Over the last two weeks, 6th -17th September, 10 TACK ESRs and 7 external participants converged on Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) in Rotterdam for the TACK summer school, “Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge: 20th Century Architecture Summer Schools”. The summer school was organised by the ESR based at ETH Zurich, Hamish Lonergan, as the outcome of his secondment at HNI, under the supervision of Dirk van den Heuvel (HNI and TU Delft), Tom Avermaete (ETH Zurich) and Janina Gosseye (TU Delft). “Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge” explored the tacit knowledge of summer schools themselves through a set of experimental research methods including fictocriticism, performance and re-enactment.
We began with the hypothesis that these methods might help us understand the embodied and social knowledge of these recurring moments of educational exchange; the tacit knowledge that remains difficult to discern through the explicit documents of their archives alone. The programme followed two broad trajectories. The first phase established a theoretical and historical background through a series of seminars: on performance and re-enactment in architectural education, by Angelika Schnell and Eva Sommeregger; on CIAM, Team 10 and the office of Van den Broek and Bakema by Dirk van den Heuvel; on fictocriticism and writing architecture by Hélène Frichot; on the practice of “reading” the city at the International Laboratory for Architecture and Urban Design (ILAUD) by Elke Couchez; on ILAUD and its first director, Giancarlo de Carlo, by Paolo Ceccarelli and Giulio Verdini; and on re-enactment as an artistic practice by Claudia Slanar. The first week also included a public lecture delivered by Albena Yaneva on “Archival Ways of Knowing”, organised in collaboration with Thursday Night Live!
At the same time, we engaged in more informal discussions with members of the TACK network and conducted archival research, searching for traces of various summer schools in the HNI holdings. As a first experiment in the methods of the summer school, we re-enacted a Super 8 film from the personal archive of Jaap Bakema of the so-called “burial of CIAM”, transposed from the 1959 CIAM meeting at Otterlo to the garden of Het Niewe Instituut. It was also a fantastic ice-breaker.
In the second phase, we applied what we had learnt to a re-enactment of one particular summer school: the 1986 ILAUD workshop. In groups, we were assigned a brief set by Giancarlo de Carlo for the charette exercise introduced at ILAUD 1986 and given the same time period of three days to complete a design proposal for a new site in Rotterdam: the Van den Broek and Bakema designed Lijnbaan. But the real difference, this time, was that each group was asked to complete the charette “in character” as one of the schools which participated in the early years of ILAUD, tasked with unearthing the tacit knowledge of that particular pedagogical “community of tacit knowledge”. On the final day, each group delivered a final “performance” to a panel of TACK and HNI members, combining their drawings, films and texts with more theatrical dialogues and presentations, “in character” as their assigned school.
So what did we learn? On one level, the rapid pace of the re-enactment encouraged us to draw, and otherwise produce work, in the same tangible and analogue way as students in the 1970s and 80s, often at a very large scale. The embodied and material reality of their production focused attention on certain tacit qualities which might have gone unnoticed otherwise: their relationship to particular philosophical positions or epistemes (participation, formalism, phenomenology etc.) or styles of drawing. On another level, the act of performance pushed many of us out of our comfort zone, while nonetheless generating productive speculations on embodied and social tacit knowledge: particular presentations styles, forms of group discussion, dynamics between teachers and students, and ways of seeing and experiencing the city. Still, these reflections remain preliminary, and there is still much work to be done in unpacking and reflecting on the results of the summer school.
“Re-enacting Tacit Knowledge” was also the first network event held in person since the first Foundational Course, coincidentally hosted at the same institute in March 2020. It was a reminder that informal moments — shared meals, after studio drinks, conversations in the stairwell — are as important for summer schools as the formal seminars and activities. Indeed, as we observed, it is often in these moments that a group of individuals from different cultural and pedagogical backgrounds really start to come together to form the new, shared “community of tacit knowledge” of the summer school itself.