Enabling architecture and its forms of knowledge – projective recording

Rather than offering an object as a solution to an insufficiently explored problem, we argued for understanding and reading the existing urban situation in a mode that combines analytical and of projective thinking. In that way the notions of project and projection, which are so important for design, receive a transformation. Conventionally the project has a time vector that directs in the future. With the analytical logic the time vector of the project is multiplied, allowing to look at the ‘now’, the ‘as found’ or to look at the conditions of the project’s coming into being in the past. That changes the formal category of a project from being a fixed object to a processional action. In her book Extrastatecraft as well as various other writings, Keller Easterling laid out the structural conditions of this performative form as ‘disposition.’ Easterling’s notion of disposition leads to the concept of infrastructure space as a way of ‘detecting and developing the active forms that shape disposition. […] Disposition is the character or propensity of an organisation that results from all its activity. It is the medium, not the message.’1 Easterling proposes that professionals in urban design and related disciplines can develop a knowing how by altering their available tools to shape object forms to understand and manipulate active forms.2 Her approach is particularly interesting as it allows describing how organisations use space, amongst other media, in the form of zones as powerful infrastructure that produces elaborate routines and schedules for organizing consumption.3
In a similar fashion we merged aspects of situational analysis as brought forward by Adele Clarke (as taught in the MTT block of the Urban Design curriculum) with aspects of project management currently used in urban development. Equally here we find the strategy of superimposing logics. Doing so, we put the existing legal infrastructure determining how professionals in urban design and related disciplines operate to test and push its meaning towards the possible. One such example is the German Fees for Architects and Engineers (Honorarordnung für Architekten und Ingenieure - HOAI). Within this regulation, a wide range of Urban Design practices occupies what the Baukultur Report 2014 calls Phase 0 – the conceptual or research phase, and Phase 10 – the use management phase (see Figure 4). From these – currently not yet paid – phases actors involved in construction broadly expect to avoid conflicts of interests, save expenses and achieve better results in the overall acceptance of a project. This holds true in particular at times and in places where the public sector on every level behaves austerely. In a first phase 10 the students’ performance was conceived as the research subject and translated key aspects of it into a phase 0 for the project UoN.

Fig. 4. Expansion of the HOAI Service Phases with Phase Zero and Phase Ten. Source: Baukultur Report 2014

We were (and are) concerned with the organisation of urban development. In order to understand the existing and emerging agencies in their indeterminacy, we conducted what in retrospect can be described as a superposition of document analysis and scenario technique. Through these modes of analysis and projection we tried to process uncertainties of urban development and explore them across different scales. Thus the core of the research, ingrained in a design-build format, consisted in the challenge to work with the existing building as a frame for working with the existing urban situation. This resulted in bringing together various dimensions of indistinctness about education and urban development that are normally not negotiated together.
  1. Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft. The Power of Infrastructure Space, London: Verso, 2014, 21.
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.