Relational practise and Time

by Jesper Magnusson


‘Time and not space should be seen as the primary context in which architecture is conceived’ (…) ‘by positioning time as the key context for architecture, space become active, social, and it’s released from the hold of static formalism’. Jeremy Till (2009, pp. 95–96)

Jeremy Till´s elaboration on time and architecture offers an interesting perspective on spatial culture, practise and politics. Time situates a space. Various actors dynamically contest and change space under the mediation of material as well as non-material actants. Spatial production is thus an ever on-going business, a process with no finish line. Contemporary planning tools and concepts seem however to be more final than processual. Spatial design rests on the idea of fulfilment, or completion, and defined spaces are illusively stabilised through material manifestations. Doina Petrescu and her collaborators seem to think and act differently.

Doina Petrescu and Constantin Petcou initiate collaborative projects through their practise Atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa). aaa produce social collective space through tactical networks rooted in relational activities. They do not plan, they act. Their tactics “are unfolded in spatial objects and infrastructural devices which increase connectedness, (…) encouraging collectives of inhabitants to appropriate space” (Petrescu 2012). The agency of neighbourhood inhabitants is mediated by a multiple of objects and devices, non-material and material. aaa formalises and researches these relational and participatory projects by thorough mapping, documentation and analysis. This work is interesting and probably very rewarding, but how can we validate its outcomes? I don´t mean to criticise the work of aaa, more I would like to act as the advocatus diaboli.

The spatial objects and infrastructural devices that aaa introduce maybe already are there, alive and kicking, mediating social formation and spatial production. Will the socio-material networks, initiated by aaa, stay active when the motor is gone? Is there a way to make these collectives and relationscapes take form and stabilise without organising the activities or adding the purpose-built spaces and objects? Can the design of material space in it self generate agency to people and catalyse the formation of collective social life? What are the material, or actantial, keys? Can we find those key actants in the work of Petrescu, Petcou and their associates? Are there other ways to identify vital socio-material mediators and actants that generates agency?


Spatial ASeminar 1gency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture, edited by Nishat Awan, Tatjana Schneider, Jeremy Till, London: Routledge, 2011. (Excerpt).

Doina Petrescu, ‘Relationscapes: Mapping Agencies of relational practice in Architecture’, in City, Culture, Society, 3, 2012, pp. 135-140