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Architecture's Poetic Instrumentality: Developing the Critical, Political, and Ethical Capacities of Architectural Artifacts

Book - Dissertation

The PhD thesis Architecture's Poetic Instrumentality is rooted in and driven by an enthusiasm of architectural practice—an enthusiasm for conceiving, constructing, and deploying architectural artifacts that, as poetic instruments, intend to have an agency within their urban environments. The title puts in tension the two notions of instrument and poesis (from the Greek poiesis, referring to a making activity but moreover to an activity of making up). Preparing the architectural artifact as an instrument puts the partly contingent adventures it provokes at the center of the inquiry. Both poesis as a sense-making activity and human and other-than-human agency are dynamics endowed with a transformative and re-figuring potential. Emphasizing these not only brings the realm of architectural conception into scope but also that of architectural reception. In order to explore such poesis and agency, a variety of architectural artifacts have been developed during the inquiry, spread across different collaborations. These artifacts propel the research, giving particular substance to the main methodological approach, that of research-through-practice. The exploration of a poetic instrumentality has been pursued through an exploration of architecture's capacities to act critically, politically, and ethically, within situations. Such capacities are often, according to a variety of contemporary authors, atrophied or at least left partly unaddressed. Answering calls to re-activate (re-politicize) architecture in that sense, the research aims to substantiate contributions that can help counter this deficit. The contribution consists of a heterogeneous set of architectural artifacts, developed as well as deployed within real urban surroundings and situations as acupuncture-like interventions. The research has also developed and resulted in a set of approaches, strategies, and attitudes. The target audience is multiple, seeking to affect those professionally practicing and conceiving of architecture as well as those practicing architecture through encountering it within daily situations. Architecture's Poetic Instrumentality is edified on two main experimenting grounds. One is the educational design studio COmplicating MAchines / COmplicating INteriors, the other the architecture firm STUDIOLOarchitectuur. Each of these advances a differently constrained terrain for experimentation, raising different challenges, assembling different contributions. What links the experimenting on these different grounds together and characterizes all artifacts of the research is that they all seek to include and activate dynamics that are often neglected in architecture: critical, political, and ethical dynamics; dynamics of projectivity, negotiation, conflict, dissensus, agonism; para-functional dynamics. Substantiating this inclusion has led to other architectural artifacts and to other ways of doing architecture, conceived not as an alternative to architecture as it is usually conceived, but as a promise and capacity that fundamentally reside within architecture itself.
Publication year:2020