EDRA43 Seattle / Symposium

Hard Space, Soft Space, and Architectures of Appropriation

My spring-term field trip to Europe culminated in Seattle, at the 43rd Annual Meeting of EDRA researchers. It was wonderful to connect back with friends, colleagues, and precious mentors at EDRA, and equally brilliant to interview one of the members for my dissertation research at the venue. Whilst details of my field work will be forthcoming, here is a snippet of the symposium I led and participated in at EDRA.

The theme of EDRA43 conference was “emergent placemaking.” My session entitled, “Hard Space, Soft Space, and Architectures of Appropriation” discussed the notion of “emergence” in terms of the social makings of an environment through design. It focused attention on architectural and urban design frameworks that allow distinct social groups to take ownership of space and negotiate harder aspects of space. The panel saw hard space as material space: space as defined by physical elements such as walls and boundaries; it discussed soft space in terms of the everyday social coding of space: space made and remade by human activity through everyday social interactions with material space; finally, it imagined appropriation as a dialogic relationship between harder and softer aspects of space: the practice of space, both real and imagined.

Overall, the symposium looked at each of these three components as key interrelated elements of emergent placemaking. Specifically, it sought to position space as an agent in the discourse on emergence, and ask: How is space defined through use patterns of its inhabitants? What kinds of design strategies afford possibilities for spatial appropriation? In what ways does space provide agency to its inhabitants, if any? The aim of this session was to bring theoretical and descriptive work on design and localized use together in a conversation. Continuing the conversation from last year, one of my goals at this meeting was to clarify the social meanings of environmental design with diverse perspectives from design researchers and academics and to seek connections between and among spatial concerns, both old, new, and ongoing.

– K. Franck, Professor, College of Architecture and Design, New Jersey Institute of
– K. Patel, PhD Candidate, Architecture, University of Michigan
– P. Aeschbacher, Assistant Professor, Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Penn State University (in spirit!)


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