Research + Teaching

Stop Building: The Case of Lausanne

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-EPFL, Option Studio, 2023
Course Number AR-202

Stop Building: The Case of Lausanne

"I don't think so honey, construction. What are you doing? We have enough buildings for the rest of humanity, this is actually true, there is enough space for every person in this world to be housed."[1] Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers, "I Don't Think So Honey: Construction!," in Las Culturistas with Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, ed. Bowen Yang (New York: Big Money Players, 2021).

The construction sector is one of the main drivers of raw material extraction and global warming, and as direct or indirect consequences, generates relentless environmental and social destruction. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is unequivocal: " We are not on track to achieve a climate resilient, sustainable world."[2] However, long term, the industry is expected to grow steadily, only slowed by rising energy prices and commodity shortages. Despite vehemently claiming agendas of 'net- zero' and 'sustainable construction,' the sector is trapped in a cul-de-sac trope of 'clean capitalism,' showing more abilities in developing PR strategies rather than real alternative models.[3] So, if we admit the identity-shattering posit that construction can never be sustainable, how to respond to housing needs? This studio intends to face the music.

Confronting what Jamaican cultural theorist Sylvia Wynter defines as a "planetarily-ecologically extended, increasingly techno-automated, thereby job-destroying, postindustrial, yet no less fossil fuel-driven, thereby climate-destabilizing free-market capitalist economic system, in its now extreme neoliberal transnational technocratic configuration," a moratorium on new construction is deployed as a disruptive legal device to enter in dissidence.[4] Coming from a place of hope, profoundly opposed to the paralyzing' Darwinian/Malthusian' ... apocalyptic shadow' cast over any action, the studio seeks to establish a critical space to interrogate the role of architecture as an ideologically charged and materially destructive discipline, trafficking in maximal value systems of labor, materials, and cultures. We argue that, because design disciplines are complicit in environmental degradation, social injustice, and climate crisis, it is necessary to correct course and harness our organizing and creative abilities to challenge the current modus operandi of space production and global construction.

This approach requires a deeper understanding of the political economy of space production, interrogating norms and standards, material supply chains, and labor realities in full awareness of real estate mechanisms and the housing inequalities they generate. Numerous means and approaches are available, from calculating the embodied carbon of the existing housing stock to articulating design-for-disassembly and maintenance protocols to reworking preservation laws beyond taste and aesthetics, setting up disengagement strategies and decay designs, designing anti-vacancy and redistribution methods, proposing collective and cooperative living, property reform and rent-control procedures, to drafting radical policy-making on housing access, maintenance, and renovation, and so on. We hope to unleash the full force of design to rework completely our built and unbuilt environment, in a reparative, non-extractive manner.
Beyond the provocation around the suspension of new building activity, the studio seeks to articulate a radical thinking framework to work out alternatives and pave the way toward an insurgent design practice.

[1] Bowen Yang Matt Rogers, "I Don't Think So Honey: Construction!," in Las Culturistas with Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, ed. Bowen Yang (New York: Big Money Players, 2021).
[2] Hoesung Lee, "Keynote Address by the IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee at the Opening of the First Technical Dialogue of the Global Stocktake," in First Technical Dialogue of the Global Stocktake (Bonn: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2022).
[3] See Silke Mooldijk Thomas Day, Sybrig Smit, Eduardo Posada, Frederic Hans, Harry Fearnehough, Aki Kachi, and Takeshi Kuramochi Carsten Warnecke, Niklas Hähne., Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022 (Cologne: New Climate Institute, Carbon Market Watch, 2022).
[4] Sylvia Wynter and and Katherine McKittrick, "Unparalleled Catastrophe for Our Species? Or, to Give Humanness a Different Future : Conversations " in Sylvia Wynter : On Being Human as Praxis(Durham [North Carolina]: Duke University Press, 2015), 22..

Louis Baldy-Moulinier; Romain Dubettier-Grenier; Eddy Friedli; Patrick Grandjean; Nora Guigues; Charline Hugues; Esteban Lorenzo; Lou Maillard; Nadège Mouine; Bénédict Wasserfallen. Juliette Auer, Julie-Anna Barès, Paulina Beron; Tiago Da Silva Teixeira; Laure Dekoninck; Maria Beatrice Fenoglio ; Adam Ghadi-Delgado; Isabel Grohe; Catherine Juneau; Yann Kozel; Nathalie Marj; Serena Mazzetti; Abigail Riand; Vanesa Santillan Messina; Yasmine Sefraoui; Raphaël Stäubli.

Spring 2023, Asst. Prof. EPFL
Teaching Team: Kathlyn Kao with Summer Islam, Nagy Makhlouf

This course is related to the research work A Global Moratorium on New Construction.

re-Move, Fenoglio, Messina
'Decree on Land', 1917