Candide No. 10 — 12/2016 — Essay

Isabelle Doucet
Architecture Wrestling the Social: The “Live” Project as Site of Contestation

Whether thriving on genuine enthusiasm or fatalistic skepticism, social responsibility in architecture is often theorized in terms of dichotomist pairs that are placed in opposition to one another: designer vs. user; top-down vs. bottom-up; politics vs. aesthetics; power vs. emancipation; layperson vs. expert; high vs. low culture. In practice, architecture and cities do not operate through polarizing pairs, but rather through processes of negotiation and contestation between stakes, actors, and interests, contestation is an intrinsic rather than exceptional part of architecture. This is heightened in the context of social responsibility; namely when architecture aims to contribute to a better world and imagine the future in closer dialogue with the users of space. This paper will study social responsibility through contestation by unpacking the networks of engagement surrounding the AD/AA/Polyark project: in the early 1970s architectural students of the Architectural Associations toured across the United Kingdom on a converted bus with the aim to set up a dialogue between students and the world “out there”.

Candide No. 10, 12/2016

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