We Are Never Naked. Insulation As A Performing Surface

Matina Kousidi, Politecnico di Milano, I / Eva Sopeoglou, University of Hertfordshire, UK / Joanna Pierce, Central Saint Martins, UK

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If “a snowy landscape may be rendered fit by means of a ski-suit, gloves, boots and a balaclava” (Banham 1960) and the erection of solid walls is no longer a prerequisite for architecture, then the analogies between dwelling and dress are brought to the fore. Covered in layers of down feathers, waterproof yet breathable textiles and fluorescent polyesters, the body carries its own portable dwelling, so as to accommodate to the climate of the great outdoors. Complementing a long-time enthusiasm for the cross between architecture and dress, this workshop revisits the
threshold between interior and exterior realms: the element of insulation as a performing surface. Through theoretical, hands-on and combined research, it focuses on the role of insulation, as a feature of division, definition and regulation, but also as an element that corresponds to diverse terrains – disciplinary or contextual.

At a time when the well-established building and bodily exteriors stand on thin ice, due to the rising technological advances, the workshop participants will be provided with insights into different manifestations of insulating space or the body. Equipped with the conceptual and material tools, they will probe the liminal surface that surrounds the body in temperatures below zero, whilst taking part in a social, multidisciplinary and creative performance. Exploring the hypothesis that “we are never outside without having recreated another more artificial, more fragile, more engineered envelope” (Latour 2011), they will be called to reflect on notions of envelopment and nakedness, of comfort and discomfort, of impermeability and porosity, of surface and volume and so on. They will hence gain knowledge of the multi-disciplinary discourse on bodily envelopment from within the terrains of spatial, dress and textile design. The better we understand the visible and invisible layers that accommodate us in different temperatures, the more diversely we will address the design of future environments; winter gear is just the tip of the iceberg.