Architecture + Philosophy research seminar, ResArc, Sweden: Dr Hélène Frichot, Critical Studies in Architecture, KTH Stockholm

Month: April, 2013

Cluster 6: Neither nor: Queering the hetero

by kajsakorner

Only by reading Luce Irigaray’s title This sex is not one I assume she questions the notion of women being a homogenous group. My next thought is: these sexes are not two. The silent assumption of a dichotomy: man or woman. Presumed. The truth. A fact. Just there. Very tiresome. The essentialist argument.

Applying Irigaray’s thoughts of how the femininity is defined in terms of supporting masculinity, Grosz arguments for how the concept chora is applied to sustain an order of gender power (Rendell et al., 2000). Grosz (in Rendell et al., 2000) shows how Plato’s chora concept for space/place is described/defined in terms of passivity coupled with femininity. Chora is a container without agency to act and Form is its active masculine counterpoint. Therefore, women cannot inhabit space, but men can. Grosz (in Rendell et al., 2000) arguments for how these constant descriptions of women as passive deprive them of their possibility to act or take power of their own lives. Together form and chora forms an unequal dichotomy. The definition of men as being in charge and active hinder women from being active, and this reinforces a patriarchal structure that suppresses women; the reproduction of an equal order of gender power (Grosz in Rendell et al., 2000).

I think that Grosz misses the point that Sofia (2000) makes when questioning the idea of the container as a definite passive object. Instead, Sofia (2000) suggests that it can be both: passive and active.

“The distinction between tool or machine and utensil or apparatus hangs on the dynamic/static distinction, but it could be debated              whether holding or containing is simply to be considered as a passively inhering property of a shaped space, or whether containing is rather to be thought of as a form of action itself.” (2000:190)

Further on, I consider that Plato and his supporters are applying circular reasoning when constructing the chora concept, i.e. they want to prove that women are passive by saying that passivity is a part of the female “nature”, which they (men) have defined as passive. So, what else could women be according to their definition? Femininity/women have been decided to incorporate and embody what is weak and passive, and therefore everything linked to this gender will be considered as without power to act. Giving birth, nurture, motherhood, domestic work etc have all been defined in terms of none action. I cannot see that Grosz’ argumentation is questioning the overall dichotomic structure where chora and form is only one out of many binary suppressing mechanisms. I consider this structure as being built upon a heterosexist binary division of sexes into two opposite and contradictory categories: men and women. According to the matrix these categories cannot be transgressed. Either you are a woman or a man. You have to choose side. I think that the heterosexist matrix will not and cannot let you be part of two categories at the same time, because it will be the beginning of its own collapse. A transgressing of sexual boundaries within the heterosexual matrix will dissolves the fundament for its very own existence.

Butler (2011) questions the feministic idea founded on a binary thinking of sex (body) and gender (mind) as separated, where the latter is constructed and the former is assumed as a biological fact. This feministic idea departs from a critic of essentialism of sexes, where masculinity is considered as active and femininity as passive. Instead, the gender is a construction, where the female role has been constructed in order to suppress women and boost male supremacy. However, this critic does not question the division of a human separated into body and mind. Butler (2011)argues for that materiality, as everything else, can/might be constructed. The body is not a neutral surface for projections. She, therefore, claims that it is necessary to question the division between materiality and constructedness in order to articulate the “matrix of power” behind “the scenography and topography of construction.” (Butler, 2011:28). The materiality of bodies (the notion of matter) cannot be taken for granted or as irreducible. Butler (2011:54) suggests that it does not exist “a materiality of sex that is not already burdened by the sex of materiality.”, and if we do not acknowledge this “we run the risk of reproducing the very injury for which we seek redress.”. My reading of Butler is that if we do not question the very Cartesian dualism of what a human “is” we will continue to reproduce the inequality we want to reveal, fight and overbridge. The binarity of body and mind, sex and gender, is the mechanism that produces and reproduces an unequal dichotomy between sexes.


BUTLER, J. 2011. Bodies that matter : on the discursive limits of “sex”, Abingdon, Oxon ;, Routledge.

RENDELL, J., PENNER, B. & BORDEN, I. 2000. Gender, space, architecture : an interdisciplinary introduction, London, Routledge.

Conceptual Cluster 7: Container Technologies

by idasandstrom

‘Jord fra Palestina 3’ ( 

Soil from Palestine – Superkilen as Egospheres

In 2011 the artist group SUPERFLEX travelled from Copenhagen to Palestine with Hiba and Allaa, two young women with family history in – but as it turns out, barley any memories of – Palestine. The mission of the journey was to reach the site of the former village of Hiba’s and Allaa’s grandparents, and bring back an object for Superkilen from there. I follow the women’s journey in an almost 30 minutes long sequence of four films uploaded at Superkilen’s homepage and on Youtube (for an introduction to Superkilen, see previous posts). The expectations seem to build up as the women, guided by Hiba’s grandmother on a loud crackling cell phone, searches the wide undulated landscape for traces of their ancestors.
She says to look for two stones that look like sofas, which are hard to see, but we should walk straight upwards.’
Five minutes into the third film the promising atmosphere seems to be exchanged by resignation and exhaustion.
‘It’s all torn down, now it all looks the same.’

The redemptive turning point comes with the sudden appearance of a local shepherd.
‘He says that an old lady came by a few years ago, which might have been my grandmother. And she recognized this place as her own parents house, just here.’
His story is declared to be true by the old woman on the cell phone, and the treasure hunt is officially over. The sofa-resembling stones remain unfound. The last part of the film is a description of the process of transporting the object, e.g. a plastic trunk full of soil, from the hillside in Palestine to its final destination – Nørrebro, Copenhagen.

More than 20 years before Superkilen was launched, Margaret Thatcher claimed the individual’s stranglehold on the common in her much cited statement on the death of society: ‘there is no such thing as society; there are only individuals, individuals and families’ (Thatcher in De Cauter 2004, p.81). The increasing individualization of society has been an insistent theme in social science during the last century. De Cauter argues nevertheless that individualization, paired with an immense disinterest in the concept of society and solidarity, has only recently been transformed into an official ideology of hyperindividualism. Sloterdijk enters a similar discussion when describing how life mechanisms during the 20th century has been caught in ‘a centrifugal force that scatter individuals into their own world cells’. A process leading to an ontology of separateness. Separate world cells (egospheres) are produced and supported by the practise of self-objectification through ego-technical devises such as mirrors and diaries (Sloterdijk 2007 p. 98). Sloterdijk describes how the contemporary apartment is no longer a place where the get-together of individuals is undertaken, but a place that supports ‘the pairing of the individual with himself’. We stand, according to Sloterdijk, before a crisis of the second person, where individuals are taking themselves to be ‘the substantial first, and their relationships to others to be the accidental second’ (Sloterdijk, 2007, p.96). A condition described by Elías Canetti as ‘a society in which every person is depicted, and prays before his own image’ (Canetti in Sloterdijk 2007 p.99).

So what about Superkilen? Can Sloterdijk’s notion of egospheres cast new light on the far-fetched idea of traveling 2000 miles only to bring back a trunk of soil to the construction site of an urban park in Copenhagen? Does Superkilen make more sense, when regarded as a space for meeting – not the other, but the self? Hyperindividualism, as described by De Cauter, celebrates the passage of information through the subject. A similar preference to strong authorships can be traced in the design concept of Superkilen. Here every object – may it be a bench from Cuba, a manhole from Israel or soil from Palestine, is connected to a story, and to memories from past times and places far away. The site becomes a collage of strong subjectives, of materialised (self-) reflections on exile and belonging. The egospheres at Superkilen are however, unlike the individual apartment, not hidden, but explicitly exposed to others. Such exposure of the personal turns the space into a field of what Sloterdijk calls ‘connected isolations’ (Sloterdijk 2007 p.92), a space that enables the establishment of (if nothing else) brief relations to the accidental second. Is the design concept of Superkilen to be understood as an attempt to create connection where the common is considered a lost cause?

Lieven de Cauter ‘The Capsule and the Network: Notes for a General Theory’ in Capsular Civilisation: On the City in the Age of Fear, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2004.

Peter Sloterdijk, ‘Cell Block, Ego-Spheres, Self-Container’ in Log 10, 2007.

Alice Jardine, ‘Of Bodies and Technologies’ in Hal Foster ed. Discussions in Contemporary Culture, New York: DIA Art Foundation, 1987

Conceptual Cluster 9: Ficto-Criticism

by sandra695

Map_Landskrona_Sweden mindre

Great Expectations II

Save Lund – the last chance
A number of reports have been published over the past year regarding the development and situation in Lund. Independent researchers and others have identified, analyzed and described the development and basically come to the same conclusion:
Lund has consistently been falling behind over the past 20-25 years. The city has lost jobs and welfare dependency, among citizens as well as by the municipality itself, has grown. The tax capacity has been reduced and opportunities to support oneself through work have decreased. To this may be added that the demographics have led to great social inequality that manifest itself through high crime, disorder in the schools, and general uneasiness to name a few.
This came as no surprise to us, and probably not to most of Lund’s inhabitants.

However, the questions that need to be asked are:
Why has it become like this? Why has nothing been done to reverse the trend?

In the analysis made about why it has become so bad two factors emerge as main explanations:

1. Lund’s housing policy resulted in the 1980s to an overrepresentation of rental apartments.
2. Business in Lund was in the early 1980s characterized by manufacturing. Unfortunately one failed to fully understand the dynamics of the business, and failed to take steps to attract service production and other future-oriented business.
The combination of a distorted housing market and a stagnant economy has been devastating for Lund.

Many devoted community actors have had deep insight into the problems and a clear desire to reverse the trend. But the ability to address the structural causes of the negative development has been lacking as well as the managerial resources to implement concrete and structural action. Lund is located in the expansive Öresund region, with good communications, beautiful city center, excellent educational opportunities within reach and land resources for attractive, close to the sea housing, to name just a few of the factors that make Lund deserving the epithet City of Possibilities.
We must make firm decision with tangible results to take advantage of the given possibilities. Our action on these structural factors may be briefly summarized:

1. We will take advantage of Lund’s unique opportunities to build attractive homes near the strait. This will create the migration of families and people with stable conditions, which positively will affect the labor market, business, tax capacity, basis for retail trade and the general social climate.
2. The East and some parts of central Lund are highly segregated. Crime, welfare dependency and ethnic segregation show unacceptable conditions. We want to create opportunities for new businesses, such as the idea to move Lund Town Hall to The Dammhag School, rebuild apartments to condominiums and perhaps even demolish some houses in order to make the district more attractive with new squares, playgrounds and parks.
Everything indicates that Lund’s industry will continue to stagnate if nothing is done. We want to create effective and result-oriented work with the business and industry based on skills and decisiveness. With a progressive land policy and access to attractive dwellings Lund has great potential. As a good example, a global logistics company’s decision to choose Lund can be mentioned. Here our ability to offer attractive housing played a major role and is also a prerequisite for Lund to get the full effect of the nearly 1000 jobs that will be created here.
We can turn the tide in Lund based on these measures.

It will soon be too late for Lund!
A great and historic responsibility rests on the Lund politicians. If we fail to collect us this time – Lund has a bleak future ahead. Then the falling behind of Lund will continue and Lund will, somewhat pointedly, become a gray powerless city without hope for the future. It is at this point that our children will ask us: Why didn’t you do anything?

Municipal Councils Office 2010-01-13

The original text about Landskrona is a call for action by two Landskrona councilors. The text has been translated and edited by me. Landskrona has been consistently substituted with Lund. A company name has been removed and replaced with a more general description.

The text about Landskrona was retrieved 130408 from

The map of Landskrona (ca 1850) was retrieved 130408 from

Conceptual Cluster 9: Ficto-Criticism

by idasandstrom

Superkilen summer 2012, illustration from ‘The Ugly Duckling’ ( 

‘Being born in a pigeon yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg’ – on the production of territorial identity

This post is part of an on going exploration of Superkilen (see previous blog posts), and my first exploration of ficto-critism.

It was so beautiful out there. At the Black market cherries were in blossom, and in distance the Red square could be seen glowing in the evening sun. A lonely stork minced about on his red legs, clacking away in Egyptian, which was the language his mother had taught him. Round about the open square rose signs and artefacts from all over the world. Yes, it was indeed lovely out there.

In the midst of the sunshine stood a remarkable fountain, covered with tiles and shaped as a seven pointed star. Water was glittering from the bottom of the basin right up to the edge, and there on the outside of the mosaic star, a pigeon sat on her nest. “Piip piip,” said the little ones, as they came to life and poked out their heads. The biggest egg was the last to break, and the poor squab that had been the last out of her egg, was pecked from the moment she was out. “She’s too big and strange, and therefore she needs a good whacking,” said they all. “You do not understand me,” said the squab and off she went.

The wind was so strong that she had to struggle to keep on her feet, but she ran on just the same, crossing 12, if not more, undulated white lines on black asphalt, until she reached a great shiny structure in the shape of an octopus. There in the spongy interior of the many-armed beast she lay, weary and disheartened.

It got late. Just as the sun was setting in splendour, a flock of large, handsome birds appeared from behind the red brick building, graciously navigating between vertical objects and commercial signs. She had never seen birds so beautiful. They were dazzling white, with long graceful necks. They uttered a strange cry as they unfurled their magnificent wings to fly from this cold land, away to warmer countries and to open waters. She did not know what birds they were; yet she loved them more than anything she had ever loved before.

“I shall fly near these royal birds, and they will peck me to bits because I, who am so very ugly, dare to go near them. But I don’t care. Better be killed by them than to be nipped by the pigeons.” So she followed the beautiful birds to the star shaped fountain and into the water and swam towards them. “Kill me!” she said and bowed her head down over the water to wait for death. But what did she see there, mirrored in the clear water? She beheld her own image, and it was no longer the reflection of a clumsy, dirty, grey bird, ugly and offensive. She herself was a swan! Being born in a pigeon yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg.

Epilogue: What understandings of territorial identity do the story of the ugly duckling set at Superkilen open up? Is it perhaps a reminder that being born in a Danish ghetto doesn’t matter, if only you are hatched from a more beautiful (read Moroccan/Thai/Palestinian/Ukrainian/…) territory?  Will the globally collected artefacts at Superkilen – as the water in the story – reveal ‘true identities’ beyond the normative reflection (dirty, ugly and offensive)? And if this is the intention – are we to regard the objects at Superkilen as ‘ethnic-mirrors’ put in public space with a despairing aspiration to render individuals beautiful by re-connecting them to their ‘flock of bird’?

Anna Gibbs, Fictocriticism, Affect, Mimesis: Engendering Differences (2005)

Donna Haraway, Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective (1988)

Stephen Muecke, The Fall: Fictocritical Writing (2002)

Hans Christian Andersen, The Ugly Duckling (1843)


Conceptual Cluster 6: Chora

by sandra695

karta till great expectations

Great Expectations III

Elisabeth Grosz introduces the notion of Chora through Plato’s original text Timaeus and Critias. Plato here construes chora as a connection between the intelligible, unchanging (perhaps even final) world and the sensible, visible and changing world (Plato, 1965, Grosz 2000). Chora is used to explain a shift from idea to reality, “it insinuates itself between the oppositional terms in the impossible no-man’s land of the excluded middle” (Grosz 2000). Plato claims that no definite properties can be attached to chora, at the same time as chora has all qualities.”It is the mother of all qualities without itself having any – except its capacity to take on, to nurture, to bring into existence any other kind of being” (Ibid.). In the resisting of qualities Plato maintains an intermediary function and a receptable status (although resisting properties possibly is a way of accepting them, in positioning oneself outside (properties), as a negation which has to assume the negated to exist). Grosz delivers heavy critique of the concept of chora as treated by Plato and Derrida, and claims that “…chora serves to produce a founding concept of femininity whose connections with women and female corporeality have been severed, producing a disembodied femininity as the ground for the production of a (conceptual and social) universe.” (Ibid.).

Then, is there any potential to be found in the usage of certain aspects of chora in relation to the tools and representations used in urban planning? Could the notion of chora be linked to an existing planning document, and in this association underscore the multifaceted process of planning? One is easily infatuated and spellbound by physical and temporal representations of “no-man’s land”, such as border crossings; literally no-man’s land, the soil beneath an embassy in a foreign country; obvious questions about the soil’s nationality come to mind, dawn; neither day nor night, per definition ephemeral where change is immediately and tangibly felt. Can a plan designed by the City Planning Administration in Lund offer some of chora’s intrinsic and transient characteristic?

The structure plan (2012) at hand is a mix of a representation of an actual situation and an imagined vision of the future Brunnshög area in Lund. The already existing residential areas, drawn in great detail, within North East Lund appear to be a depiction of reality. The areas that are expected to be built in a near future are drawn with thicker lines and look more general and undecided –like abstractions or fantasies. The areas and elements of the map that are planned for the future consists mostly of various shades in more saturated colors than the pale color field representing the already existing. All contour lines are marked on the map, but no heights are quantified, the topographical information is thus limited.  Existing main roads on Brunnshög; Odarslövsvägen; Utmarksvägen lingers between the present and the future, their extension is expected to be the same in the future. The lettering on the map is identical whether representing existing buildings, fields and roads or future buildings and streets. High prior knowledge about the area is essential in order to comprehend the information about Brunnshög’s planned and expected future.

The reality of the plan is both what is now and what is envisioned or dreamt for future change. It floats between the two positions of present and future and has a fluid and temporal quality, much like a medieval painting that on the same surface tells an evolving story that moves across time – like a comic strip within one frame. The plan is representing a state of transition, as chora, both resisting and accepting properties, and is depending on which communicational convention one takes as a starting point when reading the map. Perhaps a plan or a map could also be read transitively; one thing after another, somewhat like reading a text, set in time with a certain progress; even if resisting the logic of beginning and end some information is processed initially having the handicap of not having established a connection to information read later.

Municipality of Lund, Strukturplan Lund NE/Brunnshög, 2012

Retrieved 130411 fromög/bilder%20att%20hämta/120514_strukturplan.pdf

Elizabeth Grosz, ‘Women, Chora, Dwelling’ in Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, Iain Borden, Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, London: Routledge, 2000

Plato, Timaeus and Critias, London: Penguin Books, 1965.

Conceptual Cluster 6: Chora

by malkoshka

podomka 2002 kuchnia3 kuchnia2

I was your house. And, when you leave , abandoning this dwelling place, I do not know what to do with these walls of mine. Have I ever had a body other than the one which you constructed according to your idea of it? Have I ever ever experience a skin other than the one which you wanted me to dwell within? (Luce Irigarey, 1992:49)

In 2002 I created the „Pinafores”, work which examined women’s home opperssion.

The work consist of objects, action, performance and photos. Pinafores can be made of an oil cloth. They are inexpensive, easy to keep clean, water-proof, and everything washes off them. Their appearance is reminiscent of summer dresses. They are also sexy, hence attractive to men. Pinafore is the universal outfit of the housewife. A woman wearing a pinafore can fulfill culturally imposed functions: mother, wife, lover. A pinafore is an apparel that – using a special pattern designed especially by the artist – can easily be manufactured by its prospective wearer.

I found a great comment to this work of mine in the text if Elisabeth Grosz „Woman, Chora, Dwelling”:

(…)men place woman in the position of being ‘guardians’ of their bodies and their spaces, the conditions of both bodies and space without body and space of their own: they become the living representatives of corporeality, of domesticity (…) it relegates woman to the position of support or precondition of the masculine – precisely the status of chora in the Platonic tradition.

 (…)The containment of woman within a dwelling that they did not build, nor was even built for them, can only amount to a homelessness within the very home itself: it becomes the space of duty, of endless and infinitely repeatable chores that have no social value of recognition, the space of the affirmation and replenishment of others at the expense and erasure of the self, the space of domestic violence and abuse, the space that harms as much as isolates woman. Is as if the men is unable to to resist the temptation to colonize, to appropriate, to measure, to control, to instrumentalize all that they survey, reducing horizon (the horizon of becoming the measure and reflection of positionality) into the dwelling.


Conceptual Cluster 7: Container Technologies

by sepidehkarami

Three Capsules -Footage from the movie "Taste of Cherry" by Abbas Kiarostami

Three Capsules -Footages from the movie “Taste of Cherry” by Abbas Kiarostami

What escapes the capsules? What can capsules escape from?

In the movie “Taste of Cherry”, Abbas Kiarostami depicts a one-day narration of a lonely, aged modern city-man, fed up with his life, in an absolute ‘capsular’ setup. There are three main containers or capsules in this movie: the car, the apartment and the grave. The man is moving between these capsules, while identified mainly by his car. He is rarely out of a capsule, perhaps for some short moments in transition between them. The whole story goes on in a car. He leaves his ‘apartment’ (first capsule) driving his ‘car’ (second capsule) in the streets of Tehran, to find somebody to help him. He wants to commit a suicide and he has already dug his ‘grave’ (third capsule). He is now looking for somebody to do the job for him; the job is that when he will have taken the pills, he will be laying down in the grave that very night and the employed person should come to the grave the morning after and make sure that he is dead. If he is still alive, he should help him out of the grave (liberating him from the capsule), and if he is dead he shovels the earth into the grave to perpetuate his encapsulation.

The grave is dug under one of the few trees somewhere between the hills, to where he gives lift to three persons and takes them to show where they should do their job. On the way to the grave, one sees the body-car moving around a strange landscape of gigantic road construction site where one sees only the machines and the bodies of workers, reduced to fleshes; all working with earth, digging and filling. Bodies out of the capsule are flesh, and that is what the man is in need of: “I need only your hands to shovel the earth to my grave. I don’t need your mind.” The world out of capsules is earth and dust:

–       Nice? It’s nothing! But dust and earth!

–       You don’t think earth is nice? Earth gives us all the good things!

–       According to you, yes, all good things return to the earth…

This contradictory feeling between a perpetuating encapsulation and liberating from one, is visible through the whole story. There is a permanent desire of escaping the capsule and being combined with earth. There are always elements encapsulated and liberated from the capsules: the persons (fleshes) invited to the car, confront the man’s mind, getting stressed and escape from the capsule. While the flesh stays within the car, the gestures, the voice, the look and the thought is what spills over the capsule. He looks out, he is looked in; he calls out, he is called from out; fleshes come in and going out; the ideas, desires and wishes stay in the car and at the same time duplicated by transferring into the invited fleshes and go out by them. These are what break down the solidity, the closeness of the capsule; isn’t it the potential capability of the bodies to transform the capsules to a womb, to an organic matrix through what escapes from the physical body?

The new public within the capsule

No doubt that we are living in a capsular society. We carry our capsules with us everywhere. We are identified by our compulsory or voluntary capsules. And it is all due to protecting our physical and mental entity; no matter if there is a real intruder to our entity or not. And it has become both unavoidable and favorable. We have become new species; we have become: “Capsulophiles”.

As Lieven de Cauter says: “the greater the increase in physical and informational speed, the greater the human need for capsules.” Within the world of speed and flow, capsules are the shells of protection. They basically protect man from the real and virtual and melancholic dangers ‘outside’; protecting against what endangers us in one way or another in a context that Ulrich Beck calls the “risk society”. Dangers are interpreted and have different quality in different contexts. It ranges from a propagandized risk and real risk as death to the intruder of privacy or whished life style, which could be against the conservative norms of society both morally and politically. In this sense many sorts of capsules can function as liberating medium rather than limiting ones. In a context where public spaces are not a space for public-ness because of control and surveillance, the reaction could be withdrawing to the individualized and isolated life or creating new possibilities. In Iranian society people resist the hyper-controlling of public spaces not by withdrawing to isolation but by creating new public-ness within the private or new private-ness within the public. Capsules play important role here. For instance the apartment is not a place for solitude as in its Western counterpart but is a place for gathering, for parties, for meeting, for celebration and discussion etc.; because it can be hardly monitored by the dominant power; it is a place of liberation; a private place that creates new public-ness. This influences the architectural design of housing units and apartments, where larger spaces are dedicated to more collective areas such as living room, kitchens etc. to facilitate the gatherings.

Personal cars as the extension of apartments are the same. They play extremely important role in protecting the freedom of being and strolling in the city especially for youth and women. Car has become a shell that detaches one from direct control while giving the options of connecting to the others. Here capsules play the role of not isolating individuals but facilitating the “being together”.

All to all, the main questions are: how can capsules become transformed to a breathing matrix, to a womb? How they can become organic? How they can open up rather than closing down? And how the body of human being can overcome the closeness of the capsules, through gestures, look, voice, or in general actions?