plausible forms of sociality – part 2
building sociality through and within collective practice.
this text was originally written with scott rigby for an architektur 18, camp for oppositional architecture, theorizing architectural resistance, 2007 and is reproduced here with kind permission.
rather than social programming through architecture, “forms of sociality” are mutually independent catalysts for, and expressions of their own collective desires. when this is taken into account in the work of architects and planners, it can be co-imagined what these forms of sociality may already be, and could become in the near future. forms of sociality are understood to differ from social formations in that they are an open process as opposed to a pre-defined, top down categorization. with forms of sociality, different scenarios of collective planning are suggested, forums for discourse and dialogue stimulating the creation of and possibility for further spaces for sociality. the latent capacity for these forms is realized through an active engagement in the process of reevaluating existing assumptions. these forms of sociality become more plausible when the focus on the individual and the unique is overcome, and collective production is encouraged. architects, like others working in the creative industries, can build strategies into the way they work to encourage forms of sociality that can act as “building blocks” for the kinds of societies we collectively desire. our starting point for fulfilling these desires is to recognize what gets in the way. part of the role of architects and planners is to co-design, to “speculate” socially, through discourse with others, about the various structures and interstices that comprise our yet-to-be-built environment. another part of this role is to serve as advocates, working “inside” the system (through the many different bureaucratic and administrative steps our practices take us), to lend solidarity to other groups that participate in the formation of sociality. these open forums can, as a sort of feedback loop, stimulate the generation of collective creativity allowing for further speculation.
as an architect or planner working within the dominant capitalist mode of production, forms of resistance become increasingly difficult. connecting with other cultural producers, working in similar resistive ways, can point towards alternate means of approaching small and larger strategies and outcomes. collective practice allows mutually supportive structures. in order to contribute significantly to any field, existing resistive elements and structures need to be recognized, worked with to help put them together for better results, and developed further. capitalism sets certain parameters for more specific forms of sociality that may already exist within it, but the dominant mode of production nonetheless has capital as the driving force. a growing social economy within capitalism can alternatively guide decisions within the practice. tendencies of sociality are already evident as architects collaborate with engineers, designers and builders. these collaborative efforts can be exploited and expanded into areas not typically associated with the practice of architecture and planning.
interdisciplinary cooperation allows for transformation and redevelopment of the existing structures that support cultural production. large-scale resistance within interdisciplinary cultural production can be implemented through organizing smaller-scale, discipline-specific, and local practices to work together. when architects and planners are included, the ability to incubate this cooperation within the architecture around us can allow what emerges to, in turn, shape the future of our yet-to-be built environment.
competition through uniqueness should be questioned as the only means for progress within cultural production. “redundancy” in form or content can be seen as progressive if organized effectively, allowing for similar conversations to overlap or merge constructively, without having to absorb one another in a hierarchy of negation or one-upmanship. with this understanding architecture could accommodate and reward as “advancements” or “developments” in the field very similar actions by multiple practitioners. for different contexts the repetition of work could produce differing results, expanding its meaning. in this way, implementation of already existing ideas on a wider cultural scale can generate effects much greater than the initial iterations, which express themselves as continual innovation in the form of yet another prototypical signature building. accepting and building upon the strength of “redundancy” in architecture, rather than either repressing its existence or critiquing its practitioners as unoriginal is necessary for a self-reflexive practice. it seeks the critical reevaluation of means and methods of production towards this common objective. building directly with and upon each other’s work non-competitively can enable productive and critical dialogue to develop hybrids of what each practitioner has to offer. it also activates the possibilities of public ownership using collective resources as a means to conjointly transform production in the field of architecture.