1

Sloterdijk, Peter (2005). En el mundo interior del capital. Para una teoría filosófica de la globalización. Ediciones Siruela, 2007.

2

Buyung-Chul Han. Psicopolítica. Neoliberalismo y nuevas técnicas de poder. Pensamiento Herder, 2014.

3

Álvarez Paula V. Introducción a la investigación “Nuevos Modos de Intervención en el Espacio Público”. Dirección general de Arquitectura y Vivienda de la Junta de Andalucía, 2011(for more information: http://alvarezpaula.com/es/nuevosmodos.html).

Eliminating the “user”

Management Sciences University, Bordeaux

Imagen: Management Sciences University, Bordeaux. Anne Lacaton & Jean Philippe Vassal, architects.

Not long ago,  Andrés Jaque asserted that we live in times where it has become very necessary to recast names, tools and techniques to explain our everyday reality and be able to describe and produce. I fully share that idea. Nowadays, cultural and communications production takes on the same weight as physical reality, and even alters it. What is descriptive can become normative. It therefore makes sense for not only everything inhabited, but also its representations and descriptions, to be objects of curiosity and architectural designs in and of themselves. This is an issue that could be discussed at great length. For now, I’ll just put forward this idea: the words we use in architecture matter. In my opinion, recasting the names as Jaque vindicates could be done by dissecting some of the hackneyed words that have ceased to be meaningful. “Opening”, “transparency”, “participation” and “user” would be at the top of my list. I’ll take a moment to talk about this last word.

The social and political connotations behind the notion of user, so dear to the participative explorations of 1960s and 1970s architecture, have morphed to become the epitome of dynamic passivity, i.e. consumers sacrificing their genuine chance to decide for choosing from a menu of options or a diversified offer. According to Sloterdijk, contemporary “users” are no longer active subjects. They have been stripped of demands. Users are mere “downloaders”.1 This dynamic passivity —where the aggregates of accumulated information come to replace knowledge personally integrated and placed in a narrative sequence— is the breeding ground that Byung-Chul Han defines as psycho-political. It stands as the pre-reflexive conditioning of our ways of life by exploiting merely illusory freedom.2 Turning to architecture, this suggests that involving oneself in any type of habitat generation, not necessarily well done but simply done freely, requires thought, construction and training. This, much more than the activation of massive roles, is the critical issue that architecture must contend with.

Using different terms (agent, actor, interpreter, translator) to designate the addressees/accomplices of our work and understand our job in that same way has served as a major tool to denounce the commodification of architecture’s usual division of roles, i.e. idea, representation, construction and taking into service. In conceiving our project designs, we have become accustomed to these silos. But once we have untethered ourselves from “users” and broken away from the mould of professional service, perhaps we will be able to explore new ways of questioning what is normative. Let’s try to leave a blank space after eliminating the term “user”.  The question as to the destination and purpose of architecture its activities will arise in a broader, more long-term context.  Freed from users, architecture will shift its focus to building, training and thought processes that are at the same time “speculative”, drawn out and decanted over time. It will stake a claim for their great potential to conjure up radical debate and work transcending the directly implied immediate experience of “users”. In my opinion, these processes are the appropriate basis with which to understand, describe and reformulate the assumptions that determine the way in which we practice architecture. Moving from the abstract to the concrete, one of the most beautiful recent examples can be found at the Faculty of Management Science at the University of Bordeaux, designed by Lacaton and Vassal. Some of the neighbours in the area began to make (and sell) rose jam that the architects used to “fabricate” the building’s materialty and atmosphere, evocative of the nearby homes’ little rose gardens.3


Text translated by Beth Gelb
Notas de página
1

Sloterdijk, Peter (2005). En el mundo interior del capital. Para una teoría filosófica de la globalización. Ediciones Siruela, 2007.

2

Buyung-Chul Han. Psicopolítica. Neoliberalismo y nuevas técnicas de poder. Pensamiento Herder, 2014.

3

Álvarez Paula V. Introducción a la investigación “Nuevos Modos de Intervención en el Espacio Público”. Dirección general de Arquitectura y Vivienda de la Junta de Andalucía, 2011(for more information: http://alvarezpaula.com/es/nuevosmodos.html).

Autor:
Paula V. Álvarez es una arquitecta con sede en Sevilla, fundadora de la práctica editorial Vibok Works . Su trabajo reúne investigación, edición, diseño y escritura desde una perspectiva experimental y crítica. Su principal interés de investigación es cómo el encuentro del enfoque académico de los Estudios Culturales y de la Ecología de los Medios con la experimentación arquitectónica desde inicios del s. XX hasta nuestros días puede habilitar una comprensión más profunda de la renovación de las técnicas de arquitectura en el seno de la globalización electrónica y la cultura tecnográfica.

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