Thursday, 3 February 2011

Souvenir Architecture: cardiff vertical studio 2011

make a place worth remembering
Adam Nathaniel Furman and Marco Ginex

^Printed paper model of Howl's Moving Castle

After a tumultuous night traversing strange lands full of wondrous halls, bedecked both with maidens and vaults in equal profusion, as well as terrifying precipices crisscrossed by folding bridges and twisted towers, David awoke to the sight of the ancient and inscrutable map he kept across from his bed, and about which he had always wondered as to its referents, realising that once again he must have been speculating in his sleep as to the worlds contained therein, until as he rolled over to sleep again, he found a strange object under his sheets which had not been there before, a polychromous confection of forms that could only have come from where he had just awakened.” 
Extract from Madam’s Miscellanea


Souvenirs mark the boundaries between the real and the imagined, and concretize their interdependence. They are small, surreal, yet physical and real. As direct outcomes of globalization they are themselves ubiquitous from Machu Pichu to Cebu, and yet they operate counter to that seriality, paradoxically using every new technology and mode of production available to be popularly evocative, and operate within the scope of collective and individual illusions. As a type they act as gateways into less uniform, more tranquil, more spectacular, or even, more futuristic times.

Souvenir Architecture marks the rupture between real space and all the potentialities of the architectural imagination, acting as physical proof that what you see around you is definitely not all there needs to be to it. Souvenir Architecture proposes and suggests, integrating itself into the weft of everyday life, broadening the scope of potential futures by weaving questions and dreams into the fabric of the quotidian. What is the difference between what you are working on at your desk at Foster’s during the day, and those tumultuous, ecstatic places you escape to when you sleep at night? It is the sum of the two that precisely delineates the form of souvenir architecture.

^Nikolai Sutyagin's House in Arkhangelsk


Souvenir Architecture will be our way to design an alluring and allusive tectonic, which will develop by expanding on four formal and representational principles taken from the world of the souvenir.

Through Miniaturization we will individualise the monumental, privatise time, and by creating allusive tableaus bring supposedly lost “thens” into the now, the once exotic “theres” over here, and utopic “futures” back into the present.

Through Pop and Partiality we will unite the universal and the unique, the popular and the private by speaking doubly, in both a universal pictorial language of immediate communicability -a figural Esperanto understood by all- and in a complementary syntax of complex partialities, that opens up the possibility of being supplemented and completed by narrative discourse.

Through Saturation and Detail we will depart from the abstract and anonymous language of architectural representation by swapping quantitative verisimilitude for qualitative effect, employing the over-saturation of affective signs and intelligible detail in order to elicit a giddy and explicit engagement.

Through Context and Alter-Contexts we will sever any links to a specific origin, instead residing in the dual space between the room the model is in, and the range of alternative contexts designed from the precise intermingling of universal archetypes, from the playful image of childhood, to the mythic allure of the antique, the distant excitement of the exotic, the hopeful ideals of future utopias, and comforting dreams of the pastoral.


The course will be structured around two short mini briefs, which will help us to understand the precise ways in which souvenirs are constructed, and how to use those techniques as a method to build up a blend of tightly related formal and narrative explorations, followed by a longer brief aimed at the development of final models and sets of drawings.

1.1 Analysis
The first brief will be to deconstruct and analyse a given commercial souvenir into its component parts, into those deliberate choices which have made it not an exact architectural representation, but an allusive and storied object that refers to, but goes far beyond, the original.

1.2 Object
The second mini brief will be to instrumentalise the qualities and techniques located in the studied souvenir, and use them to transform an un-built building, its history, its architect and its formal characteristics, into a portable object-souvenir. This will be a miniaturized, pop-partialised, highly saturated, and alter-contextualised tableau that inversely pumps more analysis and content into what it reduces and reconfigures.

1.3 Architecture
The main thrust of the work will revolve around the building of one, ever evolving, obsessively explored and documented Model, a self-generating architectural history, a souvenir of souvenirs, which will be documented in one set of equally layered architectural drawings which will evolve in parallel to the model. Through the twinning of model and drawing, we will delve in and out of the students’ miniature worlds as they grow, elaborating framed moments from their interiors, expanding them into sequential chapters in a complex form of architectural production, representation and narration. The set of drawings will evolve in parallel to the main model, and will collect and contain concepts, research, narrative explorations and digressions in both images and text, as well as theoretical research.

So as the course ends, and we step back –dazed- out into the world of Tesco and Value Engineering, we will be left with strange and complete souvenirs, chunks of fantastic floating castles in the air that have broken off, and fallen to the Cardiff ground, large, indiscrete constructions and layered drawings that ask to be explored, peeled back and uncovered, to reveal the stories hidden within.


This will be Madam's second academic brief exploring this topic, following its unit at the AA Tel Aviv summer program 2010.


  1. I (figuratively) battered my friend Jia in first year into taking this studio. I was sold at the model of Howel's castle - shame i'm lost in third year these days :(

    good luck everyone-try not to kill too much wildlife

  2. Unfortunately we have had to withdraw from teaching the Vertical Studio this year. I hope everyone has a great time anyway!