Spatial Agency

Spatial Agency: A new approach to Architecture

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended with diligence.” – Abigail Adams

Over centuries, the buildings humans live, work and come together in have evolved considerably. What started out as simple domes of shelter hundreds of thousands of years ago advanced into mesmerising artworks. And the Architects behind these beautiful buildings became their artists, known and loved for their work. These buildings have been preserved and constantly attract travellers to them in awe. And rightly so. They are a part of our history and tell the first half of the story of Architecture. As we learn more about the impact of Architecture, the chapters that follow will look drastically different.

Today, modern Architecture has learned that we need to design beyond aesthetics. We need to marry our designs with the purpose of the building in mind, we also need to consider its relationship with the immediate landscape and practice sustainability as far as possible. In fact, as we delve deeper into what Architecture can actually do we realise that Architecture can even restore (#RegenerativeArchitecture).

An Architect can therefore not be the sole hero or “Artist” of a project. An Architect is just one of the “agents” required to transform a space from nothing into something spectacular.

This concept and particularly the social aspects of the wider architectural landscape are all unpacked in detail in the book Spatial Agency: Other Ways of doing Architecture by Nishat Awan, Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till.

In an extract from Beyond Discourse: Notes on Spatial Agency, Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till write: “We all know that this story, this line of thought, isn’t true: that architecture in its widest sense is rarely delivered through an individual; but the mythology of the sole architect as hero-author is still played out through the figures of Rems, Zahas, Normans et al. The use of first names gives a comforting familiarity with genius that disguises the reality of how little of the built environment is associated with any architect-author whatsoever.”

Some Spatial Agency principles are already in practice, but it is time to make it mainstream by learning more about and emphasising elements such as:

  • The importance of continuously collaborating with other artists, designers, builders, and tradespeople.
  • Empowering and training others throughout the designing and building process.
  • Considering the impact the building will have on the livelihoods of people, and ensuring that this impact is a positive one.
  • Allowing nature to form part of the structure of the design.

While the principles of Regenerative Architecture show us that Architecture can heal the environment, the principles of Spatial Agency show us that Architecture can make the world a better place.

Architecture truly has a fundamental role to play going forward. What a time to be alive and call this field our home!

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