Known unknowns and unknown unknowns

As part of our long-standing involvement with the RMIT University School of Architecture and Design, ARM runs an annual design studio for Master of Architecture students. The studio is a single-semester industry-connected subject. Students have a choice of studios run by various architectural practices, individual architects and RMIT staff. We have run a different one annually for eight years.

The current studio focuses on unknowns of the city—those unseen things that interact to create our built environment. ARM Director Mark Raggatt and Associate Tim Pyke are leading it.

At last week’s mid-semester studio symposium, students exhibited works in progress. All are the products of ongoing research and as such are necessarily uncertain: in other words, we are certain about the things we’re uncertain of.

The pink model above is a proposition for the Richmond-Flinders Street Rail Corridor by Holly Zhang, Michael Strack, Monty Balding and Yang Zemin.

Emmi Wegener, Emily Wu and Yingjie Xu’s propositions for the Mernda Rail Corridor

Emmi Wegener, Emily Wu and Yingjie Xu’s propositions for the Mernda Rail Corridor

Mark and Tim say the students have been working as a think tank, or a skunk works at the periphery of ARM’s current practice and thinking. “They’re operating on infrastructural, commercial and residential typologies with the public realm as the common denominator to all exercises. They’re investigating questions such as what unseen structures affect the city’s physical structures, and what the cultural, political and economic DNA of the city is.

“We know that good cities are the product of good governance, good business and good design. We are certain that more than this, good cities are hotbeds of contentions, ideas and cultural production. With knowledge of these things in hand what futures can we predict for Melbourne?”

Aaron Gust, Jingyi How, Lauren Crocket and Lucas Macmillan’s propositions for the new Western Distributor

Aaron Gust, Jingyi How, Lauren Crocket and Lucas Macmillan’s propositions for the new Western Distributor

“There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

—Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense, George W Bush Government.