Critical Spatial Practice and Sensibility Formation.



1                      Doris Salcedo, Istanbul
2                     Casagrande and Rintala, 1000 White Flags


wounded time.jpg
Wounded Time by Tracy Staunton.

Session Chairs: Tracy Staunton and Kirstin Simpson

Tracy Staunton is an artist and has a degree in Architecture from UCD. Her work contemplates what is present but invisible in space. In 2003 she completed ‘10 Dreams in Dublin’: a ‘private public’ art work set in 10 buildings in and around Dublin city centre. In 2010 ‘Wounded Time’ investigated time in space and asked the question: does space remember?

Staunton has exhibited widely in Ireland and internationally, has had three solo shows with the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, a work commissioned by OPW and has taken part in many group shows including ‘Breach’; a two person show at the Joinery in Dublin in 2010.

She currently works at the Blackchurch Print Studio and is a member of MART Studio’s. She completed the MA Art in the Contemporary World (practice and theory) at NCAD in 2010.

Kirstin Simpson holds a BArch from UCD and was in architectural practice for eight years before becoming a lecturer in the Architecture Department at Waterford I.T. She holds an MA in art theory from NCAD and has an experimental, multi-media art practice exploring culturally embedded spatial ideas. She has exhibited in Ireland and Germany. Her theoretical interests are phenomenology, object oriented ontology, vibrant materialism, embodiment, aesthetics and environment. She presented a paper at the 2016 AIARG conference on the phenomenology of virtual space.

Architecture as Contested Territory: Critical Spatial Practice in the ‘Post-conflict’ City of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Paul Bower, Queens University Belfast.
Stories about architecture as a contested territory cannot be told fully without conflict. Equally, stories about conflict cannot be told without an architecture. This architecture refers to the complex social force-field (Stevens 1998) that frames and shapes our reading, representation and response towards conflict and the place in which it exists. But what happens to these architectural stories and our ability to respond ‘post- conflict’?

In Belfast, the ‘post-conflict’ capital city of Northern Ireland, the stories of architecture and conflict after the violent period referred to as ‘The Troubles’ (1968-1998), are rarely told together, let alone seen as being shaped by the same architecture. On the one hand, the story of the conflict with its injustice, violence, destruction and peace process; and on the other, the story of architecture with its sedate award-winning buildings, aesthetics, form, function, professional practice and waning relevance. And yet, it is where these stories meet in a period of ‘post-conflict’ that begin to help make sense of this world by revealing the contradictions and divisions that persist in a ‘post-conflict’ society and the territorial production of space.

Furthermore, these stories may hold important learning for the wider discipline of architecture in how critical spatial practitioners can contribute  positively towards negotiating a fundamental societal issue such as living together peacefully.

Drawing from concepts of ‘politics of difference’  (Miessen, Hirsch 2012) and practice theory, the paper will question some of these mechanisms of architectural practice and value within the ‘post-conflict’ environment. Through visual methods of drawing and re-presentation of material, it will seek to communicate some of the challenges common to ‘post-conflict’ architecture in a divided city, that slowly transitioned from war to peace

and; outline the enabling nature of creative conflict as an operational tool for critical spatial practice.
MIESSEN, M. and HIRSCH, N., eds, 2012. The Space of Agonism: Markus Miessen in Conversation with Chantal Mouffe. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
STEVENS, G., 1998. The Favoured Circle: The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Re-reading the Irish Border.

Tom Keeley, Central Saint Martins, Kingston University and Birmingham City University.

In the summer of 1986, shortly after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, writer Colm Tóibín walked the length of the Irish border. The documentation of this journey became his book Bad Blood: A Walk Along The Irish Border. 30 years later the UK voted to leave the European Union. As the centenary of partition in Ireland approaches, this research retraces Tóibín’s route, walking the border with a view to understanding its architectural, cultural, political and poetic implications.
The research takes Tóibín’s route as both its methodology and organising principle, using the act of walking as key mode of research, along with archival study. It will re-map, re visit, and re-read the Irish border, concerned with the territory between the land, the perceived, the remembered, and the built.
It uses the inherent slowness of the walk to explore the links between walking and critical thought. It wants to, as Rebecca Solnit said, “know the world through the body, and the body through the world.” It travels through the physical terrain as well as along, against, and across the borders of other disciplines; borrowing from fields including cultural studies, anthropology, geology, and critical spatial practice.
This frame of reference builds on forms of criticism that take conceptual theories as a structure for conveying their ideas in a more literary than academic fashion. The work of Patrick Wright, Reyner Banham, Doreen Massey, and to a lesser extent that of Jonathan Meades and Patrick Keiller, have all played a significant role in this: weaving together autobiography, myth, politics, space, and the surreal.
At its core however it comes back to the relationship between site and method, testing the ways one can ‘practice’ architectural history in the expanded field. The first stage of this walk will take place in the summer of 2017.
Ecofeminist Ethics for Sustainable Urban Public Space.
Rucha Newalkar and Dr. Andrea Wheeler, Dept. of Architecture, Iowa State University, USA
Throughout history, the public urban space has been the reflection of a city’s social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing. In the broader discussion of urban environmental sustainability, however, there has been a pronounced dualism and an implicit hierarchy of value when looking at the city-ecology paradigm. This corresponds to political-social, human-nature and subject-object divides within the Western tradition. General conversations on the sustainability of urban public spaces have predominantly used urban policies, planning theories and architectural engineering approaches to privilege quantitative aspects like morphology and energy, over qualitative aspects like experience, well-being, and equity; thus, giving greater value to the former.
But in challenging such dualities, this paper adopts a critical and eco-feminist perspective, to investigate planning theories related to urban public spaces and to build a holistic definition of urban environmental sustainability. The methodology adopted uses contemporary feminist philosophy to critically investigate eco-feminist discussions of dualism, essentialism and ethics of care, in the context of design for environmental and social sustainability within urban public spaces. The critical, eco-feminist inquiry broadens the scope of current analysis and design, with respect to these qualitative aspects of urban environments. Through a theoretical analysis, firstly, we will argue that an eco-feminist ethic of care, and a strategic essentialism, can help us design spaces that address equity, especially to women and children, who are often overlooked. Secondly, we will establish that addressing sexual difference and intersectionality through design can create an equitable, psychological experience in social spaces. Thirdly, we will contend that adopting new feminist and eco-centric qualitative approaches for analysing and designing urban open spaces can create community by addressing the micro-politics of social equity more amicably. In conclusion, the paper will advocate eco-feminism as an integrative approach to achieve socio-ecological sustainability and wellbeing in urban public spaces.
Architectural-writing Domesticity: Finding and Making Space of Home and Intimacy in a City.
Gloria Weiyin Ma,  Royal College of Art.
The spatial design of a home has an affinity to intimacy that might have been overlooked by many practicing architects. In this paper, the subject matter of housing will be discussed with a shifted focus from domestic buildings to the space of home and intimacy that scatters in a city. In recent years, some sociologists (Illouz, 2013 & 1997; Turkle, 2013; Jamieson, 2012) have underlined a social translation of a new spatial home by analysing an intimacy in a city that has been enabled by ICT technologies; business models i.e. Airbnb and Couchsurfing also indicated a new form of dwelling by demonstrating how share economy can assist this spatial home and, in particular, assist the distribution of it so as to assist a city dweller to find and make home without possessing a house. And yet, neither of these examples of home are designed by architects who might actually know the best about the subject matter – this space of home and intimacy. What if the critical spatial design that an architect can produce isn’t the domestic buildings but the visualisation of this space? What is this critical spatial design of the home to cope with the shifting social needs already seen? Through Jeremy Till’s way of looking at buildings and beyond – the lens of Spatial Agency (2011) – the paper will further speculate these examples of home by architectural-writing this spatial design – this architectural-writing, as Jane Rendell describes in chapter of Essay Collections of Critical Architecture (2007), similarly to art-writing, “the very form of the writing itself is taken to be integral to the way in which a critic positions him/herself… The personal and autobiographical enter the debate, not in order to assert an ego criticism, but as part of an ongoing political exploration of subjectivity.”
The Reusing Dublin Experiment: Exploring Geddesian ideas on interactive mapping and
land reform.
Philip Crowe,  Dr Karen Foley and Aoife Corcoran,
UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy
This paper reports on the findings of an experiment in mapping underused spaces,, carried out as part of the transdisciplinary EU FP7 TURAS project
(, led by UCD, in 2015-16. Reusing Dublin was a response to the
observation that space is not used efficiently in urban areas in Ireland, and that this has
numerous systemic and negative consequences, for example related to urban sprawl, resource depletion, negative visual and social impacts, and a false impression of scarcity.
Reusing Dublin is an online mapping platform that engages citizens with the underuse of space, and generates spatially distributed data through crowd-sourcing that would not
otherwise exist. Results relating to civic engagement and mapping data are presented, and
implications for public policy discussed. From November 2016 the platform has been hosted by Peter McVerry Trust. The map of underused spaces is put forward as a spatial template for change in the city, and an example of urban resilience (as the application of social-ecological systems thinking to the city) in practice.
The paper will demonstrate how Reusing Dublin uses ICT to realize ideas relating to the Civic Survey and rehabilitation of derelict sites into Garden Playgrounds of Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) in Dublin and Edinburgh. The findings of Reusing Dublin relate back to radical ideas on land reform in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for example from Henry George (1839-1897) and the British Liberal Party (Finance Act 1910), that provide the
background to many Geddesian ideas.
The paper will conclude by reporting on progress of a consequent experiment that uses smart city tools in Aarhus, Denmark, developed as part of the Horizon 2020 project. This experiment is mapping underused spaces through crowd- sourcing, using ICT and GIS, and initiating co-creation processes in those spaces with citizens and relevant stakeholders.