Gerald Raunig, in his Transform project, declares that to produce a turning point or a change of paradigm it’s necessary for at least three circumstances to coincide: resistance, upheaval and new instituent practices.
“Resistance” refers to not being carried away by the inertia and incessant pressure a dominant paradigm imposes regarding how to be an architect. In architecture, it means exercising parrhesia with a twofold strategic purpose: as a process of self-questioning and as a constructive response. This type of resistance implies taking architecture as an everyday practice that challenges established cultural and professional assumptions, and which employs both spatial and material design and mediation to solve everyday problems in a local, but at the same time global, context.
“Upheaval” is understood to mean recognising and “upending” how architectural practice has been cultivated in recent history and in not-so-distant contexts. It means looking back to learn from instances in which architecture and industrial innovation feed on each other, identifying what economic actors and what technological resources have enabled, and continue to enable, research and design, as a means of testing the transferability of ideas and productively putting them into practice through architecture.
It means revisiting stages in which architecture and socio-spatial management come together to identify how architects’ roles as mediators and managers of new content, needs and projects are articulated in such preeminent spheres as education, housing, public spaces and the negotiation of private space.
And it means re-encountering and identifying spaces where architecture and cultural output nurture spatial and material memory, manifesting the profundity of permanent elements, whether they be tangible or intangible, against a landscape of immediately consumed data, and highlighting the fleeting nature of the image.
For a turning point or a change of paradigm to be possible, it’s necessary to think up “new instituent practices”, which architecture provides in the shape of intellectual, spatial and material practices – i.e., project work. There are many architects involved in bringing about such a paradigmatic sea-change: a change centred on the recycling, optimisation and shared use and benefit of resources
Project work, something we’ve been thoroughly trained to do, involves instituting a work environment that will allow critical spatial and material production, conducting that process of successive approximation, open to everyday tasks and contingent circumstances, which constitutes the essence of an architecture project.
But in a present perceived as an amalgam of moments, how do we actually do this instituting? It’s increasingly more evident that together with the total connectivity, information flow and freedom currently being enjoyed in architectural production, our practices are being contradictorily imbued with higher levels of homogeneity, conflict, precariousness and servitude. Both things are merely two sides of the same coin.
Instituent projects are projects which aim to go beyond that trade-off, to propose and share an alternative network of radical practices capable of forging agreement between the actors and outputs that converge in architecture.