The Academy for Architectural Culture (aac) at Venice Biennale 2016

gmp Architekten have two exhibitions at the Biennale in Venice about the work and the program of the Academy of Architectural Culture (aac).

Academy for Architectural Culture
The Academy for Architectural Culture (aac) is a private not-for-profit institution, which was founded by the architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp). With research studies and courses throughout the year, the aac focuses on the search for solutions to relevant architectural issues and on the continuing education of young architects from a range of different cultural backgrounds. The aac offers valuable qualifications to gifted architectural students, graduates and young architects.

The curriculum of the Academy reflects the gmp philosophy, experience and implementation of architecture in a social context, and offers insights into the methods of dealing with different tasks at the national and international level. The participants of an aac course become part of a team which, under the guidance of Meinhard von Gerkan and his partners, works on architectural concepts for projects and issues of our time. Renowned guest professors and experts from Germany and abroad supplement the work with their specific background experience.

The Academy started off with a course in Hamburg in 2008, at which participants focused on the East Asian region under the motto “Architecture as cultural export – concepts for the globalized world”. The 2009 workshop under the heading “TXL+” produced solutions for the subsequent utilization of Berlin Tegel Airport and, in 2010, the aac’s first workshop abroad, in Hanoi, Vietnam, worked on a concept for a German House in Ho Chi Minh City. In 2012, an aac workshop took place for the first time in the Academy’s own rooms at the Rainvilleterrasse campus in Hamburg.

Participants worked on designs on the subject of affordable housing suitable for the future, with projects on a site at Hamburg’s HafenCity and another one in the Chinese port city of Lingang. The young architects taking part in the curriculum benefit from personal access to the over 50 years of experience of the architects of gmp. With over 720 prizes in national and international competitions (of which over 360 first prizes) and over 390 completed buildings, gmp is one of the most in-demand architectural practices worldwide for projects of international significance.

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Physical Geometry Exhibition Hall

future practice. practice future. Studying at the Academy for Architectural Culture (aac) in Hamburg 
The exhibition at Palazzo Rossini demonstrates in five sections how the approach by the aac is manifested in the architectural curriculum. From the perspective of budding architects, it illustrates the journey through architectural teaching at the aac, highlighting the competences required for managing the projects and challenges awaiting the profession. The presentation of the Academy and its curriculum as well as the intentions of its founders follows three key imperatives:

Ask! Architecture begins with elementary questions, which always have to be asked. The teaching at the aac is built on this cultural method of asking questions, it promotes chutzpah and curiosity in order to enable queries and questions to be asked regarding the needs of today’s world and the profile of the profession – questions every architect nowadays asks. Or should ask.

Listen! The participants of the workshops have to find answers to seemingly simple, and to complex, questions. This is supported by discussions on the subjects amongst the participants, the knowledge of previous and contemporary positions, and the critique from colleagues and teaching staff. Because for every question there are different answers with different weighting, and even different correct answers. From here, it is only a small step to the realization that one inevitably has to develop one’s own position.

Act! In spite of – or perhaps because of – the complexities of design alluded to, it is important to arrive at a buildable design in a limited time and with limited answers. At the end, candidates experience the need for an open dialogue across cultural boundaries, and often several attempts, in order to balance contradicting and seemingly contradictory ideas and requirements through teamwork.

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The results of the workshops, the designs for the tangible building projects in the context of issues such as sustainability, urban development with high-density housing, the integration of tradition with modernity in different cultures, and the optimization of the design and fabrication in parametric processes complements the aac’s participation at this year’s Architecture Biennale.

European Cultural Centre Venice – Design as a Dialogue between Tradition and Modernity
The results of the 2015 aac spring workshop will be presented at Palazzo Mora as part of the “TIME – SPACE – EXISTENCE” exhibition of the Global Art Affairs Foundation. This means that the designs can be viewed in the very building for which they were intended as part of the change of use to become the future European Cultural Centre (ECC).

The Global Art Affairs Foundation, which has successfully made a name for itself as curator and organizer of internationally renowned exhibitions at both Biennales, had seized the initiative for developing the idea in order to make a wider public aware of the project for a European cultural center.

Consequently, the objective of the workshop was to develop designs for an adequate architectural presence of an establishment that makes the cultural identity of Europe the focus of its activities beyond institutional/political associations. In addition, the exercise has to be understood as an exemplary model project for finding new and hopefully sustainable cultural uses for the increasing number of empty prestigious buildings in Venice, thereby making a contribution towards halting the continuing decline of this “floating city”.

For this reason, the students had to create designs – in the spirit of a design dialogue between tradition and modernity – that represented an intervention that is as modern as it is sensitive to the existing situation, as a messenger of a modernity which is able to make its entry into the centuryold Venetian tradition with the respectful stance of a temporary guest. The room schedule included rooms for exhibitions and conferences, a library, a research archive, a café, and space for researchers and artists in residence.

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Architecture students and young graduates from Germany, Italy, and China were grouped into four teams with four members each and developed independent design solutions, aided by the intensive mentoring provided by the workshop tutors, guest professors, experts, and lecturers. The three-anda-half week course began with an excursion to Venice, followed by the actual design phase in the aac studios at the Rainvilleterrasse campus in Hamburg.

As in every workshop, the design process was supported with mentoring, intermediate critiques, lectures by well-known experts such as Giulia Foscari (OMA/AMO), Alexander Schwarz (David Chipperfield Architects) and Maria A. Segantini (C+S Architects), the final presentation, and a subsequent public exhibition of the results in Hamburg.

The workshop designs open up a wide field of architectural possibilities for activating Palazzo Mora for use as the ECC. According to the Global Art Affairs Foundation, they are intended to form the basis for the ongoing implementation of the project.

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