Chora is the name of a research office founded in London by Raoul Bunschoten in 1993 and also of a parallel architectural office established in 1994. Combining research and practice, they have developed a methodology for working in complex urban and regional situations and have worked on projects across Europe and in the Far East. Their methodology is grounded in research, consisting of a four step process that comprises of: a database, prototypes, scenario games, and action plans. The database collects relevant information on people, places and organisations that are somehow related to a project, whilst prototypes are designs or organisational structures that address the issues raised in the database. Scenario games are a way of simulating and testing the different conditions in which the prototypes may function. Often taking the form of board games these are notable for the wide variety of people that Chora manage to gather together to play the games, groups of people that have overlapping and conflicting interests: residents, policy-makers, government officials, local businesses and industrialists amongst others. Here the game functions as both a platform for testing ideas and situations whilst also being a mediator, bringing together these disparate yet linked groups. Finally the action plan is a strategy for implementing the chosen prototypes and scenarios. To complement their working method, Chora have developed a complex language of diagrams and symbols that takes the large amounts of specific information gathered for each project and makes abstract notations that allow comparison and manipulation of the material. Currently Chora are also working on a project entitled Urban Gallery, a web-based tool for their methodology that is designed as an interactive environment for those working together on a long-term project.
This method allows Chora to work at a number of different scales, drawing out unexpected and hidden links between the smallest of local details and transnational or global forces, highlighting how these may impact on each other. They see the role of the architect as that of an urban curator, a concept that Chora have developed alongside the artist Jeanne van Heeswijk. Rather than designing objects and buildings, Chora's urban curator designs processes, interactions and organisational structures, a way of working that allows the architect to engage a wide variety of people and to create urban strategies that can address the dynamic nature of cities.
Raoul Bunschoten, CHORA / Raoul Bunschoten: From Matter to Metaspace: Cave, Ground, Horizon, Wind (Consequence Book Series on Fresh Architecture), 1st edn (New York: Springer, 2006).
---, 'Points, Spirals and prototypes', in Architecture and Participation, ed. by Peter Blundell Jones, Doina Petrescu and Jeremy Till (London: Routledge, 2005).
---, 'The Architect as Curator', Hunch, 2003, 120-122.
---, 'Stirring Still: The City Soul and Its Metaspaces', Perspecta, 34 (2003), 56-65.
Raoul Bunschoten and CHORA, Public spaces (Black Dog Publishing, 2002).
Raoul Bunschoten and others, Urban Flotsam; Stirring the City (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2001).
James Corner, 'The Agency of Mapping', in Mappings, ed. by Denis E. Cosgrove (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), pp. 214-253.
Jeroen Mensink, 'Urban Flotsam Chora / Raoul Bunschoten', ArchiNed, 2001, http://www.classic.archined.nl/news/0109/chora_eng.html [accessed 2 March 2010].
"When a part of a city is designated a metaspace, it becomes an
Urban Gallery-a fluid form of public space that evolves in time,
generating different definitions of public space and different ways
of participating in it. These definitions yield "floors" in the
spatial structure of the urban gallery. Metaspaces make it possible
to bring the dynamic structure of scenarios into the flows of the
second skin. A metaspace in the second skin is a public space, a
- Raoul Bunschoten, 'Stirring Still: The City Soul and Its Metaspaces', Perspecta, 34 (2003), 59-60.
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