Re-act worhsop

University of Antwerp

The point of departure of the workshop was Semper’s writings on the origins of architecture. According to Semper, the true and legitimate representation of enclosure was originally enacted by woven fabrics. First there is cladding, a building’s dress, second there is a solid wall or structure to hold it up. Besides providing protection and shelter, cladding is by necessity representational. It forms a buildings face and is the visible, colorful, and sensible - in a word symbolic - boundary of space. It can be described as a discourse predicated on the surface.

Gottfried Semper. Primitive Hut. 1851

It is from their superficiality where we get an understanding of the materials that surround us. Their surfaces move us by evoking previous feelings and experiences. We can know their weight, we can feel their temperature, we can know their age. But besides this phenomenological understanding, they also transmit to us an intellectual one. If they are human-made, we can read the techniques and the thoughts of the people that shaped them, the traces of themselves in inanimate things.

The making of a tile during the workshop

Making and consequentially thinking through making played a central role in the workshop. Over the course of a week student focused on the technique of casting. We studied the work of artists in the likes of Rachel Whiteread, Isamu Noguchi, and Ben Nicholson. By pressing, casting, scraping, we worked collaboratively to produce a set of life-size cladding tiles: a hands-on experiment in texture, scale and shape and an investigation on the symbolic and representational potential of cladding.