Advanced Studio, Spring 2011: Leet

  • Work by Rebecca Castellon for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
    Work by Rebecca Castellon for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
  • Work by Rebecca Castellon for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
    Work by Rebecca Castellon for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
  • Work by Elizabeth Keane for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
    Work by Elizabeth Keane for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
  • Work by Nathaniel Elberfeld for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
    Work by Nathaniel Elberfeld for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
  • Work by Kerry O'Connor for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
    Work by Kerry O'Connor for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
  • Work by Kerry O'Connor for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.
    Work by Kerry O'Connor for advanced studio taught by Stephen Leet, Spring 2011.

Advanced Studio, Spring 2011
Incompatible Partners: A 21st-century Vertical Monastery/Convent + Kunsthalle

Stephen Leet, Professor

The project for this comprehensive studio explores the architectural relationship between incompatible partners—a relic from the past and an international contemporary phenomenon—through the design of a 21st-century monastic building and contemporary art center (kunsthalle) vertically superimposed within the historic center of Florence, Italy.

The two programs—monastic reflection and the exhibition of contemporary art—seem to have little in common; the former is inherently conservative, pious, insular, and rooted in liturgical traditions and spiritual beliefs, while the latter is public, secular, and preoccupied with change, spectacle, and novelty. As cultural institutions, the types of architectural spaces preferred in kunsthalles differ from those of the monastery, privileging flexibility over specificity. Divergent elements also extend to the choice and appropriateness of materials, which are foreground in monastic architecture but background in contemporary art spaces, in deference to the presence and materiality of installed and exhibited contemporary art.

The typological transgression of the studio is the idea of a vertical monastery. By tradition, monasteries are organized as horizontal enterprises, with residential quarters, shared liturgical spaces, and the bounded outdoor spaces of their cloisters. How can a program type whose landscape has been horizontal for centuries become vertically organized, and, at the same time, nested within a building displaying contemporary art?

The site itself poses challenges that must be reconciled. Florence has resisted the presence of contemporary architecture for centuries, viewing it as an incompatible irritant disturbing the historic fabric of the preserved medieval city. Students must confront the antagonism of this historical city toward contemporary architecture in their projects, examining the philosophical differences and similarities between contemporary art and monastic reflection.