Politics of Architecture : Theorising through speculative spatial practices.



The tendency of technological culture to standardize environmental condition and make the environment entirely predictable is causing a serious sensory impoverishment. Our buildings have lost their opacity and depth, sensory invitation and discovery, mystery and shadow.

Juhani Pallasmaa. Hapticity and Time.

Notes on Fragile Architecture. 2000

The Scriptorium

Description of Work

The ruined site of the abbey at Waverley, near Farnham has been appropriated as a site and as a place within which to position and develop architectural and sociological inquires. The design processes of interiors have been employed as a tool to both critique and to create how we might further develop the contents of architecture. This Spatiality and its diffractions of differences and similarities, narratives and subjective experiences are what my interior spaces attempt to initiate.

Design as a interactive structure, an interlocutory interior in the making of space and spatial relations.

Interior design presented as an interactive and immersive spatial inquiry

The Scriptorium brings together a varied and discursive set of objects, texts and interior architectures. This work seeks to understand how the virtual changes physical architecture and how this affects the space between people and buildings. The “performativity of research” is presented through specifically designed apparatuses and partitions. These designed components, made objects together with annotated texts and drawings conspire to create a complex design led inquiry a “Place Study” staged in a niche-like space. This interior presents itself as both distinct and relational to the other projects in the MA Interiors Show. The interior presents the many manifestations of creative research, structures and even symposia that have been developed through engaging with the site. The visualization of the research and the relational architectures rendered through montage and collage explores digital and analogue technologies. This hybridisation and the use of pinhole photography and film footage further explore interests in the field of performance as an immaterial architecture drawn in the presence of place.

The realisation of my interiors project consists of two separate but relational elements that are presented into a built environment. The small ‘Scriptorium’ conceived as a space as a refuge, an intimate minimal construction that features a doorway and an interior that contains a place for objects, perhaps books, as well as a small sitting area. This construction, an open cell perhaps is evocative to a state of contemplation between the fabric of the everyday. The rather hybrid design appropriates a merging of minimalism, modernism and the plastic architecture of a ruined Cistercian Abbey. The construction comes into close contact with its occupant, it is a restricted spatial apparatus that attempts to promote through its awkwardness distinctive experiences. In particular the apparatus of the Scriptorium and its materiality is attempting to promote a sensory intensification that is further underpinned by the cognitive processes of reading and perhaps other social dialogues. The sensory intensification of a hut like space promotes a haptic sensibility, allowing the nearness and intimacies of both the built space and the imaginative, virtual realm to become entangled. Ultimately the Scriptorium is trying to build on unique human subjectivities that are manifested through a kinaesthetic repertoire or script that helps to enact further spatial experiences. It might be useful to think of this constructed space as itself still under construction, a site that acts as its own vessel within the multiplicities of human perception itself. The influence of the Cistercian Order, the site of Waverly Abbey and its pastoral landscape, have all contributed to a sense of the design process, The Scriptorium like the ruins themselves is open to the elements. Waverley Abbey remains as a sensory site between the remains of architecture and its society and the effects of our own global culture in the information age.

In troubled times they all sought to experience life away from social definitions of success or failure. From there, these primitive huts marked personal, original inquires into the ever-mysterious nature of human existence.

Anne Cline. A Hut of One’s Own

Life Outside The Circle Of Architecture.

The Scriptorium began through a research of both architectural themed texts and documentation of the site, and creative practice involving photography (digital, analogue and film) art practices of collage and drawing. The many visits promoted my own subjectivities to the site and these were also frequently subjected to change by the intervention of others in unexpected ways, these social intrusions by other revealed the very boundaries that the historic site engenders, some playful other malicious. These extremities within the social order of the visitors became problematic in designing for the site itself. An earlier proposal to host a Symposium centred on the Arts and The Humanities, that would use the Abbey and its surrounding ground appeared to be a project of vast diversities and logistics better suited to a cultural project through arts management and funding. As the project developed certain creative methodologies around particularities of the site itself began to appear, the notion of palimpsest being one of them. This promoted the idea of a reading room, as an ephemeral interior space that gathers up the experiential values of ‘ruins’ and re-enacts them as a site to explore the architectures of images. It became apparent that ‘palimpsest’ could be both a visual surface of erasures, earlier markings partially over written by newer ones ‘annotations’ and it could be a scaffold of developing ideas clearly visible merging as adaptations into the very usage of the site.

These re-imaginations through the notion of palimpsest seemed filmic and as such they would able to display a vast amount of diversities and subject matter, a library of recourses that would require users or an audience or both. The referencing of the reading room to the library, and the symposium to the cinema or theatre allowed me to realise that I was dealing with a number of spatial arrangements that needed to develop together, but which could be employed separately.

In an era in which architecture is once more learning its potential as a form of inquiry, rather than as a service- as a producer of knowledge, and not merely of ‘projects’

Brett Steele. Atlas-Tectonics in Barkow Leibininger.

Bricoleur Bricolage. AA. 2013

Inquiry is essentially the way of learning

J Krishnamurti. The Cultivation of a Good Mind

Brockwood. 1963

The theatre of research became the vehicle in which to see if this collaboration might be possible.

The use of the image and text in my architectural collages allowed me to visualize associations, to create the possibilities of interior spaces that might be manifested into the built environment. The use of the collage in Architecture is widely acknowledged, architects from the likes of Mies van der Rohe, Daniel Libeskind and Rem Koolhaas.

The ability of the collage process to juxtaposition fragments, images and texts from irreconcilable origins into an experience, that is visual, tactile and time-based makes it an interesting tool into the realms of architectural design. Collage begins to visualise not only the structure of spaces but also there content and circulation. The theatre of research is interested in how to promote collage and its use as a cognitive and perceptive tool in architecture.

Collage and montage are quintessentially techniques in modern and contemporary art and filmmaking. Collage combines pictorial motifs and fragments from disconnected origins into a new synthetic entity, which casts new roles and meanings to the parts. It suggests new narratives, dialogues, juxtapositions and temporal durations. Its elements lead double-lives; the collaged ingredients are suspended between their originary essences and the new roles assigned to them by the poetic ensemble.

Juhani Pallasmaa. The World is a Collage

Jennifer A. H. Shields. Collage and Architecture

Reflective Analysis

Both the Scriptorium and The Theatre Of Research exist only in the form of the exhibition presentation. What they singularly of together propose can only be imagined through their manifested form as static objects placed within a built structure that loosely references architectural concerns and materials. They appear diminished and assigned to the voyeuristic gaze of the visitor that is equally curios and dismissive. These objects and the interior spaces they promoted seem stilled and stalled, as much they appear beyond reach as if the authenticity of their materials and construction have some how been subsumed by their stature and scale. The issues and qualities of which they are attempting to speak of seem reduced by the hegemony of vision, there is little hapicity and time to encounter, only it seems by investing narratives can we begin to re-enact the spatial encounter.

The question I ask is do these objects and their interior spaces cause me to think beyond mere representation and recognition, or rather do they create enough of an encounter to force me to engage with them, even if I or the viewer are un-certain as to their meaning or possible outcome. Deleuze comments that something forces us to think. This something is not an object of recognition, but a fundamental encounter. Something that challenges us. Have these miniature architectures of objects become relational, do we start to use them in perhaps a heuristic manner, a hands-on approach to learning or inquiring, something that we can discover for ourselves. This heuristic finding-out could be made informative through collective collaborations and exhibition through the theatre of research. Is design stripping us of our qualitative spaces as the digital tooling removes the makers trace.

The model object has served as a thinking place in the development of the idea of the Scriptorium. The materials used and their proportions echo interests in Minimalist Sculpture, the intervals between things in the work of Donald Judd and the architectural languages of memory and tectonics of the craftman turned architect Peter Zumthor. This open sided hut seems cut away almost anatomical as if we were looking into the internal workings of an environment and resident. The structure would have to be made relational to its surroundings if it were to be placed in the landscape. Adaptations to weather the structure, to make it serviceable for use. The Scriptorium has analogues to the notion of a fire-place and its chimney stack. It is a the heart of a building the place of warmth, of dialogues and under the influence through fire of the imagination. The incompleteness that surrounds the scriptorium creatively asks for further design proposals that are even more site specific. The Solar Pavilion built by the Smithsons utilised the old fire place and chimney from the demolished cottage. Around this central element they developed the beginnings of their Modernist (Brutalism) pavilion, an architecture clad with glass, wood and zinc and contained by a walled garden and situated in the pastoral landscape of Wiltshire. Furthering the themes of being in the landscape the Scriptorium could become an observatory, as place from both to look out from and also to look in. The mobility or need to be re-assembled from site to site could promote innovative design solutions as well as interesting detailing or use of materials and surfaces that would facilitate interactions between visitors.

The notion of the Scriptorium becoming clad by an exterior skin, an ephemeral membrane which would then render the differences between the interior and the exterior into the realms of an almost immaterial architectural experience; in as much as the usual distinction between the unpredictable forces of nature outside and the predictable domestic spaces inside. This prompt further investigation into an architecture that blurs the boundaries of both architecture and nature, this could be further explored through the notion of quixotic gestures, art and performance that can capture the experience and the experiential engagement with the natural elements. The Scriptorium becomes the centred structure of remnant that is surrounded by an architecture that can create imprecise boundaries through inconsistent materials. This spatial arrangement will create its own qualitative responses, dialogues and subsequent movements. Architecture in this context becomes purely a sensorial response.

The body as the vector for active mediation with the world of the spirit. The body is the instrument of a qualitative evaluation, the measure of intensity, which alone is capable of giving space extension and modifying it. Space is no objective parameter; it must be ‘excavated’ related to the mobile living parametrics of the body.

Frederic Migayrou. Architectures of the Intensive Body.

Yves Klein. Guggenheim. 2005

Mark Prizeman. Intensity.

Ephemeral, Portable Architecture.

Time, space and existence are amongst the greatest of themes-so great that we could never be so presumptuous to think we could do them justice, and too close that we could ever escape them, whether with our thoughts or actions, in life or in art.

Peter Lodermeyer. Personal Structures

Time. Space. Existence. 2009

My design project has attempted to produce spaces and their interiors together with the apparatus of the Scriptorium that qualitatively seek to inquiry into the world we inhabit. The Theatre of Research attempts to establish some sense of a community that can do field work that invigorates the perception of the environment. My own interests are centred through experientially and mindfully exploring voids, cavities, and spaces between things, together with use of clay, glass and other vernacular materials. As an interior designer/artist I have become experiential to the agency of spaces. The theatre of research becomes a meeting place for furthering my programme initially proposed as a symposium at Waverley Abbey.

Through experiencing familiar images, smells, sounds, and textures, but also through making certain familiar movements and gestures, we achieve a certain symbolic stability. Disrupt that familiar world, and our psychic equilibrium is disturbed. From this we can surmise that home, and the operations performed at home, are linked intimately with human identity. Architecture, it would seem, plays a vital role in the forging of personal identities.

Neil Leach. Camouflage

Analysing the desire to blend-in with our surroundings.

Reflective Critique/Appraisal.

How might I start again?

The Scriptorium would need to collect up and question considerable more qualitative data. Some sort of portable shelter, lightweight and offering some protection from the elements; would have allowed longer periods of stay and the possibility of experiencing different times of day. The activity of walking to the site, of having to incorporate it into a journey would help to create a stronger sense of place and routine. I am interested in the ‘thingness’ of this place, its influence and how its influence might be transposed into a methodology of reading, theorising and making. I am reminded of the Peter Brook who deliberately demolished his avant-garde theatre building Bouffes du Nord in Paris so as he could create a more emotionally responsive space for theatre. It is this under the influence of the Abbey, which I wish to explore as a creative catalyst, a tool that picks up on its differences as qualitative readings. The ruin by its very nature has re-defined its own architecture from one of form into that of experience, this sense of liminality or immateriality that constitutes itself as the architectural experience.

A good space cannot be neutral, for an impersonal sterility gives no food to the imagination. The Bouffes has the magic and poetry of a ruin, and anyone who allowed themselves to be invaded by the atmosphere of a ruin knows strongly how the imagination is let loose.

Peter Brook. The Open Circle

Andrew Todd. Peter Brook’s Theatre Environments. 2003

How might the performartivity of research be staged, and into what contexts might it be appropriated?

As Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht notes, we live in a culture of meaning, not in a culture of presence. We constantly produce effects of meaning and multiply them with mass media. This applies not only to the humanities but also to a large degree to our wholly normal everyday lives. And in this respect, our experience of presence is getting drastically lost.

Art works may never completely be explained by theory or meaning. The sensual, material makeup of the work in its presence is not the cinders, slag, and ashes, the undigested remains of theory, but remains of an intensified moment.

Peter Lodermeyer.Time, Symposium Amsterdam 2007.

Personal Structures, Time, Space, Existence.


EX MACHINA, Robert Lepage

While Legage continues to pioneer the use of technology, his work is imbued with an intimacy and humanity that few can match. Edinburgh festival 2015

ABBATOIR FERME, Jan Fabre (Troubleyn, Performing Arts)

A SOMATIC ARCHIVE, of subjectivities whose perceptions and environments are going to change forever; like the particularities of the analogue trace in photography that is now becoming a distant experiential condition, an orphan extinct from the subjectivities of its originating culture/organism.

The Waverley Inquiry

A Theoretical and Somantic search amongst Ruins and Archetypes

Historical Perspectives

Dwelling/Poetics Heidegger

Archetypes/Symbols Jung

Flesh and Stone, Richard Sennett

Flesh and The Logic of Sensation, Deleuze/Bacon

Contemporary Spatial Practices

Feminist Geographies

The Posthuman

Posthuman thought inscribes the contemporary subject in the conditions of its own historicity.

Posthuman Subjectivity ,Rosi Braidotti


Continuum and Chora (light and the shadow of chora)

Life expresses itself in a multiplicity of empirical act: there is nothing to say, but everything to do. Life, simply by being life, expresses itself by actualiizing flows of energies, through codes of vital information across complex somatic, cultural and technologically networked systems. (Braidotti, 2013:190)

De Architectura, Vitruvius

Architecture consists of order, arrangement, proportion or eurythmy, symmetry and décor, and distribution.

Arrangement as an “Idea” refers to the Aristotelian notion of “Image-representation” as phaantasia a precondition to drawing, effectively occupying and revealing a space between Being and becoming.

Contents List from a folder in the Theatre of Research

Chora Body and Building

Space as Membrane

Chora (Exhibition) 1999

Lessons of a dream. Karsten Harries

Concrete Blonde: Joanna Merwood

A probe into the negative spaces where mysteries are created.

Surrealist Paris : Dagmar Motycka Watson

The non-perspectival space of the lived city

Body and Building : George Dodds

Essays on the changing relation of body and architecture.

Sphere and Cross : Karsten Harries

Vitruvian refections on the Pantheon Type

Body and Building : Marcia f. Feuerstein

Inside the Bauhaus’s Darker Side

Desiring Landscapes/Landscapes of Desire. George Dodds

A Tradition of Architectural Figures: Marco Frascari

Interwining Metamorphoses : Germano Celant

On the work of Guiseppe Penone

Space as a Membrane : Siegried Ebeling

Unlike a Library the Theatre of Research is a working space that creates and crafts both theoretical and practical objects, things and documentation. Its reason for being is to explore the praxis for creative narratives between the Arts and The Humanities. It attempts through performance, fine art and architecture to collage qualitative and diffractive dialogues into new relational discourses, the results of which become exhibited or staged as open workshops engendering praxis, publication and production. In its fledgling state it is seen as being part of a University faculty that has interests in the Arts and The Humanities. The possible linking with other establishments could be investigated. The working space becomes operational as a studio or laboratory that is engaged with full-time research led activities . Separate yet collaborative spaces and activities promote an environment for inquiry and personal development. The Theatre for research becomes a space that allows for the Post Production of ideas into new forms of social interaction. The theoretical merging with the practical into a relational narrative or methodology that enriches the practices of others, forming both new creative environments that can contain innovative ecologies that can question global perspectives.

UK based visual artist working in alternative photographic processes, installation and drawing.

Source: Politics of Architecture : Theorising through speculative spatial practices.


~ by russellmoreton on February 10, 2017.

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