Mergold Participates in Slovenia Biennial
Austin + Mergold (A+M), the firm of architecture's Assistant Professor Aleksandr Mergold and Jason Austin (B.Arch. '00), was an invited participant of the 24th Biennial of Design (Bienale Oblikovanja, BIO 50) in Ljubljana, Slovenia this fall.
Engaging designers and multidisciplinary agents from Slovenia and abroad, BIO 50 created 11 teams to work on a wide range of topics addressing local and global demands. A+M's team, Affordable Living, was charged with questioning and exploring the urban phenomenon of large numbers of unused buildings coinciding with a lack of affordable housing. Using this trend as a backdrop, the team developed strategies and tactics aimed at making contemporary affordable living a reality. Together with Assistant Professor Georg Rafailidis of SUNY Buffalo, another invited participant at BIO 50, A+M created a North American sub-group, titled Affordable Owning, which took on various models of habitation ownership.
A+M's submission was titled H.A.U.S. (Habitable Affordable Utility System), a project that "seeks not to redesign or reinvent every aspect of prefabricated housing," according to the project brief. H.A.U.S. combines a kit of already existing, widely available elements that can be chosen from a catalog of existing typical parts, with a software-driven assembly sequence. "H.A.U.S. can be quickly shipped to the site by a parcel delivery service and put together by a fairly inexperienced crew, including the future residents," says Mergold. "Like Lego, Erector, or Meccano sets, the enclosed instructions can be followed or completely ignored, resulting in a totally new structure for a particular use, activity, or program that was never intended in the original design. Like a play set, the H.A.U.S. system is also meant to stimulate the user's creativity, curiosity, and a joy of communal building."
Team mentors Tadej Glažar, architect and professor with the faculty of architecture, University of Ljubljana; and Rianne Makkink, architect and designer, cofounder of Studio Makkink & Bey, assisted with the creation of the team's projects during the Biennial.
In addition, the Cornell summer vertical design studio, taught by Mergold, also took on the Affordable Living challenge. Students submitted 13 projects on the subject to BIO 50, including proposals for reuse of the now-underutilized Sibley Dome. Each project was packaged into a standard Priority Mail flat-rate shipping box and mailed to Ljubljana, where the boxes were transformed into project models and put on display in the Ljubljana Museum of Architecture through early December.
Since its founding in 1964, BIO has examined the state of contemporary design from the heart of Central Europe. According to their website, "BIO has seen design transition from its birth at the crossroads of industrialization and modernism towards a discipline that permeates all layers of everyday life."
By Rebecca Bowes