The Dept. of the Ongoing is a speculative 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.
As a disobedient (1) space, the Dept. actively comes to terms with the fact that architectural production is not neutral but often sired to specific sets of preconceived ideas, social constructs, languages, worldviews, codes and conventions. In order to unmask these preconceptions and broaden spatial intelligence as a constellation of multiplicity, the Dept. grows knowledge, sets up teaching programmes and commissions spatial scenarios that critically engage the Western-centric architectural canon and offer tools for spatial practice through an intersectional lens.
Intersectionality (2) urges us to consider space and space-making through different viewpoints, disciplines, generations, cultures and experiences, and as such, proposes an understanding of space that is both situated and embodied. The Dept. applies this understanding of intersectionality with the aim to unsettle and reconfigure what we value in architecture, while hoping to disrupt the divisive lines that categorise according to class, race, culture and gender.
The Dept. of the Ongoing acts as a shadow department and critical friend (3) of the Chair of Affective Architectures at the Department of Architecture at ETH Zürich, a relation of proximity and complicity the Dept. actively entertains, by infiltrating and contaminating the Chairs’ manifestations. A deeper complicity between both lies in the shared responsibility to educate and set up study (4) on our capacity and responsibility as makers of space in a social world.
Simultaneously, as a shadow department undercommoning (5) the Chair, the Dept. is able to do the work on its own terms, within a multi-authored set-up that cannot be claimed, and as such, acts as an experiment to embed its ways of thinking and acting into existing institutional structures without being fixed to it, hence its ghostly nature.
The Dept. of the Ongoing is geared at evolving our thinking and positions in spatial practice, arriving at points from where we can also further depart. As such, the Dept. celebrates ongoingness, as in: maintaining a continuous culture of questioning while at the same time getting on with it, as in: being present by looking at what’s already going on, as in: knowing that the process is the practice and the artefacts are simply side effects (6). Architecture has a role to play in telling stories across temporalities that affect the way we live and understand our environments.
In this state of ongoingness, the Dept. of the Ongoing attempts to broaden our narratives, vocabularies, epistemologies, references, and design methodologies, in order to produce more caring, sustainable and Affective Architectures. With this, the Dept. aims to stretch and reimagine our understanding of what architecture can be and do, both in architectural education as in its wider field, asserting that such a remixed field of architecture can be a much-needed agent for spatial justice.
(1) See Flood and Grindon (2014) Disobedient Objects at Victoria Albert Museum (Host Institution)
(2) Read Crenshaw, K (2019) On Intersectionality : Essential Writings . African American lawyer and critical race theorist, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is reputable for her conception, introduction and development of the term intersectionality.
(3) “Loving friendships provide us with a space to experience the joy of community in a relationship where we learn to process all our issues, to cope with differences and conflict while staying connected.” In hooks, b. (2016) All About Love: New Visions, 133-134
(4) “Study is what you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under the name of speculative practice… The point of calling it ‘study’ is to mark that the incessant and irreversible intellectuality of these activities is already present.” In Moten and Harney (2013) The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, 112
(5) Read Moten and Harney (2013) The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study
(6) Virgil Abloh (2021) Abloh-isms