top of page

Ground: Milieux of Differential Settlements

Winter 2018

Grosses Entwerfen, ATTP, TU Wien, Austria

with Riccardo M. Villa, PhD Candidate

Studio Summary

What is architecture’s relationship to ground? Architecture has a history of exploration, redefinition, and invention of ground, from the systematic approach of the Japanese Metabolists and the futuristic experiments of Archigram, to the concreteness of built projects of OMA, Dominique Perrault and others. Today, architects are faced with an increasing amount of information on the ground and a growing responsibility to account for it.  It is not only a question of the very soil or rock beneath our feet, but also the plethora of data accessible online, from social media to georeferenced urban data. In this studio, we will learn to work with this data as we redesign ‘grounds’ around the city of Vienna. We will look at exemplary projects: What kind of ‘ground’ do they establish, and how? Working in teams and with section perspectives and schematic plans, students will explore, rearticulate and propose alternative designs for particular public places around Vienna. In our studio sessions we will conduct exercises that help us learn to explore ‘grounds’ as connecting and disconnecting, as characters and as stages for characters, as compositions (of planes, transitions, soils and subsoils), as narrating and as constituted by narratives.  Although we will touch on technical aspects, our interest is more on the application of rigorous forms of abstract thinking than on proficiency in technical problem-solving.

Architecture not only engages with ground in order to make it habitable, but also makes ground in order to invent new forms of habitability. It contributes to the extension or birth of a milieu, an in-between place.  To claim that there is only one ground upon which to build and upon which to live is to settle for a ‘common ground’: the street, the soil, elevated pedestrian paths, the highway, the garden, the plinth, the slab.  When such grounds are taken as given, we tend to accept them as necessary and known, as already settled.  We forget that there is always a ground that is perpendicular to these, which evolves with our collection of data. We will refer to this as a data ground, which includes everything from traditional georeferenced data to the ‘big data’ constituted by photos, tweets or digitized collections of literature. As the data ground grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to know what to do with the information one can glean from it. The most popular strategy would propose to collapse the data ground to a ‘physical’ or ‘social’ common ground, thereby deciding which information matters for one ground in particular.


In this studio, we will challenge this approach by refusing to settle for one common ground. We believe a data ground, in its perpendicularity to the ground our feet rest upon, can help us discover something unexpected in our ‘common’ grounds while inventing new ones. Advancements in engineering have inspired, since the early 20th century, alternative ways of engaging with the subsurface and with infrastructure. Earth and sky are not true ‘limits’ anymore, but a further space in which new ground can be settled and found.

Sample of Student Work
bottom of page