Research & advice

Architecture & Activism

Gideon Boie and Lieven De Cauter

2015 - ongoing, KU Leuven

Since 2015 Gideon Boie and Lieven De Cauter started at the KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture (campus Brussels) an elective course that considers the possibility of activist architecture and architectural activism. Today urban activism is more or less obvious, but can architecture, the art of building, ever be activist or even just critical?

It is hard to imagine a service-oriented discipline to become critical towards the desires of its client. Should we first widen the definition of architecture? Or shall the inclusion of the architectural discipline in the repertoire of urban activism shift the entire field of discussion?

This common course on activism departs from edited volumes published by the lecturers: ‘Cultural Activism Today: the art of overidentication’ by BAVO on the one hand and ‘Art and Activism in the Age of Globalisation’ by Lieven De Cauter on the other hand. The literature list thus consist of essays written by contemporary theorists such as a.o. Boris Groys, Dieter Lesage, Francesca Recchia, and Miguel Robles-Duran. Other relevant texts on activism and canonical texts on architecture will, of course, be added following the discussion. Gradually the topic will become specialised in the field of architecture.

Beside theorizing activism, looking at practices is equally important. The elective course will document and analyse in-depth the manifold cases of what can be identified as architectural activism at home and abroad. Contemporary practices by Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency (DAAR), Atelier d’Architecture Autogerée (AAA), Stalker and Walking, ParckFarm, Teddy Cruz, Crimson, and others will be looked at. The cases will be questioned on the basis of their possible links to the art world and their following inscription into the register of representation and temporality. A question will be whether and how architectural activism can have a long-lasting effect in the urban arena and still operate as a service-providing job – as the architecture discipline usually does.

The Elective ‘Architecture and Activism’ experiments qua pedagogy, didactics and methodology with various forms of ‘commoning’. Open debate, direct democracy, self-organisation and the joy of labour are the keywords of the seminars. A special guide ‘Scholè: a game’ is written to ensure that the elective course becomes an ‘selforganising learning play’.

Over the years the course featered guest lectures by:

  • Louisa Vermoere and Andrea Sollazo (Collective Disaster)
  • Roeland Dudal (Architecture Workroom Brussels)
  • Paoletta Holst (That Might Be Right)
  • Maarten Gielen en Lionel Devlieger (Rotor)
  • Peter Verhaeghe (stRatengeneraal)
  • Johanna Jacob (Common paradox)
  • Stéphane Damsin (Recyclart)
  • em.-prof. Albert Martens
  • Giulia Barroero en Koen Berghmans, Tristan Boniver, Alessandra Bruno (wTTc anti-squat law breakfast worktable)


Tags: Activism, English

Categories: Architecture

Type: Research & advice