‘Studio One’ Master's Program Mines Science Fiction to Imagine California’s Future
Guest instructors include “MythBusters” co-host Adam Savage, photographer David Maisel, and author Kim Stanley Robinson
UC Berkeley architecture professor Nicholas de Monchaux and BLDGBLOG author Geoff Manaugh will teach a special, one-year graduate course, titled “Studio ONE,” focused on the intersection of architecture and science fiction. The course will be offered in the 2018-2019 academic year through UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design. Students who complete the program will receive a post-professional Master of Architecture degree.
Drawing Science / Drawing Fiction: The Future of Californian Ecology
Professor Nicholas de Monchaux with Geoff Manaugh
For several hundred years, architects have abandoned the crafting of buildings to others. Instead, we devote our practice to a range of media: drawings, models, and, more recently, databases and even algorithms. These practices are explicitly, and now even more manifestly, virtual — quite literally, they exist primarily in their ability to effect. And at the core of this practice lies a relationship between truth — the surveyed conditions of reality — and fiction — prediction and speculation on construction in the future. This balancing act is both uncomfortable and audacious.
Drawing on narrative, speculative, and graphic practices, and employing a range of tools from the digital to the textual, Studio One in 2018-2019 will focus on imagining a particular set of futures for a remarkable landscape: the natural and manmade ecology of California. From the transnational landscapes of the U.S./Mexico border to the marijuana farms of Humboldt County, from the plastic dreams of Los Angeles to the silicon dreams of the San Francisco Bay Area, California is both one of the largest economies in the world and home to much of the world’s imagination about the relationship between technology, nature, and what it means to be human in the 21st century. It is also a landscape uniquely challenged by a range of contemporary forces, particularly the effects of anthropogenic climate change to technological transformations in media and labor, to a precipitous economic and social divide.
For all of its influence on global culture, however, at least one more essential reason to deploy techniques of architectural speculation on this landscape is that so little memorable imprint has been made here at the building scale. California has mostly dreamed much larger and much smaller: from the sapphire-glass surfaces of intimate devices (whose connectivity spans the globe) to the heroic scale of highways and bridges, by way of the highly curated wastes and wildernesses that are this architecture’s necessary foil.
Mining the rich visual and tectonic history of California dreaming — from Star Wars to psychedelia — we will construct a set of visual, spatial and architectural assertions about what it means to live at the end of a continent, at the end of drawing, at the end of nature, and at the beginning of a new relationship between architecture, media, ecology, and craft. Our chief medium will be drawing, but we will engage and embrace a world of devices and tools — from scripting through mapping and virtual reality — that are changing, and expanding, the capacity of architecture to influence the world.
And so, embracing the techniques and history of world-building and simulation from inside and outside architectural culture, yet grounded in California’s own cultural and technological history, we will produce instrumental speculations towards our shared future—in California, and in the world which California, distinctly, helps shape.
How to enroll
Students in the one-year course will participate in a design studio taught by de Monchaux and Manaugh and receive specialized training in animation, digital fabrication, and rendering. The course will encourage students to take a variety of elective interdisciplinary classes at Berkeley. Studio guests will include legendary science fiction novelist Kim Stanley Robinson, “MythBusters” co-host Adam Savage (who began his career as a model-builder at Industrial Light and Magic), urbanist Allison Arieff, aerial photographer David Maisel, and others.
Studio One is a one-year Master’s program in advanced design, offered at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design since 2011 for students with an accredited Bachelor of Architecture degree. The topic and focus of the year-long program changes with each year’s director; past topics have included 3D printing, bio-inspired structures, and data-driven design.
Applications for this 2018-2019 course are now being accepted. Interested students should apply online at grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/apply, specifying the one-year Masters of Architecture option in the College of Environmental Design.
About Nicholas de Monchaux
Nicholas de Monchaux is associate professor of architecture and urban design and director of the Berkeley Center for New Media. His current research focuses on the development of ecological infrastructure strategies for climate-adaptive urban development, as well as the use of new media and visualization strategies to communicate about urban development proposals. He is the author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, an architectural and urban history of the Apollo Spacesuit, winner of the Eugene Emme award from the American Astronautical Society and shortlisted for the Art Book Prize, as well as Local Code: 3,659 Proposals About Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities. With Kathryn Moll, he is principal of Modem, a design practice based in Oakland, Ca. His design work has been exhibited widely, including at the Biennial of the Americas, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Lisbon Architecture Triennial, SFMOMA, and the Chicago MCA. Nicholas has worked with Hopkins Architects in London, and Diller, Scofidio + Renfro in New York. His work on urbanism and urban design has been supported by a variety of sources, including the Santa Fe Institute and the Smithsonian Institution. He is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.
About Geoff Manaugh
Geoff Manaugh is the author of BLDGBLOG and the New York Times bestselling book A Burglar's Guide to the City; A Burglar's Guide was optioned for television by CBS Studios. Manaugh is former director of Studio-X NYC at Columbia University. He has taught graduate design studios at USC and Columbia GSAPP. In addition to curating exhibitions for the Nevada Museum of Art, Storefront for Art and Architecture, and USC Libraries, he has lectured internationally at the Bauhaus Universität, the Australian National Architecture Conference, the Bartlett School of Architecture, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, SCI-Arc, and Harvard University, among others. Manaugh regularly covers urbanism, technology, and design for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, New Scientist, and many other publications. He is currently working on a book about the history and future of quarantine with writer Nicola Twilley to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2018.