Rethink the modular reexamines the modular vision. The project focuses on relations we maintain with temporal sequences, spatial surroundings and other people. Seven internationally acclaimed architects and designers have joined forces with participants in seven USM masterclasses addressing this issue. Following the masterclasses workshop, the exhibition presents four perspectives on the topic:
Modularity exists everywhere. Surfaces can be divided into grids, for instance, figures disposed regularly in space or time arranged in rhythms. The way in which we perceive our surroundings is also modular. Modularity, then, is not exclusive to technical constructions, buildings or interfaces; rather, it constitutes a specific way of apprehending our environment. We possess the ability to experience time as a succession of recurring sounds, for example, or to measure physical space intuitively by the position of people in it. In this way we are capable of understanding and handling even the most complex structures. Some rhythms recur despite constant change, and this induces in us a sense of certainty and security.
One of the greatest challenges posed by modularity is the identification not only of actual interfaces, existing within a system, but also of potential interfaces outside the system. Any connection between modules involves an in-between, wherever different materials meet, for instance, or wherever waves and channels encounter each other in electronic communication. Every time we touch our smartphone, we generate new relations among our body, an apparatus and a chain of information. Such electronic communication is not always predictable: interference, especially at interfaces, can cause it to take unexpected turns, generally prompting frustration and exasperation with the operating system. Surprises of this kind, which occur when systems come in contact with one another, remind us that modularity is open and not necessarily calculable.
Modules do not exist in isolation. Each of their interfaces presupposes one or more larger structures generated by the combination of several components. A module can thus never be complete in itself, but is always capable of expansion. In theory, modular structures can grow indefinitely, even beyond the bounds of the imaginable. Many post-Second World War modernist housing developments have given the modular principle a bad name, making it synonymous with monotonous architectural environments and deprived urban areas. Yet the module’s greatest potential remains the utopian promise inherent in its ability to construct variable networks – networks in which each module can look different from the next and alterations are possible. To ‘rethink the modular’ might entail, for example, the development of large structures featuring maximum adaptability, on the one hand by observing growth processes in nature and on the other by exploring new possibilities in parametric architectural planning.
From the 1960s to the 1990s modularity was exploited principally as a visual mode, as a method with an almost unlimited potential for combining surfaces, photographic images and industrially manufactured materials. These visionary, sometimes utopian approaches had one thing in common: they relied on contrast, frequently linking the smallest unit in a system, for instance, with the largest. Repetition of the smallest unit in the largest, and vice versa, makes the modular idea appear boundless. In this way modularity’s exceptional combinability and incompleteness was extended way beyond modernist notions of design. Architecture and design began to engage with the burgeoning technology of electronic communication. This is reflected in the utopian architectural designs of those decades, in their ironic interior design concepts and, not least, in their advertising.
All publications designed by Atlas Studio, Zürich.
Group show with
works by Volker Albus, Archigram, Yona Friedman, Fritz Haller, Trix & Robert Haussmann, Hans Hollein, Nathalie du Pasquier, Ettore Sottsass, Superstudio, Matteo Thun
and projects by the USM masterclasses directed by: Dimitri Bähler (ECAL – Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne), Lorenzo Bini (Politecnico di Milano), BLESS (Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe), Go Hasegawa (Tokyo Institute of Technology), Thomas Lommée (ENSCI les Ateliers, Paris), Wolf Mangelsdorf (Architectural Association School of Architecture, London), Allan Wexler (Parsons The New School for Design, New York City)
and the USM masterclasses participants: Sylvain Aebischer, Joelle Aeschlimann, Manuel Amaral Netto, Marie Douel, Valentine Dubois, Sarha Duquesne, Christophe Guberan, Linn Kandel, Yann Mathys, Mathieu Rivier, Pauline Saglio, Alice Colombo, Maria Elena Garzoni, Elisa Mansutti, Ludovica Niero, Anna Pierotello, Eugenio Pizzo, Christina Becker, Denis Bulut, Lisa Ertel, Pia Mareike Matthes, Marlene Oeken, Philipp Scholz, Martha Schwindling, Sonja Rogova, Shun Hayasaka, Shunpei Ichikawa, Sho Kurokawa, Yuto Makishima, Tomoya Nishimura, Yuki Nobukawa, Saori Toyoshima, Maud Bausier, Florian Bédé, Sylvain Chassériaux, Céline Coq, Antoine Giret, Celia Torvisco, Maxime Loiseau, Fanny Muller, Alexandre d’Orsetti, Fanny Serouart, Zeynep Aksoz, Joe Allberry, Amritha Krishnan, Lucas Mory, Nikul Vadgama, Daniel Zaldivar, Zachary Barr, Benjamin Billick, Kelsey Coyle, Elmar Fujita, Miriam Josi, Michael David Lee, Molly Page, Stella Lee Prowse
Co-curated with Tido von Oppeln
Exhibition location: Salone dei Tessuti, Via San Gregorio 29, 20124 Milano