I had the pleasure of meeting Norwegian architect Espen Vatn in Chicago at his lecture at the UIC School of Architecture in 2018.
Among the many brilliants projects he showed in this occasion, this one realized with Andrea Pinochet, James Hamilton, Richard Øiestad and Børre Mølstad, simply stood out. The 12 plans and models of In Hannes Meyer Pockets: 12 Life Factories, are in fact an interpretation of Swiss architect and Bauhaus director’s famous requirements for building a house.
Meyer‘s 12 points were a constructed series of parameters that implied the dismantlement of a purely artistic and formal process and the identification of the architect as an “organiser of collective life beyond the constraints of tradition and the nation state”, as brilliantly stated by Amir Djalali (see the further reading section for source). Djalali adds: “The sheer reductionism of Meyer’s ‘building’ has the precise scope of liberating the intrinsic richness of life in all its forms: ‘Because this doctrine of building is close to life’s realities, its theses are constantly changing: because it finds concrete existence in life, its forms are as rich in content as life itself. “Richness is all”.’”
Espen Vatn and his collaborators read each one of Meyer’s points (read the statement for the list) as single architectural projects. In a metaphorical process, the authors seem to reintroduce artistic composition and formal autonomy into play. Rational designs, reductionist in their formal vocabulary (all plans and models are combinations of simple geometrical shapes such as the square, the circle, the triangle), seem to contrast with what is implied in Meyer’s project in the first place: the progressive detachment between the designer and the architectural project, a tendency that is visibly accentuated today by the introduction of digital technologies and parametrization into the design and fabrication process.