AGENCY | ARCHITECTURE | APPROPRIATION An Exploration of Participation in the Production of the City

Messer, Sebastian (2019) AGENCY | ARCHITECTURE | APPROPRIATION An Exploration of Participation in the Production of the City. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis comprises of two components; a demonstration of the creative practice(s) as research (praxis) and a written commentary (exegesis) articulating the theoretical context and methodological approach, documenting the praxis, reflecting on undertaking practice research, and a personal exploration of what it means ‘to do’ architecture.
The imperatives prompting this research emerged from my professional ‘roles’ – as an architect and a lecturer – and more personal motives and interests. Initially I resisted defining ‘The Research Question’ as solutionism, yet this enquiry can be traced through an (often fraught) relationship between two questions which came to frame and reframe it:
Can the tactics of spatial activism and appropriation inform a more inclusive and temporal understanding of design places to expand the field of architectural practice?
How, and to what extent, can young people have agency in, and over, the[ir] built environment?
Question one presupposes a (partial) answer to question two, while question two (partially) undermines question one’s assumptions.
The contribution to knowledge and practice made in this thesis is through reconceptualising the imperative, from looking outwards to an ‘Expanded Field’, upstream and downstream of current architectural practice [although this is still a valid pursuit], and from architecture as building-object (a noun), to looking inwards to redefine architecture as processual (a verb); an aesthetic experience; ‘activating’ and ‘decentring’ through immersion; and a practice articulating values, empowering others through ‘relational ethics’.
An architectural aesthetic experience arises precisely from code-switching between the representational and experiential: to be(come) architecture requires both exemplifying function and expressing metaphor. Critically this code-switching includes ‘scaling’, both in “the dance” of becoming manifest, the trajectories and agency of the artefact described by Albena Yaneva (2009), and in the “latently anthropomorphic” interiority Michael Fried (1967) attributed to minimalist art.
Defining architecture as an aesthetic experience I conclude leads to recognising it as a media – a ‘cool’ media in Marshall McLuhan’s terms (1964) – which activates the user. This then acknowledges the importance of ‘audiencing’ to the architectural experience, countering the modernist myth of the architect as a lone genius.
The architectural profession, and academe, must recognise value in other forms of knowledge and
representation. Architecture must regain its moral purpose and academia must grow beyond instrumental procedural/ categorical ethics. Both must understand their position(s), through relational ethics, to facilitate an emancipatory ‘levelling up’ in the production of space.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Practice Research, Right to the City, Spatial Agency
Subjects: K100 Architecture
K400 Planning (Urban, Rural and Regional)
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Architecture and Built Environment
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2021 14:57
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2022 08:01

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