W.O. Hutcheson Prize

MSA Stage 5 School of Architecture

Reece Oliver (He/Him)

Through my work at the Mackintosh School of Architecture I have endeavoured to draw connections between socio-cultural and historical architectural references. The brief for Stage 5 ‘The Ethical City’ embodies this approach, where my project ‘Synecdoche, Molenbeek’ represents the hierarchical levels of social, political and economic injustices the multi-cultural city of Brussels is faced with.

rco architecture + design
Synecdoche, Molenbeek
Dancefloors of Impossibility

Synecdoche, Molenbeek

Synecdoche, Molenbeek explores the surrealism of architecture in cinema and its application in re-identifying Molenbeek’s post-industrial ‘non-landmarks’.

Molenbeek is historically linked with the birth of cinema in Belgium, – the country’s first film studios were commissioned here by Pathé in the early 1900s. A history of Molenbeek’s architectural contexts are examined, concluding how post-industrial development has disfigured the socio-cultural identity of the area. The thesis sites itself on the largest area of post-industrial development in the district, representing a significant opportunity for Molenbeek to reclaim its cultural presence in Brussels and redefine its future.

Juhani Pallasmaa’s ‘Architecture and Image’ defines the relationship between architecture and cinema as ‘a fantastical architecture suspended between dreaming and reality’.

This theory is illustrated in the surrealist structures of Charlie Kaufman’s ‘Synecdoche, New York’, which have inspired the proposal. Synecdoche is defined as ‘a part of something which represents its whole’ – this concept is embodied through the platform of film representing multi-cultures within the ethical city, thus spawning the title of the thesis.The area of investigation, Molenbeek, is Brussels’ most culturally diverse neighbourhood. It is labelled as a ‘hub of extremism’ due to ties with terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015. As a result of these ties, Molenbeek has become increasingly negatively stigmatised. There is a growing isolation of cultures between the residents of Molenbeek and the city of Brussels, presenting ethical issues of social injustice and cultural prejudice.

The thesis aims to bring this social injustice to light by providing a centre for film production and screenings to showcase the multi-cultures in Molenbeek. Through this platform, the thesis presents surrealist representations of architecture in film and establishes Synecdoche as a concept to represent Molenbeek’s socio-cultural identity.

‘For a place to be truly ethical, there is a human need for unity and understanding’

John Locke

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689)

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Dancefloors of Impossibility

‘The most amazing experiences of my life…I just wish I could go back…to those nights’

Darren Emerson
In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats (2022)

Through the lens of Svetlana Boym’s theory of reflective and restorative nostalgia, ‘Dancefloors of Impossibility’ compares and contrasts the reflective nostalgias of individuals who experienced the UK Rave Scene of 1988-1994, with the nostalgia of those who did not. Using the lost space of the infamous ‘Garage’ nightclub in Nottingham as the embodiment of this comparison, the proposal creates a spatial interpretation based on personal responses to nostalgic accounts from its past attendees.

‘Dancefloors of Impossibility’ recognises the longing for a romanticised version of a lost time and space through a non-political, personally positive attempt at restorative nostalgia. In the context of this research, reflective and restorative nostalgias are presented as crossovers ‘between two opposites – at once celebratory while at times stiflingly melancholic’.

The Garage - 1st Floor

The Garage - Ground Floor

The Garage - Basement