Here is the long description.
Climate Justice brings together researchers from across the programmes of the School of Architecture on the foundational premise that environments are entangled hybrids of social, material-energetic and ecological relations, and that there are no social questions that do not enfold ecological relations, and no ecological relations that do not enfold social and political forces. We ask how do we even approach thinking about our condition of ecological and climate emergency when many of our very categories and concepts for thinking environmentally emerged through practices of colonial geopolitical violence and exploitation? Whilst all programmes and studios within the School confront the realities of a changing environment, the research of the Climate Justice group includes work on forensic environmental analysis, environmental law, rights of future generations, the potential for organising the spatial demands associated with climate justice demands within the emerging Green New Deal debates and plans, and understanding and representing the complex and changing environments of the capitalocene and the role that architectural and urban thinking might play in shaping processes of environmental change organised around demands for an ecocide law and a process of restorative and regenerative environmental justice.
The Architecture & Social Movements research group examines the practical, conceptual, and disciplinary questions that social movements present to architecture and urban design.
This research recognises social movements, popular organisations and similar non-governmental institutional forms as important agents of social innovation and institutional creativity. This is particularly evident in the case of citizen movements in cities across the world, exploring alternative mechanisms for addressing issues of race, gender, and other forms of social exclusion, or, in the case of indigenous and peasant communities, inventing new forms of resistance against socio-environmental exploitation. In both cases, important experiences and knowledges are being produced, which are however often erased or ignored by academia. This research group aims to develop new collaborations between architecture and social movements, and explores what approaches to design and research might emerge from considering their demands and knowledges. In the context of an increasing strain being placed upon traditional systems of political representation and the limitations of existing models of architectural research and practice, this research is both timely and important.
Some of the questions addressed by this research group are: What design, research, and practice methods have to be developed so that the spatial demands of social movements can be adequately described? What types of spatial knowledge are emerging from urban, territorial or environmental struggles today? How can architecture participate in more democratic and equitable processes for design and city making? What is the role of architecture within collective processes of transformative politics?
As Major Peter Norman Nissen was designing a ‘portable building’ in April 1916, they probably didn’t suspect that it was going to become the staple of British defence architecture.
Nissen filed his patent for the hut design in the midst of the war, only a day after the Fall of Bagdad which allowed the British army to enter and occupy the city, on 12th March 1917. The Nissen hut could be packed in a standard army wagon. Its assembling record time was 1 hour and 27 minutes. While embodying the material and intellectual infrastructures required to house a highly mobile work and armed force, the design of this prefabricated unit was soon to be entangled with the history of the stranger-shared home in Britain.
With the end of the Second World War, as the huts laid deserted, ex-servicemen refused to live with their extended families and broke in. At first sight, this was a desperate material solution to the severe on-going housing crisis. Read along with the newly emerged welfare state’s claim to housing, those actions initiated a long tradition of home-sharing practices as a form of institutional critique which flourished in the counterculture experiments of the following decades. While preceding models, such as the 19th century communal settlement, focused on co-habitation, the ex-servicemen epitomised a new type of communality which was not based on negotiating physical space. Even if living individually, the war squatters collectively deployed a form of dwelling which imposed the image of the home on the backdrop of the military hut. By doing so they collectively laid out a complex claim, spanning between the sheer logistical possibility evident during the war, the present scarcity and the notion of a social contract.
While there is a significant existing architectural scholarship on the built form of collective living, autonomous sharing cultures and their spatial practices remain understudied. The squatted Nissen huts embody a new type of domestic communality, which was not captured in the architectural histories of the residential plan. Such reading is only possible through foregrounding the experience of grassroots sharing collectives and the novel ways in which their struggle for housing was materialised in their spatial practices. Amidst today’s financialised context, it is crucial for architects to familiarise themselves with such alliances, as they reveal successful examples of accessible housing economies and architecturally autonomous co-habitation models.
On 24 February 1984 Haringey Council made the final decisions on nine applications submitted for extending and splitting houses into flats. Terraced houses in Oxford, Stanmore, Seymour, Boundary, Gladwell Roads and in Rathcoole Gardens were granted permission for conversions into self-contained flats and terraced houses in Woollaston and Baronet Roads received permission to build rear extensions.
This was an ordinary day for the planning officers: by 1984, many houses had already been granted permission to be converted into flats or to build extensions. Splitting houses into flats had been common since the 1920s when the government had allowed dividing houses into flats, shortly after the publication of the Manual on the Conversion of Houses Into Flats for the Working Classes in 1919.
These terraced houses granted permission in 1984 were almost identical: they were built by speculative builders in the late 19th century, to the minimum standards bylaws set in the last decades of the 19th century, and for working- and middle-class families. During this time, London’s residential areas expanded at a pace never previously seen, creating repetitive residential areas all over London. Moreover, the speculative builder wanting to squeeze as many houses as possible into the terraces, led to a rigid typology, especially in terms of their deep and narrow floor plans.
The planning applications submitted on and since 24 February 1984, however, introduced a multiplicity of forms to their interiors: they were split into flats and extended in various different ways, and since then many have been further split and extended, some of them joined back together to be used as single dwellings, also putting their rigidity in question.
This paper argues that incorporating these individual histories within a background of formal and authoritative expertise of housing design helps outline a collective knowledge of housing design of a very particular housing type. This expertise was initially shaped by the very same people whose knowledge and experience it excluded or aimed to limit – the users. I will do so by analysing the planning histories of these nine houses, taking 24th February 1984 as a starting point. By analysing the similarities and differences among these designs and drawing upon biographies of houses, anecdotal evidence and interviews with users, this paper suggests how these designs were shaped in relation to the user; the presentation forms a description of the design knowledge that is embedded in the conversions.
On 15 May 2013, two years after the biggest social mobilization in the recent history of Spain, the two Barcelona public schools of architecture, ETSAB and ETSAV, held the first of a series of assemblies that questioned the way architecture was taught in their respective schools. They claimed that architecture schools had ignored the social and urban reality that had emerged since the economic crisis of 2008. Acknowledging a disciplinary responsibility, both students and tutors stressed their schools’ detachment from social needs and called for an effective contribution of the schools to the existing social and urban structure of the city. In one of the assembly’s faculty and students decided to discontinue the plans for the current academic year and to experiment with an “altered pedagogy”: a reformulation of studio briefs in order to foster alternative pedagogies that sought a direct contact with the city gaining knowledge through an approximation to citizen’s experience. The two schools made visible the outcome of those weeks at the “Open ETSAB/ETSAV”, an event that took place outside academic buildings in several locations of the city. In parallel to the assemblies, tutors and students developed a new academic curriculum to be proposed to the school committee. Although a structural transformation of the schools did not take place, it produced a profound collective internal debate and opened the door to pedagogical changes.
As this paper will show, the critical reflection on architecture pedagogy is one of the three disciplinary shifts that could be noted in Barcelona since the last decade of socio-economic and political crisis, along with changes to urban governance and concepts of collective housing design. Derived from a Polytechnique tradition, architecture schools in Spain lack an approximation to social sciences or humanistic studies. In addition, the architecture schools in Barcelona were heavily influenced by the urban theories of Aldo Rossi and figures like Oriol Bohigas, or Manuel de Solà Morales. Looking at their conceptual approaches to pedagogy and academic proposals such as ILAUD, Rural Studio or Valparaiso’s Open City this paper will investigate how architectural pedagogies informed recent changes in professional practices and noticeable impact at an urban level in Barcelona and the way academia understands its contribution to the city.
In an unusually public, livestreamed staff meeting that took place on the 21 May 2020, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his workers that within a decade as many as half of the company’s more than 52,000 employees would work from home. For a company that until recently paid new hires a bonus of $15,000 to live near its Menlo Park headquarters, the dislocation of its workforce appears to be welcomed with rare ease. As today, under the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic more than 95% of its staff worldwide works from home, and at least half reporting not wanting to return to the office, becoming ‘the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale,’ seems more a calculation than a progressive impulse.
In that meeting, Zuckerberg reported how the relaxation of hiring practices until now constrained by the worker’s proximity to its existing offices, mostly located in cities, will allow the company to expand to every measure of diversity, “different communities, have different backgrounds, have, may have
different perspectives on things.” He argued that the increasing access to a multiplicity of subjects, and their experience of remote work, will indeed help the company create the technologies that will facilitate their life conditions, concurrently asserting its market supremacy. A win-win-win deal that transforms in real-time worker’s work into the products of their own consumption. As for the office, he continued, the decision to lessen their physical presence won’t be cost effective, as it will result in new expenditures, including bringing employees to headquarters for occasional “onsites,” the new equivalent of offsite retreats. What appears as the imminent death of the office and any measure of wage and its relation to time as we know it, seems instead to deepen the headquarter disciplinary significance, legitimizing it as the intersection of external strategic relations and the site where its internal governing practices are effected and the worker formed.
These sets of conditions embody a convergence of former modes of power relating to the discipline of the body and present time forms of power relating to the control of the mind. If the separation between the enterprise and the factory was a paradigm of post-Fordism, what power relations would the separation of the company from the office and into the bodies of its workers bring about? If we understand capitalism not as a mode of production but a production of possible worlds, what kind of world will this dissipation effect and what are its limits, how would this new endless corps crystalize in architectural form?
"Front. In. Behind. Here. Now." from the "Temporality of the Impossible" series, featuring solo violin pieces by Buccino, Cassidy, Iannotta, Lim, Saunders, and Tasca at ArtBase
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Dr. Ines Weizman
Head of PhD Programme
School of Architecture
Royal College of Art
Kensington Gore, London
School of Architecture, Royal College of Art
Postgraduate Research (PGR) Programme