Friday, January 2, 2009

Architecture of Mediation

I was recently asked to contribute a piece for an upcoming issue of Urban China on Creative Industries edited by Ned Rossiter, Bert de Muynck, Mónica Carriço. The result, "An Architecture of Mediation", is now available online at orgnets. I believe the full issue, which I am really looking forward to reading, will be available quite soon.

The piece discusses "architecture as mediation" as a potential third position situated between disparate poles of architectural practice: complicity with the processes of globalization on the one hand an a reactionary critical regionalism on the other. In the article I tried to provide a theoretical background for this strategy (how it has emerged from these polarized conditions) and a few projects by Chinese architects that I think exemplify this strategy, including the work of Standard Architecture and Wang Shu, whose Hangzhou Academy of Art campus I have discussed previously. I have to admit that the piece was written quite hastily and the thoughts behind it are still nascent but hopefully promising. I think there is some resonance between these ideas and Mark Collins' post Iteration City.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

This irreconcilable opposition between progress and resistance, globalization and regionalism, avant-garde and arriere-garde, is the transitional space within which the architecture of mediation seeks to operate. Practitioners such as Wang Shu and Zhang Ke of China, Alejandro Aravena / ELEMENTAL of Chile, Hashim Sarkis of Lebanon, and Airoots in India, are all examples of this emerging position. It seeks to mediate between a number of dichotomous states – a project’s intended scale of influence, i.e. its global and local effects; the conflicting interests of participants, both explicit and implicit; top-down and bottom-up planning systems; formal and informal design processes; and rural and urban contexts, just to name a few.
...
Mediatory architecture is a complex undertaking and involves an expanded vision of architecture. It is a multi-disciplinary mission which involves communication, media, research, conflict management and design agency. It requires architects to be inventive, adaptive, responsive, opportunistic, active and reactive to complex scenarios. Alejandro Aravena’s concept of ELEMENTAL as a ‘do-tank’ reminds us that action is a necessary condition of mediation. Finally, mediatory architecture requires architects to negotiate the conflicting interests within particular situations.


See Previous:
Wang Shu's CAA 1
Wang Shu's CAA 2
Iteration City : More on Bottom Up

4 comments:

Ефим Фрейдин said...

Have you heard about Harry Edelman's text "Urban design management: Using integrative negotation to create value at the intersection of urban planning, city design and real estate development"?
It's about conflict management, i think.
I make dissertaton in Russia (in process now) about urban planning in conditions of (social/spatal) urban conflict (controversy of interest, for example). the main problem is how to convert social relations to space language and space barriers, borders to social.
What do you think about it?

Dave Brown said...

hi Ефим,
Thank you for the reference. i have not heard of Edelman's text but it sounds really interesting--I will have to look it up.
I am interested in hearing more about your dissertation. I honestly have not given much thought to conditions of urban conflict although it sounds timely considering what is going on in the Middle East now. I have been more focused on China and its rapid urban and economic development and the inconsistencies and disparities it causes. How can design mitigate these effects and also mitigate the effects unchecked growth will have on social and environmental ecologies.
but I think you are right about the problem. Perhaps the border/barrier is the most important part of the discussion. How can it be more than just a wall as it has been in so many places of conflict--Berlin, Israel/Palestine, or Belfast for example.
I remember in a discussion regarding Chantal Mouffe's notion of antagonistic democracy we came to the conclusion that the edge--or this border condition--should be the focus of planning and design.

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