In botany, a rhizome is a subterranean stem of a plant that sends out roots from its nodes. Rhizomes grow as networks of roots with no explicit center. Rhizomatic plants differ from rooted plants as they lack pre-set location and are capable of adapting to different conditions via heuristic spread of their underground sprouts. When split, each separate piece of a rhizome is capable of growing a new plant.
The natural phenomenon of rhizomes inspired a 20th-century philosopher Gilles Deleuze and a psychoanalyst Félix Guattari to form a pedagogical theory of rhizomatic learning – an opposition to traditional top-down theories of education, claiming that learning is most effective when it allows participants to react to evolving circumstances. Nowadays the theory is closely related to network-based education processes.
The traditional definition of design is the process of taking actions in order to introduce relevant changes (Gasparski) – changes that respond to specific overall problems and lead to solutions that improve current situation functionally, aesthetically or ethically. As such, traditional architectural process has a top-down structure: it starts with general assumptions, limitations and conditions and is recursively reduced to indispensable issues. What if we started the other way around? Rhizomatic approach would imply that we may not have a general perspective of our actions but respond to problems that occur. And what would ‚rhizomatic’ mean in architecture? Maybe rhizomatic urban substance emerges wherever needs and external conditions allow for it – it adapts and deforms itself to fill in empty spaces and to fulfil people’s requirements.
Throughout this course, we maintained our focus on two keywords: housing and experiment. In the ever-changing world, we need to be constantly rethinking our fixed standards and rules that drive every aspect of our lives. One of the models we unwillingly put on the table is housing. According to architect M. Lihotzky (1925) – “Wohnen ist conservative” – dwelling is conservative. Due to conservative approach to dwelling, strengthened by modern economy, we assume (correctly or not) that the way we inhabit lands, cities and buildings is definitive. But what if it is not? What if by avoiding the experimentation on a theoretical level we risk not discovering better ways to design and respond to real conditions? Societies change, crises strike, natural resources expire, earthly conditions aggravate. This is a classical threshold situation for positive albeit disruptive thinking.
We suggested two phases of work. First, we wanted students to propose alternative typologies of housing – ones that respond to conditions of choice, but devoid of urban context. Then these typologies were adapted on real site in Warsaw.
The place we chose for students’ projects was an area of 62 300 sqm located in Lower Mokotów between the streets Spacerowa, Wybieg, Słoneczna, Belwederska, Morskie Oko park and existing housing on Grottgera Street. This central location consists of unused private terrain, slightly neglected park area adjacent to Morskie Oko with playground and a two-storey building with a restaurant and a club. The site is well communicated and bares an important characteristic of being located in the vicinity of the city’s representative area (Łazienki Park, embassies, Belweder) and Warsaw’s natural escarpment.
The studio was tutored by:
prof. dr hab. inż. arch. Joanna Giecewicz
mgr inż. arch. Jacek Markusiewicz