ARCHITECTURE AS A POLITICAL TECHNOLOGY
A research field can be conceptualised as an area. An area can be described through the drawing of defined outlines, but it can also be defined without definite outlines. The second technique involves the identification of a number of key terms or examples which define the field with a diffuse boundary. A diffuse boundary is preferred here, because, while it identifies the topic of the research field clearly, it does not identify its limits clearly and is therefore subject to expansion and redirection as new information becomes available.
The technique selected to explore this was to describe a collection of terms through a film. The film went through phases where it had different names: Politics and Poetics, Movement, Occupy, Wall, Street. It is now called “Architecture as political technology”.
The terminology used is defined as follows:
- Polis – the city
- Techne – making
- Logos – the knowledge
The project, therefore, aims to generate knowledge through understanding the “making” of the way in which we live. Other important terms in the field include the word ‘space’, which, through etymological tracing can be related to architecture through the German word Raum, which means both space and room. A thesis is essentially a very long and involved definition of architecture. It is an instance of architecture and therefore adds an example to the field, which is diffusely defined as architecture.
There are many instinctive definitions of architecture:
- A way of life
- Expression of oneself
- Art of creating spaces
- Unconscious perception of space
- A response to habitable needs
Architecture can also be defined by the laws which determine “who is an architect” or who has the right to use the title, but this defines architecture as a profession, not as a discipline – the discipline is much older than the profession. The copyright act no.98 of 1978 has the following definition of architecture: artistic work – irrespective of the artistic quality thereof – and includes building or models of buildings. This is a good definition as it also includes unbuilt work, yet limiting because it doesn’t include drawings.
In order to link the political dimension of architecture to the personal dimension, commonly used metaphors of organization and organism are unpacked in this research field. To better illustrate this topic, a case study is conducted analysing the work of Massimo Scolari and specifically his experiments with the arc. At his installation for the 1986 Milan Triennale, he equated architecture to an extension or surrogate for consciousness. He implied that we have architecture because we sleep; Architecture is a substitute for consciousness because when you are asleep, you cannot defend yourself.
This value of paper architecture or conceptual architecture in political thinking is explored through reference to (especially) the Italian radicals of the 1960s and 1970s. There have been different interpretations of architecture over time. The 60s led to expansions the machine aesthetic popularised during high modernism – the machines of the 60s and 70s were not associated anymore with efficiency and elegance. The outcomes of these experiments were often not buildings and not objects; they were also often not placed in a landscape but were isolated – floating in the ether – in a vacuum.
But, radical architecture has been most compelling when it engages with real space and form and does not avoid reality. This is folded into the current research project which considers definitions for architecture at the scale of an organisation. It is modernism in the sense that it suggests that the form of an organisation is closely related to what it does– this is based on the ultimate interpretation of form and function as being inseparable. In experimenting with ways of representing organisations, concepts such as “walking through your study guide rather than reading it” emerge. These new ways of looking at organisations, their content and the spaces they inhabit will result in different ways of representation in architecture.