Pedro Daniel Pantaleone (TUDelft) designs imperfect architecture for Degtjarsk, Siberia, with waste material for after the catastrophe: a humble approach to the unraveling of civilization. This translates into the embracement of counter-aesthetics and the prospect of failure and perpetual crisis as valuable design elements. The project breaks free from the premise of power and control that designing through technical methods has. It breaks free from the positivist and heroic grounds of architecture as a solution-oriented operation. It imagines the role of design as an infrastructure for rehabilitation and care-taking.
Can you (briefly) explain your choice of subject?
As we head towards scenarios of radical resource depletion and more frequent cataclysms linked to climate change, waste products still accumulate drastically. Territory and trans-gression designs architecture after the catastrophe and works on alternative methodologies for a sustainable resilience.
The project site is Degtjarsk, a small town in the industrial core of Siberia where processes of mineral exploitation have heavily deteriorated the territory. Here, the spatial intervention proposes a humble approach to the unraveling of civilization as preparation for collateral damage. It imagines the role of design as an infrastructure for rehabilitation and care-taking. A step-back and re-orientation of technical efforts towards the dysfunctional and the provisional using informal and improvisational methods to define re-building our debris as a collective operation.
What or who are your sources of inspiration, and can you briefly explain this?
I strongly believe the crisis we are facing today calls for a redefinition of meaning and practices rather than a challenge to be tackled with problem-solving and hefty technical efforts. We don’t need more and better things, we need to rethink what “more” and “better” mean. For this reason, I draw mainly from a philosophical and research-oriented approach to architecture, to investigate the meaning of materials as opposed to solutions from materials. Even though controversial at times I have to acknowledge Heidegger as a strong influence in my work during my student years. I consider his take on technology and the latent theory of embodiment that emerges from his work, as valuable points of discussion for the field of architecture today. I am also very interested in post-human thinking, and take this as the starting point of most of my work. Radicalizing the crisis is what we must do and post-human philosophy is clearing up the path for that, contaminating the boundaries between artifacts, bodies, and identity.
On a “strictly” architectonic level I feel very close to Lebbeus Woods aesthetically and thematically and to gothic architecture methodologically. The aftermath of a shredded unity as it takes shape in medieval architectonic culture of verbal and situated expertise strongly resonates with the intentions of the project. It influenced the poetic and aesthetic dimension of Territory and Trans-gression letting the underlying method shape geometry.
State and (briefly) describe the key moment in your graduation project
The key moment in Territory and Trans-gression is the peak (or abyss) where concepts and materiality meet.
Digging deep into the meaning of waste and debris, I realized that designing with leftovers calls for a radical shift in one of the -still dominant- paradigms of architecture after modernism: optimization.
From a post-catastrophic point of view, garbage is a triple-A: abundant, available, and affordable. On the other hand, it is structurally weak and unreliable. It needs care and over-compensation with quantity-over-quality logic to be designed and built with. Most importantly it dodges control and precision: it cannot be designed with a blueprint, and it demands contingent trial-and-error practices that account for its unpredictability.
Seeing how a discarded piece of wood – useless, decaying, weathered, rotten – can achieve so much conceptually and politically was eye-opening and exciting.
As we head towards scenarios of radical resource depletion and more frequent cataclysms linked to climate change, waste products still accumulate drastically. Territory and Trans-gression designs architecture after the catastrophe and works on alternative methodologies for sustainable resilience.
The project’s starting point is the technogenesis of Degtyarsk. A small town in the industrial core of Siberia where processes of mineral exploitation have gone so far as to create a new ecology of corrupted landscapes and scattered derelicts.
In this scenario, Territory and Trans-gression provides catalytic spatial solutions aimed at social and environmental rehabilitation. Low-functional improvised structures built with waste materials develop into more complex configurations providing infrastructural support for the local community to build with debris.
The result is a clinical intervention that develops in cumulative phases and leads to the production of an urban workshop for Degtyarsk.
Territory and Trans-gression embraces counter-aesthetics and the prospect of failure and perpetual crisis as valuable design elements.
It gives voice to the post-human ecology of Degtyarsk, exploring the paradox of designing imperfection and breaking free from the premise of power and control of technical design.
The project proposes instead an alternative methodology experimenting with trial-and-error and contingent building methods.
A humble approach to the unraveling of civilization as preparation for collateral damage that imagines the role of design as an infrastructure for rehabilitation and care-taking.
Cleaning up some of the mess that the positivistic and heroic grounds of architecture as a solution-oriented operation have left behind.
Pedro Daniel Pantaleone
What are you doing now?
I have started my independent practice in Rotterdam, Studio-Method, together with a friend out of joint interests in the topic of re-generative design, improvisation, materiality, waste, and a shared sense of enthusiasm for the exploration of radical design alternatives.
We now do Survivalist design and experiment with the practical implications of the methods and findings of the thesis at different scales ranging from spatial installations to furniture design. I have shifted the focus of my work towards a more artistic direction participating with the studio in an art residency at Foreland Studios since February. This allows me to operate more between theory and aesthetics through material explorations and research. A direction I had partially started during the last phases of this project.
Alongside this independent operation, I also work with Studio Ossidiana, a practice in Rotterdam where I found like-minded people that I feel very close to intellectually. The studio works on expanding the relations between animals and architecture with materiality as a link, following a post-human line of inquiry that intertwines with my independent activity.
What hope / do you want to achieve as a designer in the near and / or the distant future?
I feel nostalgic for a future we have never had.
Having worked around themes of catastrophe and apocalypse I understood that the way out of our crisis will be more of a radical intersection and less of a movement forward. Hopes go hand in hand with failures, and space is created by embracing this entanglement. It urges solidarity and a sense of community, it is relational and humble, fragile. To put it in Robert Pepperell’s words: “the future never comes” and so we stay in the present, together.