LONELINESS : Masters Studio at Melbourne School of Design

LONELINESS : Masters Studio at Melbourne School of Design

“You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people.” 
― Olivia LaingThe Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

Christine Murray, the Editor-in-Chief of the Architectural Review, asked her editorial in 2015, ‘Could architecture play a role in curing loneliness?’ While one may question whether she is taking it too far by conflating correlation between architecture and loneliness with its causality, no one can deny the effect the built environment has on the mental health of the occupants. Taking a note of the recent acknowledgement of loneliness as an epidemic, particularly in Australia, and its detrimental effect on health (worse than smoking 15 cigarettes a day), it is indeed a silent crisis taking shape, often hiding behind a stigma of admitting to its ubiquitous presence. There is a spatial aspect to this crisis as certain places affords real relationships to foster and some don’t. Ray Oldenburg detailed in his 1989 book the concept of the “Third Place” stressing this point. Employing this crisis as a point of departure and an opportunity for imagining alternative futures, this studio will attempt to first understand the spatial dynamics of this wicked problem, as within sites in Melbourne. Recognizing the complexity of the problem and moving beyond the modernist notion of deploying architecture as a ‘solution’, secondly the studio will proceed to design Response Assemblages (RA) (Briassoulis 2017) as the Final Project thinking about how loneliness can be mitigated, not through social engineering, but rather by creating affordances (Gibson 1966, Ingold 2000). Applying the concept of Agencement (assemblage) from Deleuze and Guattari, RA is a speculative alliance of architectural formmaking, text and media output, tactical urban adaptations, landscape strategies, social innovations and novel financial arrangements.  This transdisciplinary studio methodology towards approaching a social issue is instructive for the students to stress the importance of collaborative problem-solving. The studio will invite architects, social psychologists and urban thinkers working on the issue of loneliness both from within Australia and abroad. The wicked crises of the 21st century will require a change in pedagogical methods and outcomes moving beyond the disciplinary silos, and this studio is an experimentation towards that end.


Studio outcomes:

* Gain an understanding of the social and political role of design, architecture and urbanism. * Value social resilience and develop a holistic notion of sustainability.

* Practice collaborative problem-solving moving beyond disciplinary silos.

* Question the prevalent practices of architecture and urbanism that are unaware of social consequences.

* Experiment with forms of drawing social interactions in built environment. * A publication with the studio materials.


Studio Format:

*Week 1-4: Designing the question (site investigation, precedent analysis)

*Week 5: Design Charrette (Speculation)

* Week 6: Mid-semester Reviews (Reflection and Feedback)

* Week 7-10: Design Development (Synthesis)

* Week 11-12: Design Representation (Narrative)


Studio Design Scope:

The studio outcome can range from designing urban artefacts such as a hugging booth, designing pop-up parks, sub-urban retrofitting to a utopian speculation on anti-lonely city! Responses are based on student investigations, therefore, no pre-given site, program or even project!  


Reading list:

Colin Ellard, Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life (2015)

Sarah W. Goldhagen, Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives (2017)

Ann Sussman & Justin B Hollander, Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment (2014)

Philip Tidwell (Ed.), Architecture and Empathy (2015)

Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2001)

Bill Bishop. The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (2009)

Eric Klinenberg, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (2013)

Eric Klinenberg, Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (2018)

Jeremy Rifkin, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis (2009)

John T. Cacioppo, William Patrick, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (2009)

Ben Lazare Mijuskovic, Loneliness in Philosophy, Psychology, and Literature (2012)

Mathew Lieberman, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect (2014)


Could architecture play a role in curing loneliness?





















from the movie _ Her (2013)

John Cacioppo: The Lethality of Loneliness

Sarah Goldhagen : Welcome to your world ! How the built environment shapes our lives

ULTRADENSE URBANISM WORKSHOP: reporting from Karail, Dhaka, Bangladesh

ULTRADENSE URBANISM WORKSHOP: reporting from Karail, Dhaka, Bangladesh

THE IDIOT, THE ACTIVIST and the DREAMER: A Matrix Manifesto for Empathic Architecture and Urbanism

THE IDIOT, THE ACTIVIST and the DREAMER: A Matrix Manifesto for Empathic Architecture and Urbanism