by Margot Manca, Arthur Prod’hom, Phileas Schulhof, Fauve Van De Velde
Keywords: Anarchitecture, Re-appropriation, Facilitation, Informality, Bottom-up, Manifesto, Playfulness
Everything started from the course guideline: Choose a program and do necessary physical changes to resurrect Gothenburg’s former courthouse.
Given the good state of this building and the quality it already had, we have been brought to question the reasons why it has been empty for the past two years. This leads us to interrogate the subject of vacancies in a broader context. We realized that this problem extends to most, if not all, contemporary cities. We understood this situation as the result of planning and the delegation of care for the built environment to so-called professionals: formality. After a lot of readings, we realized we were not the first ones to look into this topic. Be it the squatting movement in Berlin, May 1968 uprisings or philosophical essays, informality in its different forms has been thought of as a potential way to make architecture more democratic. Thus, our project took the path of mapping the issue of today’s planning architecture while investigating the potential meaning of non-planning architecture. How can one bring informality into the architectural profession?
This path lead us to a three-fold approach based on the idea of architects as facilitators and prioritizing a bottom-up process.
All three parts of our project aim to facilitate:
- A manifesto facilitates the understanding of today’s situation. It takes a radical point of view in order to raise questions and provoke discussions.
- A guide showing the absurdity of the situation by facilitating illegal activist actions.
- A case study on the former courthouse proposes a new vision of architecture, facilitating new imaginaries.
All three aspects of this project raise the question of citizens’ dispossession in contemporary cities by fostering re-appropriation in a provocative way.
This document is a manifesto, which contains our declarations of intentions, motives and opinions. In essence, it is radical and provocative. Our manifesto, which is split into three parts, grounds itself mainly on theoretical and philosophical texts.
The first part is questioning the role of architects as planners of the life of others, infantilizing citizens and making them passive tourists of their own lives. We condemn the current de-humanizing and infantilizing methods of practising architecture bereaving us of our power to act.
The second part addresses the built environment itself and our relation to it. We argue that we tend to see buildings as single-use cups, yet, an empty cup does not need to change to be filled up. We believe that the problem is not material architecture itself but our relation to it.
The third part is proposing a new vision of the architectural profession, rejecting its authoritarian aspects and replacing the act of planning by the act of facilitating. As Deleuze (1985) says about the role of the intellectual: “Collecting information, historicizing problems, then informing and showing paths that could be taken, exposing strategies, presenting what is possible in order to facilitate resistance.”
This text, while being really critical of contemporary architecture, is trying to bring back trust in the ability of humans to self-organize, emancipate themselves and thrive without the need for authority. We argue for the necessity of spaces of informality.
From the conclusion that architects should be facilitators, we asked ourselves how this could be applied to the issue of empty buildings, the context of this course. We ended up creating a guide, aiming to respond to the absurdity of the situation through absurdly complex proposals. We are presenting six step-by-step methods on how to re-appropriate an empty building. By choosing a graphical language derived from IKEA for instructions – a language that most people are familiar with – we are trying to afford knowledge. By turning toward the absurd, we try to provoke the viewer and politicize the issue. This absurdity’s aim in this document is to highlight the obvious dead end we are confronting, the newly made impossibility of informality.
Wondering what a physical architecture of facilitation could be, we developed an intervention using the courthouse as a case study. Our goal was to explore a way of facilitating the reappropriation of the built environment while emphasizing the absurdity of empty buildings. To do so we opted for scaffolding, as a flexible, easy and modifiable way of building. Our intervention stops when architecture starts, we build a frame, a basis, literally a grid that allows – and even needs – to be completed, altered and used. All the technical principles for its construction are explained in the re-appropriation guide, allowing anyone to reappropriate it and make changes. By letting go of our instinct of planning and giving room for informality, we end up with an alternative way of doing architecture, taking adaptability and playfulness as the main principle instead of efficiency and optimization.
At the end of the project, we had to organize two exhibitions which ended up being fully part of our narrative, incorporating re-appropriation practically.
The one in Chalmers took place in a hallway where people are used to just passing by but never stopping. We used the exhibition to split this hallway into two, one unchanged half, the other one allowing a change in people’s relation to this space. By writing on the floor and windows – by re-appropriating surfaces ourselves – we tried to expose architecture’s contingency.
Another exhibition took place in the former courthouse, by using the main unused hall and opening it to the public, we actually tackled the building’s re-appropriation we were fostering, even if only for two days.
With this project, we tried to explore another take on environmental care. Instead of relying on technology and brand new design – which we see as today’s main approach – we argue for doing less rather than doing more. We believe that, most often, the issue is not physical architecture itself but our relation to it. If we want to transform this relationship and foster a connection between inhabitants and the built environment and introduce a notion of care in the way we inhabit, we need to give room for informality and recover trust in people’s ability to self-organize.
last edited June 2022 – By Elke Miedema