Architecture in social territories

Architecture in social territories

 

Architecture, as production of materiality of urban ground and buildings, has a limited capacity to intervene in the new condition of the European city. It cannot address the social and identity conflicts, due to strong immigrant flows, inequalities, control, privatization and gentrification of public space. Architecture works in an already constructed territory, without questioning its power. A new notion of territory, as human presence that reclaim power, revealed in the recent street and square occupation movements, demands new approaches of architecture as public making.
The staging of human coexistence and the empowerment of public sphere are now part of architecture in an expanded field. Architecture becomes a critical spatial practice that shares concepts and tactics with public art, performing and media art, political theory, activism, urban anthropology. A new set of tactics include networking, collaboration, documentary, archiving, performance, relational and participatory acts.

A change in architecture education is needed to address the city as a space of difference, to create a social practice of imagination, and a political public sphere. We need to develop skills, tools, concepts for interdisciplinary design that can negotiate and bring together diverse practices, people, media, institutions, physical and virtual spaces.
At the Department of Architecture, in the art program, a series of research projects, workshops, courses, articulate different active approaches to urban intervention, based on collective, dialogical, performative acts, in specific situations in Patras, and other cities, such as London and Istanbul.

The research project ArchivePublic, supported by Karatheodoris basic research program, is an example of such spatial practice, producing experimental work from 2009 to today. The project proposes archiving practice as a medium for public art, as appropriate mechanism to create ephemeral communitites of engaged citizens. It intervenes in the reproduction of knowledge and politics of memory in conflicting social spaces of Patras and other european cities.
Patras is a city-node of transitory immigration and gateway to Europe in an important migration path from the Middle East, Asia Minor and Africa. It reflects specific translocal flows of persons and media. The recent and sudden influx of large numbers of refugees in the city center produces difference, conflict, but at the same time the possibility of building new localities, of making plural imagination work. Dominant forms of memory in the city (national monuments, museums, memorials) represent fixed notions of social identity, not aligned to current transformations and the antagonistic situations of urban life. ArchivePublic responds to the current reality of the city by creating hybrid processes of identity formation and public sphere.

If today, architecture has a role to play in the shifting urban condition, this may occure as a staging of a complex set of operations within the political territory of human speech and action.

 

(transcription of video-talk installation at Sophocleous Street as participation to Groundworks exhibition by the Department of Architecture in the framework of the 1st Architecture Biennale of Thessaloniki: ‘architecture and the city in south east europe’, 18.1 – 26.2, 2012)



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