Bernard Tschumi is an architectural practitioner, writer, urbanist, educator, and deconstructivist. If we talk about the screenplay of cinema where filmmaker Orson Welles once said, “I don’t enjoy cinema, I enjoy making cinema”, similarly, in the architectural realm, Tschumi believes that architecture is just about creating form and spaces but events and actions in them. He suggested that architecture should be a reflection of events associated with it because there is no architecture without events, actions, or activities. 

One of the examples of Tschumi’s architectonic notions was his rule of Form Follows Fiction. His publications ‘Theory of Timelessness and Red is not a color’, reflect a similar theme categorizing him as an international theorist. He worked on many hypothetical projects and concepts in his ‘Transcript of Manhattan’ and many other books, where he emphasized his use of film images to generate interest in sequence and programmatic concerns in architecture dealing with material, device, and counterpoints. The transcript’s explicit purpose was to present things in terms that are beyond conventional architectural representation, mainly for the complex relationship between the spaces and their use or between the object and events. 

One of his projects, School of Architecture, FIU, Miami, is crafted with a similar approach of creating new unprecedented social and cultural activities, and not just nature, in an institutional setup. 

Building Name: School of Architecture, Florida International University
Location: Miami, U.S.
Designer: Bernard Tschumi Architects
Project Year: 2003

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School of Architecture, FIU, Miami_©Bernard Tschumi Architects

The Florida International University in Miami is a city of glamor and commerce, situated at the epicenter of the influential zone that extends to the Caribbean and South America. For the new Architectural school, Tschumi’s focussed approach was to generate excitement in the student body by introducing communal spaces and spill-outs for after-class interaction and discussions. 

The design consists of two simple pre-cast concrete blocks arranged around the central courtyard with color blocking by using color generators along with the site. The extravagant features on the campus site included the palm tree basilica with greens, a reading room with yellow, and a lecture hall with red ceramic exterior tiling as two discrete structures connected with walkways, introducing a quirk in the otherwise subtle exterior of the campus. These two structures were covered with variegated tiles with slight twists to complement the linear form of the two parallel academic wings.

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Site Plan Schematic_©Bernard Tschumi Architects
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School of Architecture, FIU, Miami_©Bernard Tschumi Architects

The presence of a central courtyard between two academic wings acts as a transitional space with a capacity to hold numerous serendipitous happy accidents among the planned and unplanned activities. The continuous play of light and shadow in the courtyard by strategically placing walkways helps shade in the morning and late afternoon, responding to hot climate with a passive and sustainable approach. 

In the context of designing an architectural school, Tschumi found it necessary to introduce liveliness and dynamism in space with shades steps and unprogrammed counterpoints to make intentional talks in this already overrated era of the digital world, where physical studios and face to face conversations are not common so far. These activities and spaces in educational institutes embody a sense of belonging and community in students to nurture their growth and future.

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Walkways and courtyard_©Bernard Tschumi Architects
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Shaded Walkways_©Bernard Tschumi Architects
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Plam Tree Basilica_©Bernard Tschumi Architects

The two academic linear wings included studios, faculty rooms,  administration rooms, classrooms, jury/review rooms, and a model shop with a future expansion zone in front of it. Sitting on either side of the courtyard, these two wings neutralize the bold and quirky expression of two distinct color generators. Out of those two structures, the yellow-colored one was designated for reading room, gallery, paint rooms led by a giant staircase in front, and then another, which is the red colored one, was more or less focused on lecture halls, with a covered terrace to break the monotony and mass of the built form which further was a high point for after-class discussions.

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Conceptual 3D Mode_©Bernard Tschumi Architects
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Drawings_©Bernard Tschumi Architects
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Plam Trees around the built mas_©Bernard Tschumi Architects
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The Red color generstor_©Bernard Tschumi Architects
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The Yellow color generstor_©Bernard Tschumi Architects

Apart from the programmatic designing, another major challenge for the project was a strict budget against architectural ambitions from the clients and the site itself. The construction budget was $13.4 million for a relatively complex building made by including five distinctive entities with unique enclosures for all. The two irregular-shaped geometry also called for complex designing and hence more costing. To regulate and take control over budgeting, most of the ducting works, conduits, sprinklers, and even acoustical baffles were left exposed. The considerable expense was of the enclosure of the building which the firm took over by introducing single material of pre-cast concrete and were able to achieve set parameters for cost.

School of Architecture, FIU, Miami_©Bernard Tschumi Architects

The project is an appropriate example of theories by Bernard Tschumi and the concepts that he followed are yet justified. The form of the building is the secondary asset here and the building majorly revolves around the programmatic placement of spaces and zones respective to the context of the site. Along with bold built mass, strategic transitional spaces in between, and varying window sizes, it also creates a sense of liveliness and dynamism within the campus environment. 

References:

  1. Anon., 2008. DIVISARE. [Online]

Available at: https://divisare.com/projects/62896-bernard-tschumi-architects-peter-mauss-esto-school-of-architecture

[Accessed 03 2022].

  1. Anon., n.d. Bernard Tschumi Architects. [Online]

Available at: http://www.tschumi.com/projects/12/#

[Accessed 03 2022].

  1. Mun-Delsalle, Y.-J., 2015. Forbes. [Online]

Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/yjeanmundelsalle/2015/09/07/bernard-tschumis-architecture-is-not-just-about-space-and-form-but-also-the-events-happening-inside/?sh=4fa8ede76051

[Accessed 03 2022].

  1. Singh, G., 2014. Slideshare. [Online]

Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/gauravshrinet3/bernard-tschumi-philosophy

[Accessed 03 2022].

Author

Rahat Khanna is an architectural student by profession & a serendipitous explorer by a person. She accompanies architecture and writings as a medium to research, evaluate, analyze and contemplate minute details in architectural reign for sustainably intelligent solutions. Her passion for words came from reading books and made her resourceful.

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