Space, Everyday life, and Architectures of Control
At the recently concluded EDRA conference in Chicago (May 25-May 28, 2011), I led and participated in a symposium entitled, “Space, Everyday Life, and Architectures of Control.” This symposium recalled 1968—and with it, the introduction of social agency and the political dimensions of space into the processes and products of architectural practice. Bringing together researchers and practitioners, it explored the relationships and contradictions between design and use, and covered a spectrum of theoretical positions that explore the active making of space in everyday life through action and experience. Specifically, the session examined the relationship between space and society through two post-1968 trajectories in which people sought to re-imagine and take control of their environments. The first trajectory (Vujkov) focused on architectural strategies of program, and suggested that while “indeterminacy” may have proved too open an architectural approach, Cedric Price’s vision of an open-ended, reconfigurable architecture in projects such as the Fun Palace presaged today’s Internet-based social networks and can be found—albeit in more static form—in contemporary projects. The second trajectory (Patel) surveyed several theories of the late 60s surrounding the political and social value of space with emphasis on the relationship between spatial views and emergent spatial practices. The paper focused attention on those practitioners who found inspiration in Henri Lefebvre’s critical formulations of space and everyday life, and contemporaneously experimented with social meanings in architecture in both conceptual and material terms.
In the end, the discussant (Sagan) helped enlarge this topic area by sharing ideas specific to his research and helping generate a critical discussion between the audience and us. The primary highlights of the follow-up discussion were the role and meaning of concrete realization in radical practice, and the question of control in architectures of plurality. In the following weeks, I’ll try and address each of these topics to clarify my own position vis-à-vis the symposium. Better still, it might be great to invite back our participants and the discussant, and discuss emerging questions in a roundtable mode.
– A. Vujkov, Graduate Student, Architecture, Penn State University
– K. Patel, PhD Candidate, Architecture, University of Michigan
– P. Aeschbacher, Assistant Professor, Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Penn State University*
– H. Sagan, PhD Candidate, Architecture, University of California Berkeley
*Due to unforeseen circumstances, Professor Aeschbacher couldn’t join us at the conference. His paper sought to examine “entrepreneurial action by people in public spaces, with a particular emphasis on their viability in urban areas undergoing spatial and economic contraction” (excerpt from the abstract).