Unstable Architectures: Camping, Modernism and Beyond

AADR Publisher, Baunach
Publication Type:
Expanded Architecture: Temporal Formal Practices, 2016, Bauhaus Edition, 47 pp. 125 - 138
Issue Date:
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This chapter investigates the phenomenon of 'transience' in modernist architecture and postmodernist transdisciplinary and architectural experimentation. With case studies spanning over a time period from 1922 -2012, the authors argue what connects the selected key practice case studies is their common origin in the positively connoted notion of the nomadic, the temporary and unsettled. In architecture as much as in philosophical thought, temporary occupations have offered an alternate vision of inhabitation to the constraints of a society that typically defines itself through conventions of settledness, stability, and duration. Deleuze's notion of nomadism as an activity and a process that sets up a counter-space to the dominant space of the State, provides one set of relations with which to think about temporal and transient built structures and its contemporary reflections, and Heidegger's practices of 'dwelling' as a mode of 'being in the world’ where, however, identity is not linked to a place, form another theoretical provocation. Through two modernist case studies of 'unstable architectures', namely Rudolph Schindler’s Kings Road House in Los Angeles (1922) and Eileen Gray's E-1027 house in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (1926-29), we reflect on both architects' desires for the design of their own houses as distinctly temporal dwellings. In contrast, the third case study, designed and built 60 years later, the architect's collective Raumlabor’s Marathon Camp at the Steirischer Herbst Festival in Graz, Austria (2012) shows not a private dwelling but rather a model for the temporary housing of 'theory', i.e. for a localized and collective thinking. The concept of unstable architectures, it is argued here, is linked to the creation of systems of performative relations between people and spaces through experimentation, critique and contextualisation. Unstable architectures provoke and enable alternate modes of individual and collective behaviour and in doing so, these built structures serve to destabilize and unsettle existing social orders.
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