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Helen & Hard’s relational design method, which explores ‘the mutual influence of concept, process, context, spatial organization, material and human resources’

On 13 March at the Design Museum, the London School of Architecture and Drawing Matter will stage Design Directions: Strategies for Synthesising Complexity, with speakers Anthony Vidler (Yale), Siv Helene Stangeland (Helen & Hard), Nigel Coates (LSA), Liza Fior (muf) and Madelon Vriesendorp (OMA)

Historian and critic Anthony Vidler will talk about Beyond the Diagram, which will reference the essay In Praise of Hands by Henri Focillon in The Life of Forms in Art

Architecture is the nexus of all disciplines, sitting between the humanities and sciences, the subjective and objective, ranging from personal experience to environmental performance. Today architects must synthesise a staggering array of issues to create successful architecture and cities. External forces – from finance and politics to ecology and society – shape architecture. Designers make these invisible forces visible in built form.

But how can designers best synthesise these complex and competing requirements and desires into their work? How can they go about bringing some hierarchy to the chaos in order to make spatial proposals? Exploring ways to develop designs through different modes of representation and communication, Design Directions presents five complementary approaches:

  • Anthony Vidler – Beyond the Diagram
  • Siv Helene Stangeland – Relational Design
  • Liza Fior – Observation as Proposition
  • Nigel Coates – Narrative Architecture
  • Madelon Vriesendorp – Meaning and Metaphor

The event will take place 1pm-5pm on Monday 13 March at the Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG. If you would like to attend, please email stephanie@the-lsa.org to enquire about a place on our limited guest list. If the LSA guest list is full, tickets are available directly from the Design Museum, with their usual levels of discount for students.

Baroccabilly by Nigel Coates, 2010. (Courtesy of Cristina Grajales Gallery)


Painting by Madelon Vriesendorp for a book on Postmodernism by Charles Jencks


Nigel Coates is a celebrated British architect and designer. In 1984, he founded NATO (Narrative Architecture Today) as both architecture group and eponymous magazine. His portfolio includes the Geffrye Museum in London and the Body Zone in the Millennium Dome. In 1995 Nigel was appointed head of the Department of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, and in 2011 he departed to help found the London School of Architecture, where he is now Chair of the Academic Court.

Liza Fior is principal and founding partner of muf architecture/art. The work of the practice negotiates between the built and social fabric, public and private, in projects that have mainly been focused in East London. Elsewhere, muf has produced urban strategies for Pittsburgh, Cologne and Bordeaux. Projects range from urban design schemes to small-scale temporary interventions, landscapes and buildings—a continual dialogue between detail and strategy. In 2012, muf were the creative directors of the British Pavilion in Venice.

Siv Helene Stangeland is a co-founder with Reinhard Kropf of the Norwegian practice Helen & Hard. Their book Relational Design (2012) asks ‘What is the best way to approach architecture with an ecological awareness?’ Seeing design as a vehicle for an interdisciplinary process, their method is to create adaptable compositions of spatial organisation, which can include necessary feedback from experts, future users, the environment, material properties, cost, fabrication, or other agencies. Helen & Hard received RIBA international fellowship in 2017.

Madelon Vriesendorp is an artist, whose work has been exhibited internationally for many decades. She is co-founder of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture with Rem Koolhaas and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis. Paintings she produced at the time were used for book and magazine covers, notably of Delirious New York (1978) by Rem Koolhaas. From the mid 1980s she taught art and design at a number of schools, including the Architectural Association. In 2009, she received an Honorable Fellowship from the RIBA.

Anthony Vidler is the former dean of the Cooper Union School of Architecture, before which he taught at Princeton and UCLA. His most recent books include The Scenes of the Street and Other Essays (Monacelli Press, 2011), James Frazer Stirling: Notes from the Archive (Yale Press, 2010), and Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism (MIT Press, 2008). He is currently the Vincent Scully Visiting Professor of Architectural History at Yale University.