Dense voids, violent laughters and other unorthodox ways

Abstract: Starting from an analysis of Georges Bataille’s text ‘The Labyrinth’ (1935-6), this paper addresses the always changing relationship between architecture and the city, considering in particular the architectural ‘void’, as both a physical space and a disciplinary domain. In the city, architecture operates in a ‘void’ that is dense of tensions, unevenness, singularities, stratifications and movements, and must devise strategies for addressing and inhabiting these networks of relations. Focusing in particular on Peter Eisenman’s definition of the ‘interstitial’ as a spacing condition of form-form relation, and on Rem Koolhaas’s ‘strategy of the void’ and its congestion with architectural ‘junk’, this text argues that different postmodern positions on architecture in the city have addressed the ‘void’ as a space that is not feared – and therefore ‘designed’ by the architectural project – but tensioned with the potentiality of Bataille’s convulsive laughter: that destabilizing and de-compositional force that transverses relations of structured organizational contiguity, and challenges them with a force that travels across the (architectural) ‘void’.

Bio: Teresa Stoppani (MArch IUAV Venice, PhD Arch&UD Florence) is Reader in Architecture at the University of Brighton. She has taught architectural design and theory at the IUAV Venice, the Architectural Association London, the University of Greenwich, RMIT University Melbourne and the University of Technology Sydney. Her research interests are the relationship between architecture theory and the design process in the urban environment, and the influence on the specifically architectural of other spatial and critical practices.

Teresa is an editor of the EAHN journal Architectural Histories and of Ultima Thule: Journal of Architectural Imagination. Her writings have been published internationally in edited books and academic journals (Angelaki, ARQ, Footprint, Haecceity Papers, Idea Journal, Log, The Journal of Architecture, The Journal of Architecture) and include: considerations on G.B. Piranesi’s architectural space in relation to contemporary spatial practices; a series of explorations of the significance of dust in the work of W. Benjamin, G. Bataille and in the visual arts and media, proposing a reconsideration of form. Recent works include a study of the complex relation of the project of architecture with the destructive event of war and terrorism (in Space & Culture 15:2, 2012 ), an essay on the critical nature of architecture for the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale (in D. Chipperfield (ed.), Common Ground. Critical Reader, 2012), an exploration of the connection between the material and the critical in architectural representation, through a study of practices erasures (in I. Wingham (ed.), Mobility of the Line, Birkhauser, 2013). Her book Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice was published by Routledge in 2010; her current work proposes a critical consideration of key concepts for the reconceptualization of the architecture of the city – to be published in the forthcoming X Unorthodox Ways to Rethink the City (Routledge, 2014).


Deleuze’s Fold as Urban Strategy

Abstract: Spaces defined by their exteriority to the prevailing urban frame – here referred to as ‘urban blind spots’ – appear in several theoretical writings, with different names. ‘Voids’, ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’, ‘terrains vagues’, arguably all share some common traits: a political potential, rising from the vacancy of the established order; as well as a radical separation from the city’s inside. Beyond the fascination they exercise on architects, can these spaces and their openness be put to work for transforming the city? Could it be that, in order to activate their political potential, one needs to rethink their relation to the city, and move away from the idea of a strict exteriority?

This question is approached against the backdrop of Deleuze’s ‘fold’, and the particular conditions of exteriority it describes. As an hypothesis to be tested, the form of the ‘fold’ may be a resource both to understand the embedded functioning of ‘blind spots’ within processes of urban speculation, and to mobilise these spaces for alternative transformations of the city.

Bio:  Francesco Sebregondi is an architect and a graduate from the Centre for Research Architecture (Goldsmiths). He studied in Paris, Rome and London. Driven by a search for alternative practices of architecture, his research addresses the margins of contemporary cities, the role of architecture as media, and the politics of ruins. In 2011, he published “The Event of Void: Architecture and Politics in the Evacuated Heygate Estate” (self-published booklet).

Play and Work: Tabacalera

Abstract: This paper will discuss the Tabacalera, the popular name for the old tobacco factory erected in central Madrid in 1793. It is a huge building historically involved in the generation of urban and social agencies through industrial production: tobacco and (mostly) women workers, tobacco-makers. It was a blind spot city within the city of female workers and their families with little or no visibility outside its walls. After a series of negotiations between local agents and the Ministry of Culture (the legal owner of the building) part of the space was delivered in May 2010 to the so-called CSA Tabacalera (Social Self-organized Center) a loose group of several civic associations, to start their activities.

In August 2010 I approached the CSA Tabacalera with a project: to organize, during the academic year 2010-2011, collaboration between some of the agents at CSA and the School of Architecture where I teach, with the 4th and 5th year students. The goal was to move all design activities from the School to the actual Tabacalera building and to set up a nomad architectural practice leading to several architectural interventions, which were completed at the end of the project.

Bio: Fernando Quesada is an Architect, educated at the Madrid School of Architecture (ETSAM), the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV), Italy, and Universidad Central, Santiago de Chile, and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Columbia University, New York. Since 2001 he has been Assistant Professor of Architectural Design at Escuela de Arquitectura de Alcalá, UAH. He also teaches at “Master the City and the Project” (UAH), “Master in Performing Arts and Visual Culture” (UAH), “Master Paessagi Straordinary” (Politecnico di Milano) and “Master in Advanced Architectural Design” (ETSAM). He is author of “La Caja Mágica, Cuerpo y Escena” (The Magic Box, Body and Scene, Barcelona 2005) and “Del Cuerpo a la Red” (Body to Network, Ediciones Asimétricas, Madrid 2012), and co-director, since 2001, of O-Monografías, art and architecture series journal, with six edited volumes. Co-editor of Cairon 12, Dance Studies Journal “Architecture and the Body” (UAH, 2009).

Freedom Square in Bratislava – Open Public Space

Abstract: For the Freedom Square in Bratislava, time seems to have stopped a few decades ago. The scenery is set up by post-war functionalist palaces of Technical University and Ministry of Transport and a baroque palace – seat of Governmental office. The common discourse on the Square is controversial, and its majestic history stands in contrast against its contemporary status as do societies of totalitarian and liberal-democratic regimes. This limbo situation might offer either an opening onto possibilities of new usage, or signalling the last phase of deterioration, anticipating demolition and replacement.

The paper will examine this contrast by looking at the Square as complex socio-spatial phenomena, while borrowing from concept of Henri Lefebvre of space as ’social product’. According to this perspective, the various types of spatial practices – physical, social as well as intellectual and imaginative activities— influence each other by production of space. This theoretical framework can be used as tool for linking the historical architectural visions and practices on the space of Freedom Square, which in turn can have an impact on the contemporary development of discourse on the Square and its appropriation.

Bio: Trained in architecture on Faculty of Architecture on Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava (graduated in 2010). Since 2011 PhD. student at the FA SUT under supervision of Doc. Ing. arch. Henrieta Moravcíková, PhD. His thesis is focused on research of Architecture of totalitarian regimes. Since 2011 external cooperator of Institute of Construcion and Architecture of Slovak academy of sciences, collaborating on project ATRIUM (“Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes in Urban Managements”

Vague Urbanisms – Dramaturgies of porous spaces, off-shoots and beyond

Abstract: Decades of formal and informal developments in the wastelands of post-industrialising cities have demonstrated that urban wastelands are crucial for the general development of our cities as well as culture and politics as such. In what we term vague spaces, new burgeoning political and social associations are the living proof of the vitality of otherwise unseen and obscene urban cultures. This lived vitality works as a concrete utopia in relation to the all too often alienating processes of the conventional, formal negotiation concerning the development of our cities.

Taking a vantage point in a specific project in an ‘urban blind spot’ in a Copenhagen suburb – a mobile ‘community toolbox’ (CTB) that transformed urban space into a temporary 1:1 storytelling space – we advance two arguments concerning the realisation of the vague potentials of the city. One argument pursues the character of vague spaces further in relation to their more sensual and bodily moments through the concept of porous space. Another argument concerns general methodological approach in understanding and unfolding the vague potentials of local neighbourhoods, Urban dramaturgy. We show how ever new expressions and perceptions of the urban, that is, new urbanisms, are unfolded through off-shoots in the dynamic play of vagueness and porosity.

Bio:  The SUPERTANKER network: SUPERTANKER originated as a constructive challenge to the ongoing redevelopment of Copenhagen harbour in 2002-2004. Since then they have lived on as a project network working with innovation and urban development. They have developed alternative methods of generating dialogue and ideas, through staged trials, workshops etc. They have developed a broad portfolio of tools aimed at involving people that do not usually take part in the development of the city.

‘Enabling Architecture’ for the Learning City, Neighbourhood University (UdN)

Abstract:  This presentation will discuss the interdisciplinary education- and research project “Universität der Nachbarschaften (UdN), a diverse learning platform in Hamburg: it is a building site, stage, laboratory, interactive space and community centre.

During a period of five years, the UdN has taken an experimental approach to developing and testing contemporary forms of education based on culture, knowledge and urban development. The word “Universität”, in English “university”, refers to the process of discovering what can be defined as knowledge in an alleged “global knowledge-based society” and under which local conditions it can be generated – how it enters the world. “Nachbarschaften” (neighbourhoods) deals with local conditions: with social relationships and integration issues.

The starting point for examining these issues is a familiar urban situation: an empty, disused building, a symbol of “not any more” and “not yet” – the former Health Authority building in the Hamburg district of Wilhemsburg. Here, the UdN is developing its own principles for working and studying, its own curriculum: active appropriation, real interventions in the substance of the building and the programmatic utilization of it. In doing so, the potential for the generation and communication of knowledge will be removed from the “ivory towers” of the university and shifted elsewhere during the process of concrete urban transformation. The design of a city, perceived as an existing constructional, social, cultural and economic network, will be examined on a 1:1 scale. The main focus is on a form of sustainability that draws on the current conditions of the conversion and remaining utilization of the building, examines it in the light of its basic economic parameters, and attempts to use these to create new forms of action. This also mean that in this case sustainability does not develop from things but from relationships, from the neighbourhood.

Bio:  Professor Bernd Kniess is the Dean of Urban Design at HafenCity Universität in Hamburg. The project Universität der Nachbarschaften (UdN) is a collaboration between the HafenCity Universität Hamburg (HCU), the International Building Exhibition Hamburg (IBA) and Kampnagel Internationale Kulturfabrik. It is sponsored by Max Hoffmann GmbH & Co. KG.

Temporal Appropriation of ‘left over’ spaces

Abstract:  This paper explores the various temporalities of wastelands and derelict spaces and how these influence their production, (re)production and use. Commonly conceived as ‘urban blind spots’ and voids within a city’s fabric, it highlights with reference to a number of case studies, how these contested zones, far from being voids, represent sites of action where “multiple temporalities collide” (Crang, 2001: 189). As a consequence of temporal ‘gaps’ within spatial planning and redevelopment processes, as solid future visions ‘melt into air’ (Berman, 1982), other temporal rhythms occur as individuals appropriate these territories and “reclaim time as well as space” (Kivell and Hatfield, 1999: 123). The paper also considers the potential of such spaces and actions to act as a standpoint from which critical perspectives towards urban planning and design can be generated.

Bio:  Jo Hudson (BArch Architecture, MA Art as Environment, BA Hons Architecture) teaches at Liverpool School of Architecture, and on the Landscape Architecture BA at the Manchester School of Architecture, and has professional experience in a number of North West based architectural practices. Having recently submitted her PhD thesis; Informal Spaces: Creative (Re)appropriations of Urban Space, undertaken in the School of Science and the Environment at Manchester Metropolitan University she is currently working on publications. Her research interests focus upon wastelands and derelict spaces.

At the western end of a dead-end park-slot

Abstract: For the purposes of anonymity the name of the park will not be disclosed. The name of the city, as well as the country will remain unidentified here. It is a park. It is classified as park-area by the planning authorities. It is a dead-end of an otherwise popular park. It is badly integrated with the urban fabric (they say). It is topographically difficult, dominated by a steep slope facing north. It is a park located in a region which is not warm. It sees autumns, winters, springs and summers. It offers a dog resting area and a derelict football field (one of the two goals is gone after a puff of wind fell fifteen trees just west of the kindergarten which is located on its periphery). Eastwards: Two kindergarten. One of them has up until now been more permanent than the other. Now they are both going to be gone. 2014. Southwards: Up on the hill a towering housing block dating from the late 1960’s. Northwards: Transition homes for recently homeless men and women. Westwards: A rugged edge, large and small trees, bushes, and beyond housing, a community hospital, more housing. The end (a steep staircase). This is now. What is being planned is a new housing block. Owner apartments. Expensive. A new street disconnects the children, that is. Adults can deal with car-traffic. A presentation of the current conditions will be made in the form of photographs, maps and a descriptive voice. It will report from the growing resistance to the plans and the responses from the planners in charge. This is a new project which is in an early stage, however the author has previously written extensively on the park in question, though from another perpective.

Bio: Katja Grillner is professor of Critical Studies in Architecture at the KTH School of Architecture and the Built Environment. She is the director of the strong research environment Architecture in Effect, funded by Formas 2011-2016. She is co-founder of FATALE, a feminist architecture teaching and research group based at KTH. She was the president of the Nordic Association for Architectural Research 2000-2002, director of architecture research at KTH from 2005-2008, and has directed large research projects such as AKAD (2003-2007); Architecture and Authorship (2003-2007); The Poetics of Critical Writing (2007-2009).

Urban Biopower Stockholm and the Biopolitics of Creative Resistance

Abstract: The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has argued that the ‘camp’ conceived as the paradoxical space of permanent exception designed to exclude the non-citizen, has now entered the centre of the contemporary city where every citizen risks being unmasked as a stranger, or perhaps a worker who has lost his or her working visa. The biopower that organizes the invisible city-camp does so through the administration of the lives and deaths of its population, through subtle shifts in the social atmospheres of belonging and exclusion, and through the ubiquitous use of electronic pass codes, which determine access to both physical sites as well as sites of information. This presentation will address key concepts such as biopolitics, biopower, and also noopolitics in order to collaboratively present work in progress being undertaken by students in Critical Studies in Architecture, KTH Architecture.

Bio:  Dr Hélène Frichot is an Assistant Professor in Critical Studies in Architecture, School of Architecture and the Built Environment, KTH, Stockholm. While her first discipline is architecture she completed a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Sydney (2004). Hélène edited, with Stephen Loo, Deleuze and Architecture, Edinburgh University Press, (2013). Since 2005, with Esther Anatolitis, she has co-curated the public lecture series Architecture+Philosophy (

Operating in and/or emancipating the interstice

Abstract: In response to the conference’s theme “urban blind spots”, this paper introduces Isabelle Stengers’s use of “interstice”. Stengers uses the interstice as a conceptual category for reading what emerges form the margins (of space), found within peripheral as much as central locations. Interstices are those places where events emerge, where previously illegible, and thus unnoticed, activities become articulate. As such they allow for the possibility of alternative futures. Stengers’s “plea for a slow science” is to be read within her conceptualisation of the interstice. I will confront such reading of the interstice with the urban and architectural critical practices that emerged in Brussels throughout the 1990s and, in many cases, are still operative today. These practices showcase the potential of the interstice as “cracks” within the system, and, so I will argue, they allow for a critical position. Namely a criticality “from within” that questions enforced choices such as between opposition and appeasement.

Bio: Dr. Isabelle Doucet is a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Manchester, School of Environment and Development / Manchester Architecture Research Centre. Her research centres on transformations in architecture’s critical project at the intersections of social critique, politics and aesthetics. Relevant publications include the special issue Agency in Architecture: Reframing Criticality in Theory and Practice (Footprint, 2009, with K. Cupers); the edited volume Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production: Towards Hybrid Modes of Inquiry in Architecture and Urbanism (Springer, 2011, with N. Janssens); and “Making a city with words: Understanding Brussels through its urban heroes and villains” (City, Culture and Society, 2012).