Bauhaus Lab 2020: A Concrete for the “Other Half”

Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

04.05.2020 - 01.08.2020

About the Programme

The brick depicted above is being preserved as part of the archival holdings of the Canadian Centre for Architecture on the work of the Minimum Cost Housing Group (MCHG). Founded at the McGill University School of Architecture in the early 1970s with the goal of analysing “How the other half builds,” the MCHG focused on practices of building and dwelling in developing countries. The group’s research and project work, including experiments with Sulphur concrete, were part of a paradigm shift in the discourse on the housing crises of the global South. Measures such as slum clearances and resettlement, often financed by the World Bank or other international organisations to counter the hardships of the “urban poor,” were mere expressions of the functionalist logics propagated by the construction industries in capitalist societies. Many architects and planners criticised the destruction of existing structures and practices of communal dwelling that went along with these measures, and shifted their focus to informal and vernacular building practices. The notion of Habitat, already discussed in the 1953 CIAM meeting, shaped the approaches to the human settlement problems of the poor from the 1970s onwards. The Sulphur concrete brick, developed in 1972, serves as a point of departure for the 2020 edition of the Bauhaus Lab: the participants are invited to engage with the collection of documents and materials on the Minimum Cost Housing Group held by the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, also considering the archival practices surrounding the preservation of these holdings. How does the process of archiving, as a Western instrument of accumulating and storing knowledge, perpetuate hierarchies and mechanisms of exclusion? Which materials and documents are being preserved, which ones are dismissed? The Bauhaus Lab assesses the delicate mechanisms of recording and documenting the fluid and vibrant practices of expressed by the concept of Habitat, and attempts to reconsider the activist demands made in the 1970s by proponents of an “anthropology of dwelling” in the light of the debates on the notion of cohabitation in the Anthropocene. The findings of this collective research will be presented in an exhibition in the Bauhaus Building, curated and designed by the participants of the programme. The exhibition opening will be embedded in a three-day gathering, titled “Bauhaus Study Rooms”, where students, teachers, activists, designers, architects and scholars involved in the various educational programs run by the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation’s Academy department reflect upon the relation of the Habitat concept to current and historical teaching and learning practices in architecture and design. About Bauhaus Lab Bauhaus Lab is a three-month research residency for scholars and practitioners in the fields of architecture, design, and curating. Participation is free, and all participants will be provided with workspaces in the Bauhaus Building. Furthermore, participants receive a contribution toward their housing expenses, and a modest per diem. The programme includes a series of field trips (both national and international); the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation covers travel and accommodation expenses incurred during these excursions. Residents are expected to be present on site during the entire period of the programme, to contribute to the collective research, and to meet regularly with the programme organisers for follow-up and feedback. The programme is conducted in English.

About Us

The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation is an artistic-scientific Foundation with the mission of preserving and passing on the ideas and themes of the Bauhaus. The Foundation’s work is historically reflexive and simultaneously investigates the present-day relevance and contemporary potentials that may be derived from the Bauhaus legacy for the twenty-first century. The years which the Bauhaus spent in Dessau (1925–1932) are regarded as the heyday of the school founded in Weimar in 1919. The current heritage, which yields the spectrum of the Foundation’s work, is accordingly extensive.


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