31 January 2014 – HCT Debates / Architecture Politics: Orsalia Dimitriou

MA History and Critical Thinking Debates / Architecture Politics
Term 2: Friday 1:00 / 36 Bedford Square, New Soft Room

Orsalia Dimitriou: Common grounds, common practices
Friday 31 January

In the first of this term’s Friday debates, Orsalia Dimitriou introduced an inquiry into the influence of the “commons” in today’s neo-liberalist society. After a brief historical introduction of the practice and the term ‘commons’ in late Middle Ages, she presented it as a threefold phenomenon, consisted in shared resources, the community and the act of ‘commoning’.* She elaborated her take on this concept with reference to three specific case studies: firstly the social processes that encompass the annual influx of temporary residents on the deserted Greek island Gaidouronisi during the summer season. Secondly, the self-organized initiative in the Athens’s quarter of Exarcheia, and their social and spatial implications. Lastly she discussed her first-hand experience in planning, implementing and maintaining a network of commons in the London neighbourhood of New Cross. The subsequent debate made apparent the need to emphasize not the common (as a noun), but to common (as a verb, an active agent). In this sense, Orsalia emphasized that “commons” should not be regarded as end products, but as ongoing processes that act both as references and indices.
* Orsalia handed out the following reading elaborating this: ‘On the Commons: A Public Interview with Massimo de Angelis and Stavros Stavrides.’

Summary by Winston Hampel and Maria Jose Orihuela

HCT Debates: Architecture Politics
Organised and hosted by Marina Lathouri, John Palmesino and Douglas Spencer

To enable students to pursue questions and problems in public, yet small-scale sessions, the HCT programme holds a debate series with guest designers, writers, artists, scholars and critics. Each week two people are invited to talk and share their work with the group. The presentations are followed by discussion. Although the sessions are open, the MA students are asked to prepare questions and observations based upon preliminary reading. Also each student is expected to conduct an interview with one of the speakers.

The theme of the discussions this year is architecture politics. Every time brings specific conditions to the manner in which the claims on architecture are made. New technologies and modes of design and production have prompted elaborate arguments on economic policies, new organisational models, environmental strategies and sustainable development patterns. There seems to be, however, a lack of reflection on the fundamental question of architecture as a composite form of knowledge, yet with specific traits, and as a distinct set of practices, yet in difficult connections with cultural territories and material configurations.

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