Institutional Forms & Urban Logics was a masters studio at the Royal College of Art in London that ran from 2014-17. It was initiated as a project based around the study of institutions. The research was founded upon the question of institutions in relation to the urban, explored through a new lens each year. As our cities continue to grow at unprecedented rates, from fantastical branded enclaves to deregulated sprawl, their relentless proliferation outpaces our capacity to plan them. Institutions are our means to critique and intervene in this condition.

The Ghost in the Machine

2014 - 2015

Punctuating the endless space of the urban are its institutions: vessels of civic organization that orient us in the isotropic fabric of the city. Until recently, the institution and its host building have been inextricably linked. Understood as one and the same, these architectural artefacts have guided our reading of the territorial city, giving body and inflection to all that surrounds them. With the ambiguous condition of the contemporary city; shifting technology, fluid boundaries, the slippery nature of governance and the larger processes of urbanization, these two incarnations of the institution – material and organizational – have drifted apart. This years studio, The Ghost in the Machine, worked within this ambiguity. Our interpretations, definitions and position on the contemporary institution are deliberately broad allowing for the testing of spatial consequences and forming the lens through which to discuss the agency of architecture... (Download the 2014-15 programme documents).

New Subjectivities

2015 - 2016

This year New Subjectivites focused on institutions looking forward. Institutions are invented, consolidated and then instrumentalised as a positive or palliative solution to an ideological crisis – a way in which to preserve and propagate a collective ideology. We set out to explore the role of institutions in the production of new subjectivities emerging out of new movements, conditions and trends. Most critically, to explore the elusive relationship between architectural form and institutional imperative. Through the ages, institutions have invented ingenious ways to engender subjectivity. Collective movements gain momentum and gravitas, take institutional form, and shape and shift our shared ideologies. These devices are able to navigate our heterogeneous natures and trace shared vibrations of accepted terms and conditions of society. The deterritoralizing flow of liquid capital has created an unprecedented scale of subjectivity. The perpetual shrinking and collapsing of the world, the blurring and redefinition of its borders, brings into question the agency of our institutions. As crisis, revolutions and wars burn the institutions of today to the ground, new institutions rise from the ashes to consolidate and perpetuate new subjectivities. We asked how these institutions will take shape as architectural edifices in the city that engender and support the bio-politic of the urbe. In terms of their ideology, operation and form, how will these emerging institutions assert their relevance and recalibrate the world around them?... (Download the 2015-16 programme documents).

Units, Scales and Measures

2016 - 2017

Whilst the previous two years took historic and future explorations respectively, Units, Scales and Measures carved a trajectory across time. The human tendency to categorise and define everything, from metric systems and DIN standard, to the Gregorian calendar, prosperity, currency and shipping containers, carbon bonds and census data, are as much political project as they are forms of relative comparison and methods of efficiency. These systems, borne out of institutional constructs, form and shape our daily activity and manifest across scales. These shared languages of size, organisation and value, are the syntax of our environment, from carparking grids to euros to the working week, we live amongst and through them. The studio started this year with the claim that in fact every detail in our lives and the physical environment around us is the accumulated result of the myriad of institutions that inform our existence. Most specifically, we claimed that our built environment is a direct and specific response to a series of institutional imperatives. We sought to understand this through a precise line of enquiry; measure... (Download the 2016-17 programme documents).

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