Reading List

List Author

Matias del Campo

University of Michigan

Designing for Science Tourism

This reading list is adapted from the thesis studio, “The New Grand Tour,” that I co-taught with Sandra Manninger for second-year Master’s students at Taubman College, University of Michigan. Students were asked to plan a visitor center for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, in Switzerland, as part of its major expansion and renovation.

The studio explored the challenge of combining the site of the most advanced scientific research on the composition of matter with a tourist destination. The students were encouraged to engage with the nature of the research taking place at CERN, and the implications of the organization’s work to better understand space and matter for the practice of architecture. The scale of the project presented many opportunities and challenges. The next phase in the development at CERN is the extension of the currently operating Large Hadron Collider (LHC), by the new Future Circular Collider (FCC). The new collider will have a circumference of around 90 to 100 kilometers, cut into the rock of the Alps around Geneva at a depth of around 300m, and includes several large scale caverns for the individual experiments. For comparison, the LHC – the largest machine ever built by humankind – has a circumference of 27 kilometers. The students were tasked with thinking of the visitor center as be more than just an exhibit space and a gift shop, and engaging with the full scale of the campus and its uses.

Although the FCC is a largely an engineering problem, the main challenge of the seminar was to explore the transformation of a tamed problem to a wicked problem, how these relate to each other, and how they can be culturally imprinted. As the architecture in question here is an architecture for things (particles, myons and gluons) as much as for humans, it fosters questions about the nature of a critical exploration of the relationship between object and context. The studio explored how contemporary techniques utilize devices such as spatial compositing, surface treatment, and novel manipulations of material. The students were primarily focused on possibilities of speculative realism and deeply engaged in the relationships between space and object. Their projects worked through aspects of representation (code, rendering, film) to aspects of material manipulation (for example light, articulation, pattern, concrete), from spatial configurations dominated by delicate lines, to the coarse raw and dark atmosphere of the concrete caverns. The studio was awarded a 2018 Studio Prize from Architect Magazine, which recognized the deep connections between the students’ work and the specificities of the site.

[Image: “Wanderweg,” by Westley Burger, Feier Lan, and Dongfang Xie, University of Michigan.]

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