Spatial Agency is a project that presents a new way of looking at how buildings and space can be produced. Moving away from architecture's traditional focus on the look and making of buildings, Spatial Agency proposes a much more expansive field of opportunities in which architects and non-architects can operate. It suggests other ways of doing architecture.
In the spirit of Cedric Price the project started with the belief that a building is not necessarily the best solution to a spatial problem. The project attempts to uncover a second history of architecture, one that moves sharply away from the figure of the architect as individual hero, and replaces it with a much more collaborative approach in which agents act with, and on behalf of, others.
In all the examples on this website, there is a transformative intent to make the status quo better, but the means are very varied, from activism to pedagogy, publications to networking, making stuff to making policy - all done in the name of empowering others. In Bruno Latour's terms, critical attention is shifted from architecture as a matter of fact to architecture as a matter of concern. As matters of fact, buildings can be subjected to rules and methods, and they can be treated as objects on their own terms. As matters of concern, they enter into socially embedded networks, in which the consequences of architecture are of much more significance than the objects of architecture.
Although Spatial Agency started out as a critique of the conservative tendencies of mainstream practice, it ended up as a celebration of the bravery, canniness and optimism of an inspiring group of historical and contemporary figures. We do not expect everyone to agree with our selection (the whole point of lists is not to agree with them but wrangle with them and in that form your own interpretation of the subject) but if you feel that anyone in particular has been left out, then please do contact us. We also welcome any feedback, comments, or suggestions on the website itself and the projects featured.
For more a detailed reading of Spatial Agency see a recent article by Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till published in FOOTPRINT.
For a discussion of the concept of Spatial Agency and Architecture as a quietly revolutionary practice see the interview with Tatjana Schneider published on CLUSTER
Nishat Awan was a research associate at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, on this project.
Tatjana Schneider is a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, where she teaches design studio, history and theory.
Jeremy Till is an architect and educator. He is Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Arts, London. Previously, he was Dean of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster, London.
And with huge thanks to all the people featured on this website, many of whom have been very generous in their time and support, especially in the provision of images and correction of detail. The project was funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
SPATIAL AGENCY: Book
Spatial Agency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture published by Routledge, co-authored by Nishat Awan, Tatjana Schneider, and Jeremy Till is now available here. The book has a selection of the examples on this website, introduced by four extended essays that explain the what, why, where and how of Spatial Agency, providing a theoretical and practical grounding to the subject, and giving pointers as to how to enact Spatial Agency. It is the first time that such a collection of alternative approaches to architectural production have been brought together in one place. The book is intended as a useful and inspiring road map for anyone looking for other ways to deploy architectural intelligence.
This website is an extendable repository of examples of Spatial Agency. The database is sortable into broad thematic areas that group the motivations (why?), locations (where?) and means (how?) of Spatial Agency. Each entry has a link to its own website in the title bar, and then references and links to associated groups and subjects at the bottom, opening up to an international network of spatial agents. Even before any form of launch, the website attracted over 100,000 visitors from all points of the compass, suggesting a need for such documentation.
The website would not have been possible without the extraordinary contribution of its designer, Dorian Fraser Moore of The Useful Arts Organisation.