Unserhaus: looking at here from there
A piece of the Bauhaus landed in the College this week. As part of OurHaus, a UAL festival marking the century of the famous art and design school, Unserhaus presents a temporary space in which students and the public can collaborate and create.
Created by Lucy Alexander (Graphic Communication Design Curriculum Leader for Foundation) and Timothy Meara (Diagnostic Studies Curriculum Leader for Foundation), the space is a replica of one of the 26 bedrooms at the Prellerhaus where Bauhaus staff and students lived. Called ‘Unserhaus’ – German for ‘our house’ – the structure is the setting for workshops and opens that process up to public view.
There’s a satisfying thread joining these two moments across a century as today’s Foundation education has its roots at the Bauhaus, but for Alexander and Meara, it is the differences between then and now that are important: “Rebuilding that space isn’t about rediscovering the Bauhaus and how it worked,” says Meara, “it’s using it as a point to look at here and now from there.”
Unserhaus continues Alexander and Meara’s emphasis on bringing together students to explore their creative practice with a collective purpose. “Our practice takes our community of students as a starting point,” says Alexander, “All the interventions we design are about bringing people together – their bodies and their minds – over an extended duration of time where it has a chance to settle in and take hold.”
“What defines the way we work is the community of students, that’s not reflected at all through the Bauhaus. For example, we don’t have gendered notions of discipline. There’s a diversity of nationality and ethnicity and that hugely impacts how we form our community and deliver what we hope is an international creative education.”
For Unserhaus, every day brings a new group of students, from across curriculum areas, together for 12 hours and presents them with a brief to navigate. Remits are experimental and minimal, for example the final day asks six students who all speak different first languages to avoid speaking and when they must to only use their first language. By the end of the workshop, the collective is tasked to produce a shared language – be it visual, physical or aural – through which they can communicate.
Previous projects have seen four students living in a spaceship on the College roof for over four days and last year’s Beautiful Fictions project in which 120 Foundation students occupied their course building overnight. What’s key is that the tutors are not part of the group. “What defines these interventions is that the tutor is removed, the students have autonomy,” explains Meara, “They become a community with their own rules. Sharing things in a social dynamic rather than an educational dynamic can be powerful.”