Topic outline

  • Topic

    Re:public - Helsinki


    “If the new language of images were used differently, it would, through its use, confer a new kind of power. Within it we could begin to define our experiences more precisely in areas where words are inadequate. (Seeing comes before words.) Not only personal experience, but also the essential historical experience of our relation to the past: that is to say the experience of seeking to give meaning to our lives, of trying to understand the history of which we can become the active agents.”

    John Berger, Ways of Seeing

    Originally a name for a group of like-minded architects, over the years Re:public evolved into a concept of action, a way of seeing and interpreting the environment. In this text, it will also be referred to as an agent in its own right, independent of ones who adopt its philosophy. For Re:public, the city is the center of attention. It calls for the renewal the way we regard the city. Its name reflects the original derivation of republic - res publica - that which belongs to the people, the public realm, our common ground.

    In the summer of 2014, a group of architects, teachers and researchers based in Zürich, held a week-long drawing exercise in Zagreb. In the drawing exercise, the representational technique they chose to employ was the oblique drawing, a mode of drawing with a long and varied history. Each drawing, made by pairs of students, used the cadastral map for its basis. Thus, the exact geometry and relations between the elements were preserved while the drawings were given a vertical dimension. In the summer of 2016, a similar drawing exercise was conducted in the picturesque city of Motovun and its idyllic environment. The result of both exercises was a collection of drawings that tell the stories of two cities and their places.

    Between the monuments of a city and its well-defined places; between its squares, streets and districts there is a kind of space that is usually only subliminally registered. These are places that to many might seem dislocated, unremarkable - or they might be places that remain unseen, obscured by their location or by their ubiquity. These are spaces that are in-between or throughout what we normally consider to be places: spaces that exist in parallel, alongside the familiar. As Giorgio Morandi reminds us:

    “It is the ‘in-between’ that is important in understanding space. Emptiness is a wonderful word: it presents us with possibilities.”

    These spaces are part of the subject at hand: but Re:public sees them not as a kind of exotica, as curiosities, but rather as offering a complementary series of archetypical figures that are part of the language of the city - our common heritage, our common culture. In isolating these spaces, you have to choose where to begin and end; to judge their extents, and depict their edges and thresholds, carefully observing these aspects. In making islands of them, considering them by themselves, removed, at least visually, from the topography in which they are normally embedded, one is able to assume a new way of seeing them. A way of seeing that can then be shared. These spaces are fundamentally architectural because they depend on precise geometry and the relationships between elements for their very character. This is why Re:public carefully traces the territory that it encloses or includes, and seeks to represent it in a way that is not fanciful, but exacting and visionary.

    Drawing is a fundamental tool for architects and designers of all kinds. They see drawing as part of a common language with which architects might better speak to the world at large. To draw things selectively and carefully is an antidote to the illusion of omniscience that GIS-based mapping promises, as well as the overwhelming volume of information such mapping involves. The mode of drawing also reaffirms the essential subjective character of the image of the city. In drawing one is forced to make conscious choices about what to show and using what means. The ethical demand is, of course, that one aims to reveal rather than obscure. One is liberated, however, in re-orienting and re-scaling the space depicted to show its true affinities and enhance the potential of these archetypes. In recovering these spaces and placing them within this larger culture - marking out a wider territory - a shared vision begins to emerge, one that is capable of guiding our collective actions.

    Such archetypes are a source of latent potential for the city today. Particular expressions of these, once reinterpreted and represented, can sustain a shared imagination and form the basis of specific concrete propositions, supporting the public imagination of the city itself. Why embark on such a project? A greater literacy of urban form would improve the quality of the discourse surrounding the city - an antidote to present object-oriented and solution-based fixations - glossy images of buildings serving the desires of everyone apart from the public itself.  These modes of approaching the city are full of imagination, but not fanciful. This is both appropriate and powerful, for the world is pervaded by imagination, by human ideas and values, and requires our imagination, in turn, to fully interpret it. These modes include the speculative, the metaphorical, the associative. The mode of thought, however, is never obscured, but open to participation.

    The power of such modes of thought and production, centered around the act of drawing, may be capable of renewing our vision for the actuality and potential of places. In other words, they might help us draw ourselves into place, to find points of departure to act, to take an active part in the future of our civic life.

    In Basics: Digital Storytelling course, Re:public brings its philosophy and modus operandi to Helsinki. Basics: Digital Storytelling is a course for first semester architecture, landscape architecture and interior architecture students. Its intention is to expose students to critical observation of their immediate environment and to employ digital drawing as a storytelling device. It is a short but intensive course lasting for six weeks, with weekly inputs and assignment work. Students will work individually to produce drawings which will form a collective body of work, shown side by side as they tell the story of a city and its spaces. This course’s content and topic are designed together with TEN Studio, members of which have initiated and conducted previous Re:public drawing exercises.


    (Note: The above text is adapted from “Drawing oneself into place” written by Philip Shelley, which appeared as an introduction to the first Re:public exhibition catalogue in 2014)

    Course goal

    Didactic goal of the course is to engage students with the digital tools they will use daily in their professional work in design offices. Rather than focus on the design task (which is the focus of design courses), the students are required to learn 2D vector drawing digital workflow and apply it as a storytelling device to a specific assignment. For this course students will use Rhino software due to its versatility and generic nature. The assignment consists of producing one 2D vector drawing which exhibits student’s observation and interpretation skills as well as basic familiarity with the CAD drawing software.


    Learning outcomes        


    The students will learn basics of 2D vector drawing in Rhino and develop their skills through working on a single speculative drawing. At the end of the course the students will gain familiarity with the CAD software and gain confidence to continue developing their digital drawing and modeling skills further through design courses.


    Assignment deliverables


    1 x PDF vector line drawing, black and white

    Assessment methods and criteria


    Students will be evaluated based on the submitted assignment at the end of the course. The submitted assignment needs to follow the assignment guidelines which will be clearly communicated in the task description together with reference examples at the beginning of the course. Evaluation criteria fall into three groups:



    ·        Assignment is within assigned topic and scope.

    ·        Assignment is submitted on time for evaluation and in correct format.


    ·        Assignment demonstrates student’s ability to engage and work in an independent fashion in the digital design workflow shown in the class.

    ·        Assignment demonstrates that the student invested the designated amount of independent study hours to master the software and equipment used in the digital design workflow shown in the class.



    ·        Assignment demonstrates student’s ability to express and facilitate design ideas in a clear and uncompromised fashion using the digital design workflow shown in the class.



    The course includes 2 hours per week of online teaching through pre-recorded videos, 2 hours of group support session (non-mandatory) and 3 hours of self-learning in the computer lab every week. Additionally, the students are expected to invest additional 3 hours every week for assignment completion. The course takes place in one period and lasts for 6 weeks. Student must finish all pre-recorded online teaching sessions (lectures and tutorials). In order to successfully finish the course, the students must complete and submit the assignment.


    Study material


    Aside from the online lectures and practice sessions, students will be provided with online video tutorials covering the same topics as in the class. These can be used by the students during their self-study hours and are meant to repeat as well as expand on the topics shown in class. Practical information in condensed form will be included in the course hand-outs prepared specifically for the class. All learning materials will be provided to students in digital form. The moto of the course is “Learning by doing” and the students will be required to practice their skills directly on a provided assignment.



    To follow the practice sessions of the course as well as to complete the assignment, you will need to have access to Rhino 7. There are two ways to do this:

    ·        You can access it on computer workstation in the school at various locations. Rhino 7 is available on all Aalto ARTS workstations, for example in R001/A046 computer room or any computer room in Väre building.

    ·        You can purchase Rhino 7 license for your own machine as a student. More information on this site.