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ADS4: Party Animals

Nils Skarsten

A London-based designer whose practice focuses on the intersectionality of architectural practice to wider societal issues—including spatial justice (particularly related to domesticity), and what it means to practice ethically. Last year in ADS9 my project, A Blaze of 8000 Lights, explored subverting the subjectivities of social housing in Hong Kong through enabling informalised act of collectivisation, an extension of the domestic street condition, and the politicisation of neon light. The project was nominated for the RIBA London West Student Award

Before studying at the RCA, I worked at Adjaye Associates in London on a wide range of international civic and cultural competitions and live projects. I graduated from Oxford Brookes in 2019 with a first class (hons.), where my final year project was nominated for the Leslie Jones Construction Prize for construction and detailing and the Purcell Prize for contextual response to the brief. 

Show Location: Kensington campus: Darwin Building, Upper ground floor

In face of growing injustice and a state of perpetual crisis, it is the position of this project that many societal issues owe in part their severity to the institution of family. Within the saga ‘future family,’ the domestic realm is posited as the frontier of these injustices—it is where they continually manifest, are often felt most acutely, and thus, offers the aptest site for intervention.

As Umberto Eco posits, the saga “concerns the story of the family.” The representation of family within western sagas both mirrors the prevailing domestic conditions through its choice of cast, sets, and plot, and simultaneously establishes these conditions as consensus—both reflecting the existing condition and equally informing it. This project explores the potential of the saga as a means of subverting the notion of established western domesticity by offering many speculations on alternative family structures and their architectures. It explores how the realm of televisual media might be weaponised to subvert the prevailing condition through advancing televisual media's potential for disseminating alternative notions of what we consider domestic.

The designed outcome of this project is an exploration of spatial strategies of intervention of the domestic realm within the fictional saga that enables future families. Through an episodic investigation into alternative family structures, speculative narratives, world-building, and a reading of emerging family structures, modes of living outside of the western canon can emerge into the public consciousness. These moments of divergence materialise through the construction of the sets that appear onscreen. 

The project is positioned to explore the untapped potential of production design within the realm of televisual media through the construction of spaces narratives are sited within. By occupying the territory of production design within television, the project advances the ability of spaces, props, and objects existing within the film's diegesis to act as a form of storytelling that can both enlighten and empower. 

When the architect occupies the role of the production designer, spaces existing in the televisual realm can become diegetic prototypes themselves that advance the development towards the acceptance of new architectures. The uniquely provisional space of the televised saga can allow for true and fundamental innovation in the relationship between architecture and family. In the face of this entrenched prevailing architectural and social context, there are qualities in the fictional saga that have the potential to be both restorative and stimulating. To this end, at its core, the project is questioning how the dissemination of architectural and social innovation through the televisual saga can be best utilised to contribute to accelerated societal change?

The saga "Future Family;" as told in nine episodes

The project conceptualises the construction of the set within the saga as a mode of constructing domesticity itself. The films produced here further emphasise this symbiosis. The film on the left is a pre-visualisation of sets due to be constructed. It operates as a way of illustrating the domestic spaces, props, and moments of inhabitation as they would appear to the viewer. The film on the right acts to emphasise the nature that these sets and episodes are a constructed reality that themselves influences those watching. Through this, on the one hand, we understand the set as a tool used to immerse the viewer in a narrative; on the other hand, the set is exposed as a performance device and constructed artefact used to seduce the viewer into adopting a series of positions.

Each future family structure offered within this saga demands a revision of its domestic space to enable alternative modes of kinship. The project imagines these revisions as consequences of social, political, economic, legislative or environmental factors on the home, and thus the family. As such, the project advocates for a far broader understanding of the scope of influence of architecture within the realm of family life. It calls for a reframing of housing not as an object of financial speculation or delivery, but rather a microcosm of broader societal values. 

In this sense, whilst the saga of the project is sited within the British context, its ambitions are far broader in scope. The purpose of its spatial explorations is make plausible to the possibility of alternative domestic situations. The saga here is both as a tool of representation, and equally a methodology, operating as a machine for producing new domestic relationships and resultant family structures through generating alternative architectural typologies.




8 minutes 23 seconds
Episode_1 (digital render)
Episode_1 (physical model 1:50)
Episode_2 (digital render)
Episode_2 (physical model 1:50)
Episode_3 (digital render)
Episode_3 (physical model 1:50)
Episode_4 (digital render)
Episode_4 (physical model 1:50)
Episode_5 (digital render)
Episode_5 (physical model 1:50)
Episode_6 (digital render)
Episode_6 (physical model 1:50)
Episode_7 (digital render)
Episode_7 (physical model 1:50)
Episode_8 (digital render)
Episode_8 (physical model 1:50)
Episode_9 (digital render)
Episode_9 (physical model 1:50)

The methodology explores the potential of serialised narrative to both expose the affects of western domesticity, and offer productive alternatives. Serialism here is not iterative, arriving at a just domesticity, rather, it is a tool for unpacking many possible futures of domesticity—be they subjugating or emancipating. These scenarios are posited in response to the question: How would the family unit differ if…? Each answer offered provokes a more or less fundamental change in the way western families and their domestic spaces can operate. Each set is the site of an episode and each episode explores a fundamentally different family structure—created either by external conditions or in response to posed societal injustices.

The scenarios explored here vary greatly in scope but are predominately conceived of as bottom-up revisions of existing domestic space or design of new domestic space to best suit the demands of a top-down legislative, political or economic shift. They range from exploring the effects of widening class divide in the wake of cost of living inflation, to nationalised housebuilding, to generational cohabitation to environmental nomadism.

The project utilises the saga as a mediator between alternative domesticities and the wider public. Through a methodology of serialism, deeply entrenched notions of family and domesticity can be diluted and reimagined through wilder speculation. These speculations result in a form of serialised architecture that can uniquely and effectively imagine novel spatial strategies of domesticity. Through the saga, one is exposed to the possibility of alternative family structures and can begin to understand how they might be actualised through space and behaviour.

The televisual saga here has the unique position of having the ability to be truly propositional and equally public serving. The narratives of the saga can emphasise shifts in attitudes to wider societal issues and how they play out within the domestic context. They can either be emblematic of an existing context or speculating on a fictional context; simply by exposing issues emerging within society, television can trigger landmark shifts in opinion and behaviour.

The project advocates for the realm of televisual media as a means of advancing the acceptance of these alternative domesticities as spaces of becoming. Within this saga, some scenarios embrace moments of mundanity to illustrate how existing space can be adapted to accommodate alternative structures; some are more evidently divergent in an effort to amplify familial and spatial differences. Many of these scenarios exist already in varying forms and in various contexts. However, I argue that they haven’t been dressed up, rehearsed, amplified, and mediatised within the public conscience.


Digital Render; Physical Model