Great tasks await students in their first year at the EPFL. The ALICE institute is known for comprehensive spatial research that places people at centre stage. Since 2010, ALICE has worked with newcomers to the architecture program in Lausanne. This program sees space as an interface for people, as used environment. Teaching at ALICE is closely linked to current research and is founded on analysis, empirical data and new knowledge. However, this does not mean that innovation or even speculative processes are excluded. This is clearly shown in the courage and trust required to take on a project of these dimensions – and with more than 200 students at once.
A wooden framework construction measuring 11 x 11 x 11 metres was to be filled. The students were divided into groups of 18. Twelve members of ALICE monitored the groups as they designed their respective segments of the cube. Whether the students created lounges or passageways, a verandah, stairs or corridors was left open. The aim was to develop connections and test the effect of the designed space on visitors. The result is as diverse as its creators: planted, shady or jutting elements stand next to stairways above water and a surface consisting of a strung net.
But the crowning achievement of this installation is the fact that everything is made of the same material: wood. Each group was assigned 100 five-metre-long planks and 100 four-metre planks, each length of a different profile. Along with the time frame, these limitations presented a further challenge. This led to intense discussion within each group about how best to use the wood. Cooperation was solidified. The restriction to one material and the openness of the construction give the pavilion a special character. The effect is mechanical, yet in no way impersonal; ephemeral, yet solid.
ALICE sees the space from various viewpoints: from the theory of architecture, philosophy, phenomenology, technical and physical. House 1 is a space created from a multifacetedness that embodies what it is meant to teach.