Community Architecture at Nordrand 45

I recently completed my final project for a workshop in Cottbus. I collaborated with three other students: Anne Groß, Sebastian Seyfarth, and Erko Luhaaru. In the beginning of the project, I wrote an abstract on what we hoped to practice—Community Architecture.
We strive to democratize the design process. This begins by connecting constituencies: the community, the local governance, and the owner. Each constituency will be approached and compassionately listened to, not judged, until theirs and others' perspectives have been voiced and evaluated. We will engage constituencies on a one-to-one basis, going door to door in the community, contacting the local governance, and contacting the owner—while simultaneously we will begin a public outreach campaign with fliers, signage, and installations. We will host meetings with all the constituencies to create dialogue and explore possibilities for the abandoned Stasi site at Nordrand 45. Each meeting step will be documented as a stream of design process data, which will be interpreted with the community and the students to come to terms with the various positions, through synthesis or recognition of differences. Democratization of the design process cannot predetermine outputs, but we must be open to the communities decisions and outputs, while we hope to create documentation, installations, tangible streams of intervention, or architecture. 
Beginning with this abstract and resulting in the final video, my group engaged in a dialogue that placed the architect out of the traditional role of delivering vision, and into the public sector, engaging in public service architecture.

English subtitles soon to come (maybe..).

Sketching A Montage on Architecture

We must be critical and self-conscious constructors of history. In my architecture program, I recently delivered this paper for a project that was to explore the topic of an abandoned Stasi building in Cottbus, Germany. Upon my delivery, the crowed was reserved and only referenced to the paper later with the confused question: how to respond to this? I wonder: Did they listen to the text even though it did not tickle their desire to see visually? In the week leading up to the presentation, my instructors encouraged me to visualize my theoretical connections between architectural power and theory. But instead, I attempted to intertwine artistic and scientific (always referenced in A.S.G) inquiry through Walter Benjamin's "literary montage," referenced in his Arcades Project. Below I explore textual boundaries through the layers of difference voices.

Sketching A Montage on Architecture

(Method of this project: literary montage. I needn't say anything. Merely show.)[1]

(There is a crisis in the architectural profession and in architectural education.[2])  
(To make architecture is to map the world is some way, to intervene, to signify: it is a political act. Architecture, then as discourse, discipline, and form, operates at the intersection of power, relations of production, culture, and representation and is instrumental to the construction of our identities and our differences, to shaping how we know the world.)[3] 
(When confronted with such a parallax gap, one should renounce all attempts to reduce one aspect to the other [or, even more, to enact a kind of "dialectical synthesis" of the opposites]; the task is, on the contrary, to conceive all possible positions as responses to a certain underlying deadlock or antagonism, as so many attempts to resolve this deadlock.)[4]
(It is important to recognize, additionally, the specificity of architecture as a social practice.)[5]

(She had some thoughts on that too, even as a non-architect, that were really intriguing.[6])
(I think it is import for students to look at not just the concept. But what really does that mean? … Will it really benefit the community you're trying to preserve?[7])

(Drawing heavily on Weber, Bourdieu argues that predominance is maintained by the use of symbolic power, by cultural means. The dominant class maintains social closure and transmits power and privilege through the generations by erecting symbolic boundaries around itself. These take the form of distinctive lifestyles and tastes.)[8] 
(It is held deeply that taste is a perfectly personal natural thing—I just happen to have certain tastes. ... naturally. Nothing is more effective in denying that culture is a social weapon than simply asserting that our tastes are purely natural.)[9]

(Their "playful indifference" conceals the reality of the ruthless exercise of power: what they stage as aesthetic spectacle is reality for the masses of ordinary people. Their indifference toward ideology is the very form of their complicity with the ruling ideology.)[10](We are not dealing with a longing for real equality, but with the longing for a proper appearance.)[11]

(To recast it in the less gentle Bourdivin conceptual schema, the field of architecture is responsible for producing these parts of the built environment that the dominant classes use to justify their domination of the social order. Buildings of power, buildings of state, buildings of worship, buildings to awe and impress.)[12]
(Any critical practitioner of architectural design or discourse who does not locate himself or herself on the global social battlefield—as a strategist, that is, not a map drawer but a drawer of lines of march, a generator of structures for knowledge for social action—will be among the first intellectuals to serve the hegemonic class.)[13]
(So how does the anti-elitist architecture of performance-arts venues fit these coordinates? Its attempt to overcome elitist exclusively fails, since it reproduces the paradoxes of the upper-class liberal openness—its falsity, the failure to achieve its goal, is the falsity and limitation of our tolerant liberal capitalism. The effective message of the "political unconscious" of these buildings is democratic exclusivity: they create a multi-functional egalitarian open space, but the very access to this space is invisibly filtered and privately controlled.)[14]

(Now the reflected image has become separable, transportable. And where is it transported? Before the public.[15])
(There's also exploitation that happens. Imagine someone so poor that they can't say no to help. That leaves them sort of powerless, and they have to take something.[16]
(We could have had a bigger closet. You know, if you have dress clothes. I like my clothes to be hung up. You don't want to have stuff wrinkled up. You want to have a place to hang it. And when you don't have a lot of closet space, you messed up then. And that's one thing I wish they would have done. I told them. I expressed that to them. I got to have a place to have a washer and dryer and I've got to have a lot of closet space. I think I did say something about cabinet spaces too. And all three of those were not met.[17])
(Given this situation, the answer to the question "Can architects be socially responsible?" is, as a profession is presently constituted, no.[18])

(An architect’s interests are ultimately determined by a series of random encounters with projects and clients that do not allow an independent investigation of issues or conditions outside their field of vision. … Independent analysis, research or investigation is simply not within their repertoire.[19])
(It's social architecture. It's the idea that you design in a way to transform society into a better society. … If you can do these green sustainable designs you're going to change society for the better. That's a pretty heavy-duty value system to be carrying along.[20])

(In every era the attempt must be made to anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it.[21])
(In the task of transforming the architectural profession into a socially and politically relevant field, the academy must be considered a front-line combatant, strategizing the attack in collusion with the people on the ground who at this moment are leading the insurrection.[22])
(Schools and studios are contradictory sites, composed of conflicting discourses between dominant and subordinated ideologies, cultures, knowledges, voices: a struggle between reification and resistance. Educators would do well to interrogate curricula and the contestation between reification and resistance—to decode, analyze, and critique the ideological dimensions of those texts and practices that serve to legitimate hegemonic interests at the expense of authentic forms of community and democratic life. This does not mean that teachers should neglect course content to "politicize" their students, but rather to realize that knowledge is a narrative to construct, a story of potentially immense meaning and power when the lifelines of students are weaved into the story itself. [23])

     [1] Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, (translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin), Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1999, 260.
     [2] Sergio Palleroni, "Building to Learn/Learning to Build: Collaboration Between a Mexican Community and American Architecture Students," Oz: Beyond Aesthetics, Vol., 28, (2006), 4-7.
     [3] Thomas A Dutton, Lian Hurst Mann, Reconstructing Architecture: Critical Discourses and Social Practices, “Modernism, Postmodernism, and Architecture’s Social Project,” 1.
     [4] Slavoj Zizek, “Architectural Parallax: Spandrels and other Phenomena of Class Struggle,” 1.
     [5] Thomas A Dutton, Lian Hurst Mann, Reconstructing Architecture: Critical Discourses and Social Practices, “Modernism, Postmodernism, and Architecture’s Social Project,” 16.
    [6] Tracie Cheng, Architecture Student, Interview conducted by Kenton Card. 
    [7] Susana Almanza, Local Community Member, Interview Conducted by Kenton Card.
     [8] Drawing on B. Rigby, Gary Stevens, The Favored Circle: The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction, Cambridge: THE MIT PRESS, 1998, 69.
     [9] Gary Stevens, The Favored Circle: The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction, Cambridge: THE MIT PRESS, 1998, 71-2.
     [10] Slavoj Zizek, “Architectural Parallax: Spandrels and other Phenomena of Class Struggle,” 2-3.
     [11] Ibid., 8.
     [12] Gary Stevens, The Favored Circle: The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction, Cambridge: THE MIT PRESS, 1998, 86.
     [13] Thomas A Dutton, Lian Hurst Mann, Reconstructing Architecture: Critical Discourses and Social Practices, “Modernism, Postmodernism, and Architecture’s Social Project,” 20.
     [14] Slavoj Zizek, “Architectural Parallax: Spandrels and other Phenomena of Class Struggle,” 13.
     [15] Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," New York: Schocken Books, 2007, 231.
     [16] Mark Wise Interview.
     [17] Joe Moore Interview.
     [18] Margaret Crawford, "Can Architects Be Socially Responsible?," (ed.) Diane Ghirardo, Out of Site: A Social Criticism of Architecture, Seattle: Bay Press, 1991, 43.
     [19] Mutations, "Shopping: Harvard Project on the City," Rem Koolhaas, Ingoprint SA: Barcelona, 2001, 124-183.
    [20] Mark Rogers, Local Community Member, Interview Conducted by Kenton Card. 
     [21] Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," New York: Schocken Books, 2007, 255.
     [22] Jose L. S. Gamez and Susan Rogers, “An Architecture of Change.” Ed. Bryan Bell and Katie Wakeford. Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism. New York: Metropolis Books, 2008, 23.
     [23] Thomas A Dutton. Voices in Architectural Education. New York: Bergin & Garvey, 1991. "The Hidden Curriculum and the Design Studio: Toward a Critical Studio Pedagogy." Page 75.