Siting construction: Agency, reflexivity and temporality at the glocal construction site

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Abstract

Architectural accounts of modern buildings often include pictorial and textual documentation of their construction process. The presence of the construction site brings into complex, ambiguous interplay the design intentions invested in the building, the process of its making and its reception. Such images may have several diverging motivations. By instructing on the technical aspects of construction, they are intended to increase professional technical knowledge for making architectural ideas work in practice. More often, they have a rhetorical function, to communicate the architect’s position on core modernist design principles, such as the notion that architecture is an aesthetic expression of the building’s structure, memorably formulated by Otto Wagner’s dictum that “the architect always has to develop the art-form out of construction.” 1 Be it a question of expanding professional knowledge of best building practices, or a statement on the essence of architectural design and its interdependence with construction technology, the construction site is commonly thought of as a subordinate, temporal stage towards the completed building, and not as a significant, meaningful activity in its own right. Thinking of the construction site in itself and for itself is a threat to the disciplinarian purity of architecture, as it introduces forces and agents such as labourers, craftsmen, engineers, construction firms and entrepreneurs into the analysis of the work of architecture, and in that process problematizes the identity of the architect as the author of its meaning. Yet it is also apparent that the construction site cannot be discussed separately from architectural culture, as is done in sociological, economic or technical studies of the construction industry, because building techniques and work processes are often altered by architectural ideas that may be critical of underlying economic and technological forces that shape the building industry. It is precisely this interdependence and tension between construction and design that endows the construction site with the critical potential to rethink the building in relation to its historical context, since due to this reflexivity, architecture is not synchronized with broader tendencies that define modernity. It thus becomes valuable for problematizing totalizing 37notions of linear historical development that assume a deterministic relation between artistic production and the general mode of production prevalent in society.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProducing Non-Simultaneity
Subtitle of host publicationConstruction Sites as Places of Progressiveness and Continuity
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages36-61
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781351393195
ISBN (Print)9781138299061
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

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