Chair of Affective Architectures

If one were to give an account of all the doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors one would like to re-open, one would have to tell the story of one’s entire life. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Our work as architects is inevitably focused on defining and creating an environment that affects the lives of other people. Most of those people we do not know and we will never meet. Through its teaching methods and research approach, the Chair of Affective Architectures aims to create a broad and nuanced awareness of the affect and agency that architectures can have. What is its capacity to affect and be affected?

Architecture operates through the reproduction of values, social relations and worldviews, and architects can either conform or challenge and reinvent these broader schemes. A focus on visual spectacle and on technical, measurable performance often divert attention away from a social commitment and a critical relationship to what, how, why and for whom we actually want to add to the built environment. Architecture is a force: a force capable of affecting and being affected. A built form establishes countless relations, and its edification or modification creates a new encounter of potentials. This oscillation between acting and being acted upon affirms architecture as a practice of becoming more than one of being. Architecture is not static, it is affective.

We see architecture as an environment of care. Taking care of the places it interacts with: the sites it touches and from which it takes the materials to construct with. Taking care of the people it affects, recognising their interaction with the space (through appropriation of it, their interventions, the maintenance) as equally valuable for its ongoing production. Taking care also of future generations, producing spaces with meaning and an intelligence that allows it to adapt to future needs and demands.

We are facing a number of urgent and global challenges that force us to take position and formulate possible ways forward. Climate change, the impact of living in an increasingly digital world, ageing populations, the call for more multiplicity and the need to come to terms with overlooked histories and epistemologies are all interwoven and are only some of the issues that should deeply influence the way we think about designing and producing space today. The pandemic adds to the complexity and the questions at stake. The impact of these topics on mobility, working and living conditions, accessibility to social life requires questioning and reformulating the agency of the architect. As such we do not only ask ourselves what architecture can be, but also what it can do.

It is our understanding that the complexity of the whole moves beyond the scope of our own discipline and we believe that building coalitions with other practices, bodies of knowledge and backgrounds is crucial for a better understanding. We look out for spatial practices, tools and experiences to expand the field of architecture. Artists, writers, engineers, sociologists, but also activists, users or even streets and landscapes help us to consider often overlooked, unstable or in- between gestures and forms of space-making that can help create a sharper understanding of the world we live in. How can a closer engagement with what and who is already there expand the definitions and ideas of architecture, and open up new intelligences and ways to produce architectural design?

We have named our design studio the Denkraum. The Denkraum acts as an environment for collective reflection, a place where we experiment with different attitudes, methodologies and perspectives - often borrowed from other disciplines - to design architecture. Our Seminar Weeks consist both of Encounters with other practitioners as well as Now and Then visits and travels. Our Master Thesis offers graduating students a set of themes and topics that speak to our own interests and on which we have been working more in depth across the chair, whilst adding our perspective to the overall master thesis topic at D-ARCH. Finally, the Dept. of the Ongoing acts as a shadow department and critical friend to the chair. The Dept. is a research-, teaching- and commissioning platform aimed at developing spatial intelligence with and from the point of view of people, bodies, narratives and subjectivities often unacknowledged or overlooked by an architectural production still largely grounded on dominant traditions.