Wednesday, April 10, 2013
While mud, mold, straw, salt, sawdust, sand, garbage, overgrowth and paper may seem like materials outside of the realm of architecture, when these materials are organized in particular ways or contexts, they can reveal issues related to poverty, politics, technology and the relationships between people and the environment. Ron Rael will discuss how material provenance in his and his students’ work can have meaningful implications in the production of architecture. Rael is an assistant professor at Berkeley and an architect at the Oakland-based studio Rael San Fratello.
Ronald Rael is an architect, author, and assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley with joint appointments in the Departments of Architecture and Art Practice. Prior to joining the faculty at Berkeley he was the co-director of Clemson University’s Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research, Urban Studies in Genova, Italy, and coordinator of Clemson’s Core Digital Foundation Architecture Studios. He has been a member of the design faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, and a senior instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned his Master of Architecture degree at Columbia University in New York, where he was the recipient of the William Kinne Memorial Fellowship. He is the author of Earth Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press 2008), a history of building with earth in the modern era to exemplify new, creative uses of the oldest building material on the planet.
Rael’s research seeks creative strategies for activism to permeate architectural design culture. Drawing from movements in the 1960s, such as the Chicano and land art movements, particularly the protest by land artists against a-contextuality, plastic aesthetics and the commercialization of art, and the Chicano use of the concept rasquachismo, which the artist, writer and Mac Arthur fellow Amalia Mesa-Bains defines as a tactic where “… the irreverent and spontaneous are employed to make the most from the least…[where] one has a stance that is both defiant and inventive. Aesthetic expression comes from discards, fragments, even recycled everyday materials…” Without making direct formal or ethno-cultural references to this work, his research and creative work transforms the practice of architecture into a cultural endeavor—one that is defiant, inventive and tied to contemporary issues and design vocabularies. The work relies upon a deep understanding place, and its inherent resources, and makes careful links between a broad spectrum of tools that come from manual, industrial and digital approaches to making architecture.