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Architecture by Other Means: instance of representation and participation

Part 2 Dissertation 2007
Julia Udall
University of Sheffield Sheffield UK
Abstract: Architecture by Other Means, instances of representation and participation

‘Representation’ and ‘participation’ in architecture are matters of concern. There is a crisis in our representative democracy that is articulated by the desire to engage in participatory practices. Philosopher Bruno Latour has shown in his work that these spatial and societal ‘things’ bear on us collectively and require communal discourse. But where then, when forced out of the traditional democratic realm, do we locate this gathering and how do we represent our contested ‘things’ in architecture?
Speaking about socially engaged and site specific art practice, art theorist Miwon Kwon suggests that there is not a fixed notion of ‘community’ in need of outreach, but one which must be considered with each issue, each ‘thing’ and matter of concern. The involvement of an artist or an architect in a project should not be seen as an attempt to be neutral and merely facilitate the needs of others; architects should bring spatial and relational thinking and action to bear on the participatory process, as a shared tool. It is important to conceive of the architect (and she of herself) as participant and public as well as professional.
In this way, architectural representation is not static; it is, as Deleuze suggests, an articulation that leaves traces upon what is transmitted. The architect, who often occupies a privileged position, should use each form of representation with an awareness of its particular potential; where it locates the discussion, who is invited to participate and under what terms. I explore this idea through a series ‘instances’, and although non-representative and non-authoritative minor case studies, they are selected because of the power they have to address particular representative concerns and aspects of space and place that may not be contained within conventional forms, locations or processes. These modes of transmission explore the potential for difference, in words, meaning, discourses, visions and interpretations.
This study suggest a series of theoretical tools that can be shared and developed for future practice in order to instigate the desires of those participating, making it truly transformative.

Julia Udall

This study focuses on the relationship between representation and participation in architecture, showing how participatory forms of democracy question the existing representative models and how a participatory approach to architecture influences the current means of representation. Julia articulates her concerns through a number of ‘instances’- a selection of non representative and non authoritative case studies, which mix personal experiences and critical references considered as fragmentary ‘moments’ in the development of her argument. This study is highly innovative in content and form, bringing a subjective perspective on issues of architectural representation and initiating, at the same time, a critical inquiry into aesthetical and political aspects of contemporary architecture.

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