Re-For-MAT

Re-For-MAT is a critique of Berlin's Free University designed by Georges Candilis, Alexis Josic and Shadrach Woods in 1965. Next to the ordinary means of architectural representation - such as diagrams, plans and sections - the architects used a manual as a generative device for design. This manual, structured around a set of 13 synthetic rules and limitations, contained all the necessary information for the implementation of the design.

The Free University manual was an internal design and communication tool, originally composed by the architects in order to clearly communicate construction principles and establish a common groundwork for the different agents that would bring the project to its realization. At the same time, the manual was open to interpretation and criticism that reflected underlying cultural tendencies. 

Re-For-MAT reuses the manual as an open source generative mechanism for this thesis project tracking step by step each principle and its potential redefinition. In analogy to the Free University manual Re-For-MAT follows two parallel strands of investigation: A theoretical research departing from the original manual leading through translation, interpretation and diagrammatic abstraction on one hand, and, a design research testing the urban, volumetric, structural and topographic aspects of the transformed 'mat-typology' on the other.By re-inserting the mat into the very center of the city the project provokes a series of architectural and urbanistic reactions that the Free University could not have triggered due to its peripheral location. Transposed from Berlin's south western suburbs to the nexus of historical, political and cultural activity in Berlin Alexanderplatz, the mat accommodates, adjusts and reorganizes its internal structure, intending to fulfill the urbanistic aspirations of the former project. The new mat reacts to this context in section, facade and elevation in addition to its stratified plan. As consequence the new mat lifts up from the ground, liberating a landscape at street-level and doubling it on the roof. The new mat inflates giving way to the emergence of local discrete elements within the global system. The mat is a strategy for design as well as a design result. Equally the manual is a condition to, and a product of, the design process. Re-For-MAT liberates the creative potential of the original scheme and offers a critical comment to the current discussion on historicist reconstructions in Berlin. Eventually, my proposal renders a rule-based system that mediates between the contextual framework of the cultural and geographic limitations of my site in Berlin and the internal structure of the manual.

Re-For-MAT - Re-Formatting Berlin's Free University, Berlin Germany.
Thesis project Princeton University, 2007 / Aurel von Richthofen

Updating the Mat-Typology
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