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Disestablishing the Institution: Space, Power and Liberation Within the work of The Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Rem Koolhaas

Part 1 Dissertation 2012
Natalie Monk
University of Brighton UK
The essay looks at the Institution with regard to space, power and liberation. In particular, it addresses the idea that institutions are historically based on a diagram and that architects today are potentially reinventing these spatial genotypes with new innovations. The term disestablished has been selected to describe this change as whilst the institution remains stable and retains its place in society, the introduction of new ideas fragments the power relationships that would have been present in the original diagram. This can dramatically alter the perception as to what the space means. The introduction of innovation into architecture, of new ideas, has a larger impact on the institution in terms of power relations in that it can potentially distract away from the control and order of the space and within the work of some architects innovation can lead to an attempt to liberate. This essay focuses on examples of the prison, university and library and the way in which the work of OMA implements new innovative spaces that be referred to as, ‘other spaces’, into these institutions. These ‘other spaces’ appear to disestablish the order that the institution was once based on, by embedding spaces that are effectively dis-ordered. By this I refer to the idea that unlike the spaces that make up the rest of the institution the programmes here are not defined and to an extent allow something ‘other’ to occur within the architecture. The essay discusses these ideas and addresses how these spaces disestablish the idea of the institution, if at all, by discussing the Educatorium in Utrecht and the Seattle Public Library. Furthermore, the essay looks at the idea that the aesthetics of order are disestablished not only by the introduction of new spaces, but by the urbanization of the interior, by socialising it. I also want to suggest that by urbanising the space the architecture begins to resemble the city. Therefore by modelling elements of institution on the city the order has been disestablished as there becomes juxtaposition between control and the illusion of freedom.
Natalie Monk

Tilo Amhoff
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