“Social Space / Spatial Practice” was the title of my course offering at CEPT, this summer. Designed as a reading seminar for urban design students, this intensive explored the relationship between space and social agency, and discussed the many ways in which people imagine, experience and direct their everyday life. In contrast to high modern architectural discourse that reduced the wider symbolic realm to the notion of function, and saw space primarily as a material entity supporting social activity, this seminar focused on social values of space and investigated how space is socially produced. Specifically, we looked at how social groups appropriate space; how individuals subvert prescribed uses and create new meanings; and how people see their spatial settings and think about it.
Throughout, space was seen as an active social agent in the structuring of our everyday experience while agency was discussed in terms of how people understand their world and conceptualize their environments. The relationship between space and agency was analyzed using a mix of theoretical themes and a range of spatial practices. We examined the writings of late 20th century theorists such as Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey, Michel de Certeau, and Nancy Fraser among others. Overall, the seminar covered texts in urban social theory, environmental psychology, and architectural theory to trace the multiple contours of social and political values of space.
The following are snippets from my micropublishing site. All seminar specific postings were tagged: summer@CEPT.
(…) Students explored the notion of social space vis-à-vis Gurgaon, the domestic help, labyrinth & Alpha 60 among others.
(…) They examined the relationship between space, practice, and everyday life touring NYC with Steve and mapping Bombay with Chaipau.
(…) Individually and in groups, students discussed the many voices that make up a public sphere alongside provocations by Paromita, Deepa and Shilpa.
(…) Finally, students interrogated the Lynchian notion of control and examined notions of place, activity forms, and symbolic associations with Whyte.
(…) On the last day, students made great presentations and together, we reflected on our collective involvement by enacting a playful exercise entitled, “Who is Public?”