for the city yet to come


invisible architectures

Posted on December 8, 2013


Collective Actions Group, “Ten Appearances” Moscow, Feb. 1, 1981

My main argument in this brief and simplified essay is that the physical expression of design– built environments of cultural landscapes (let alone buildings)–forms only a small part of the whole domain and not the most important one. This is even the car for users: their experience of the environments and their relationships with those goes far beyond the hardware. More important, however is the implication that what most professionals need to know, understand and explain in order to be able to design validly and responsibly has little to with artefacts which presently occupy them to the exclusion of anything else. It is what cannot be seen which is clearly by far the most important part of the design process in the sense that I use it–design for users as a science based, responsible profession based on a research-based discipline.
–Amos Rapoport, “On ‘The Invisible in Architecture’: An Environment-Behaviour Studies Perspective”

The Renters’ Archive

Posted on September 15, 2013

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a new Archiving the City intervention, called “The Renters’ Archive” based on my experiences of renting apartments in Brooklyn over the past decade. This project was commissioned by The Laundromat Project, and developed in collaboration with The Laundromat Project’s Create Change Fellows.


THE RENTERS’ ARCHIVE: Bed Stuy edition
12:30 – 4:30 PM

Venue: For My Sweet Gallery
(1103 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11238–between Franklin & Classon)
C train or Shuttle to Franklin

RSVP & Info:

In a nation of homeowners, where owning property is the still The Dream, New York stands out as a city of life-long renters. The Renters’ Archive project provides a way to explore the experience of being a renter, by looking at the objects and habits and relationships and dreams that a person collects over the course of a renting life. On September 21, 2013, The Renters’ Archive will present the opportunity for residents of Bed-Stuy and surrounding neighborhoods to reflect upon their own experiences of being renters–a situation shared by approximately 80% of the neighborhood’s residents.

Please stop by and share your own experiences of renting (or landlording) by partaking in a series of artist-led workshops and performances.

we are IKEA disobedients

Posted on July 17, 2013

IKEA Disobedients is a project of the Madrid-based firm, Andrés Jaque Architects/Office for Political Innovation. The project challenges the insidious notions of neat and nuclear urban domesticity promoted by the ubiquitous IKEA catalogue, by initiating a socially-engaged art/architecture project that explores the variety of complex domestic arrangements that form the (decidedly messier, non-condominumed) basis of our urban lives. The “architectural performance” was included in the recent MoMA exhibition “9+1 Ways of Being Political: 50 years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design.”  According to the curators’ description of the work,

The performance takes place in a setting made of IKEA-hacked pieces and invites neighbors in Queens to reenact their politically-charged domestic activities. According to Jaque, the performance suggests disobedience to the lifestyles proposed by brands such as IKEA, proposing “an urban counter-notion of the domestic” instead—one that discloses how politically active citizens can and do act outside of the privacy of their homes.

Visit the museum’s website to view a longer version of the video above, which explores Andrés Jaque’s research process in greater detail.

mirror methods

Posted on March 20, 2013

mirror High-res version
still from The Mirror (1975) dir. Andrey Tarkovsky

Excerpt from a letter, from a daughter who had just recently seen the film, to her mother:

‘ . . . How many words does a person know?’ she asks her mother.
‘How many does he use in his everyday vocabulary? One hundred, two, three? We wrap our feelings up in words, try to express in words sorrow and joy and any sort of emotion, the very things that can’t in fact be expressed. Romeo uttered beautiful words to Juliet, vivid, expressive words, but they surely didn’t say even half of what made his heart feel as if it was ready to jump out of his chest, and stopped him breathing, and made Juliet forget everything except her love?
‘There’s another kind of language, another form of communication: by means of feeling, and images. That is the contact that stops people being separated from each other, that brings down barriers. Will, feeling, emotion—these remove obstacles from between people who otherwise stand on opposite sides of a mirror, on opposite sides of a door. . . . The frames of the screen move out, and the world which used to be partitioned off comes into us, becomes something real . . . And this doesn’t happen through little Audrey, it’s Tarkovsky himself addressing the audience directly, as they sit on the other side of the screen. There’s no death, there is immortality. Time is one and undivided, as it says in one of the poems. “At the table are great-grandfathers and grandchildren . . .”Actually Mum, I’ve taken the film entirely from an emotional angle, but I’m sure there could be a different way of looking at it. What about you? Do write and tell me please . . .’

from Sculpting in Time by Andrey Tarkovsky

show and tell: spatial experience & experiments

Posted on February 21, 2013


As researchers, academics, para-academics, teachers and artists, we rarely have time to meet and share our experiences, talk shop and compare notes about what we are working on, especially the tricky projects that are not easily classified as one sort of activity. This is why I was motivated to organize this symposium with some of my favorite researchers, artists and geographers, next week in London.


Tom Croll-Knight, University of Sheffield
Bradley Garrett, University of Oxford
Anja Kanngieser, Goldsmiths
Merle Patchett, University of Bristol
Angela Last, University of Glasgow
Paul Graves-Brown, UCL Institute of Archaeology

SCIBE Conference Poster_2013

Rethinking Space::London Conference::Feb 2013

Posted on January 30, 2013

SCIBE Conference Poster_2013

Archiving the City is coming to London!

From February 26 – 28, The University of Westminster School of Architecture and the Built Environment is hosting a conference called: Within the Limits of Scarcity: Rethinking Space, City and Practices.

The conference is organized as part of a new multi-university initiative called Scarcity and Creativity in the Built Environment (SCIBE), and is focused on bringing together thinkers from around the world to explore how conditions of scarcity in urban areas might prompt creative responses from designers, architects, planners and how “design-led actions” might improve the conditions of living in cities.

Keynote speakers are Jeremy Till, Ole Bouman, Camillo Boano, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Erik Swyngedouw & Ana Paula Baltazar.

I will be presenting a paper on Wednesday, Feb 28, called “We must begin to build for ourselves a city in which we want to live.” Most of the Wednesday program focuses on design & urbanism in Eastern Europe during the socialist and post-socialist eras, and also features interesting papers from Christina E. Crawford, Michael Klein, Mejrema Zatric and Sante Simone.

The full conference program, is now available. The conference is free and open to the public, and you may register online. 

sociological party marathon action

Posted on August 29, 2012

During the winter and spring of 2011-12 residents of Moscow and Saint Petersburg went into the streets en masse for the first time in 20 years, demanding change in the regime of political and social inequality associated with the great imbalances of wealth in their country. As a response to the massive movements in the streets and on the Internet, the Russian government, in the form of the security forces and the parliament, began a brutal crackdown on all dissent. New laws criminalizing almost any public gathering as unauthorized political rallies and increasing the fines for participation in such gatherings 150-fold, along with parliamentary proposals to monitor and shut down internet service providers delivering ‘offensive’ content, are all intended to freeze movement and quell political unrest. However, there are unintended results of such inequitable uses of power: instead of freezing any specific movement, the entire field of action is activated. In such a tense, electrified field, one small action can precipitate lighting strikes in response.

It was into this newly electrified field that I arrived in October 2011, invited to Moscow and Saint Petersburg to collaborate with architects, sociologists, and activists committed to DIY methods for reclaiming urban development at the grassroots level. In Russia, as I soon discovered, discussion of urban development, architectural preservation and ‘community building’ are often the aesthetic surrogates for more dangerous political arguments. Wealth and political inequality are more than ever expressed in the ability to control these discussions. In fact, in a turn eerily reminiscent of life during the Soviet era, inequality in Russian cities is often evidenced by the (in)ability to simply go out of one’s home and gather together with fellow citizens.

In collaboration with a group of Moscow-based “urban hacktivists,”, I developed a concept for working with the new momentum for grassroots-level change in both cities. Operating on the principle that change begins in small movements, with simple communion between strangers, I asked: Could people, barred from meeting outside, claim as public the intimate space of the home? Working in urban districts in which residents feared the loss of their homes to new regimes of luxury real estate development, I organized Sociological Party Marathons. Strangers from different parts of the city met at a predetermined point. Bringing food and drink, these strangers asked to enter the homes of local residents, to sit, have a party, and learn intimate aspects of their relationship with the area. What emerged among participants in these gatherings and subsequent workshops was a new understanding of how people perceive inequality between neighbors. The form of the party-marathon suggested both the fun and freedom of the carnival and the structured exhaustion and euphoria of an athletic race through a city. The concept demanded a great deal of trust between strangers, and courage to make public the most restricted spaces in Russian cities. As one participant who balked at the prospect of ringing a stranger’s doorbell remarked: “this boundary is the most important in a Russian’s life.”

what is artistic research?

Posted on August 18, 2012

In a recent article about the international contemporary art exhibition dOCUMENTA (13), which features artistic projects that employ research methodology, artist and sociologist, Hakan Topal, asks:

How is so-called artistic research different than an ethnographic account by an anthropologist who employs visual research tools? Can art practice address urgent socio-political topics successfully?

He goes on to explain what he believes is the value of artistic research:

In contrast to any scientific model that aims to either explain, or interpret social or natural phenomena, the outcome of artistic research can be best measured by its ability to engage with seemingly unrelated matters, things and concepts, and in return with its ability to generate some forms of intelligible affects.

Topal also points out an important aspect of artistic research practice: the practical use of intuition.

When an artist enters into a social realm to conduct research, intuition allows her/him to generate in-situ knowledge, therefore a particularly practical intellectual opening. In this regard, in artistic research, more so than any other scientific exploration, intuition is utilized as a method to identify a wide range of modalities.

Check out the complete article here.




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