, Laura Lo Bue, Sinem Ozcan, Elise Pelgrims, Bram Peters, Fanni Prosmans, Josephine Rogiers, Lotte Sents, Eva Severens, Sarah Simon, Thi Tuyet Trinh Tran, Lisa Vanceer, Bram Vande Kerkhof, Linnea Vanden Wyngaerd, Sofie Van Looveren, Ine Vanspauwen, Nathan Vercruysse, Marieke Vleminckx