Ku Leuven Masterstudio 2018-19

Ku Leuven Masterstudio 2019-20

SEM 01

Campus Sint-Lucas, Brussels

By Drs. Caroline Claus and Prof. Dr. Burak Pak

Studio_L28 as Critical Spatial Practice[1]

The undeveloped open space along the Western ring railway L28 has long been marginalized in Brussels planning processes. Thanks to its natural, historical and ecological richness the urban edge area is an excellent research object for sonic urbanism. Within the context of public park/place development along the Brussels railway line L28, sonic vibrations are dominantly discussed as a nuisance to suppress.

Urban studies increasingly recognize sonic vibrations as a medium for community building and political action. Recent research in urban sound studies focuses on how collective listening practices help to develop a critical ear for urban space, thus contributing to productive reflection on future spatial plans. The search for alternative strategies for engagement, critical and spatial design is supported and inspired by the work of artists and musicians making new aesthetic experiences and new ways of (physical) mobilization developments possible.

“For as long as recording and communication technologies have existed, the potential of the vibrational continuum that connects sound to infrasound, ultrasound, and other inaudible frequencies has been evoked to access anomalous zones of transmission between the realm of the living and the dead.”[2]

What (disciplinary) perspective is needed to create the portals to these new dimensions, how does a non-human thinking serve to activate (non) human agency in a context of infrastructural transformation? Following Goodman[3] in his theoretical work on sonic warfare, we suggest adopting Augoyard and Henri Torgue’s sonic ecology for our practice-based research project on a critical sonic urbanism. From a questioning of the ontological turn in sound studies the research focuses on the following positions and propositions:

  • human and non-human actants co-constitute a discontinuum of sonic and vibrational possibilities,
  • a critical sonic urbanism necessitates an a-disciplinary rethinking of sonic methods and forms,
  • (sonic) vibrations as design material open up to a re-negotiation of urban transition.

The studio concentrates less on formalistic urban architecture then on a possible intervening in the agency, the experience of formal-mechanic dimensions of urban sonic vibrations as a source for a re-negotiating of urban transformation. By re-negotiation we mean a re-purposition of sonic spatial relations that are capable of getting new socio- (political) encounters off the ground. Rather than demanding students to use a ready-made formalistic approach to the design process, emphasizing physic acoustics, the exercise is about the search for, and the amplification of tensions between intuitive, sensible and semantic components of urban sound and the disinterested, de-semantified and purely formal elements of urban architecture or urban design on the other. Urban architecture is understood as an articulation of these relations through the development of a method and tools for urban architectural design, hereby facilitating a possible (re-) negotiating urban transition manifested in new sonic forms.

Studio_L28 is conceived as a practice for counteracting situations in the L28 planning process where sonic awareness and sound design strategies are limited to noise control. To break free from prevailing modes of urbanism and urban architecture which typically focus on sonic risk and vibrational nuisance, we constitute an a-disciplinary working practice exploiting the productive encounters between different disciplines. While being about a network, Studio_L28 represents itself as a networked practice in itself. Through interdisciplinary network practice we investigate how we as practitioners can learn from different disciplines, and how we can formulate it into a new way of operating.

Following Miessen’s idea of the ‘crossbencher’[4], Studio_L28 departs from the first person singular: the individual practitioner. Building on the notion of self-responsibility our model of practice acknowledges an interconnection between the designer, multiple disciplines, their languages and tools, the urban contexts and actors involved. Design strategies that a practitioner employs we understand as a result of these interconnections. In Studio_L28 the practitioner combines the role of agent of change with the one of researcher and therefore commits her/himself to reflexivity as she or he pays attention to the process of action and reflection as they unfold. Studio_L28 provides a testing ground for phenomena, methods and tools we consider as elements of the transdisciplinary framework we deploy. Artistic practices, concepts and aesthetics of making organized sound inform the construction of a language that seizes its own methods and tools, and thereby manifests itself. Besides contributing to a new body of work, which assembles around the notion of sonic urbanism[5], Studio_L28 explores how hyper contextual practice can inform existing disciplines such as architecture and urbanism.

Project Area:

For the second edition of the master studio we move to the northern part of the Brussels railway area L28. In 2019-20 we zoom in on the open railway space that is affected by (sonic) vibrations, infrastructure and transient forms of architecture.

  1. Boulevard) du Jubilé & Jardin Collectif de Tour & Taxis 
  2. Park L28 
  3. Jardin Lanneau 
  4. Bockstael – Station 
  5. Old Laeken Railway Station 
  6. Albert Street + Jardin Collectif 
Open Railway Space_L28 North

References:

  1. KU Leuven Masterstudio_L28 is part of the Ph.D. project: The Vibrational Nexus of a Brussels Railway Area in Transition with Prof. Dr. Burak Pak as the supervisor and Peter Cusack as the co-supervisor.
  2. AUDINT, Unsound:Undead – Edited by Steve Goodman, Toby Heys & Eleni Ikoniadou. 2019. Hyperdub
  3. Goodman, Steve. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT, 2010. Print. Technologies of Lived Abstraction.
  4. See Miessen, Markus. Crossbenching: towards a proactive mode of participation as a Critical Spatial Practice.Diss. Goldsmiths, University of London, 2017.
  5. See TM https://theatrum-mundi.org/programme/crafting-a-sonic-urbanism/