Choose Your Violence

March 31, 2011


Choose Your Violence:

Autonomy or Participation?

participatory Autonomy or autonomous Participation?

autonomous Autonomy or participatory Participation?



Centering on Ashton Raggatt McDougal’s proposed ‘Portrait’ apartment building in Melbourne, Australia, I will discuss the role of autonomy and participation in architectures’ engagement with politics. Portrait is a speculative developer driven project whose main architectural idea is the sculpting of indigenous leader William Barak’s portrait on the prominent southern façade, in an attempt to raise awareness in the public psyche of ‘white man’s’ colonial acquisition of the land where Melbourne is now located from the indigenous people.

Balanced between practice and theory architecture is a profession that is in constant and unrelenting conflict with itself. The practice of architecture requires power wielded by a patron to be realised but as Deleuze has written ‘theory is by nature opposed to power’1. There are two extreme opposing view points for overcoming this conflict: excepting architecture’s autonomy and engaging its participation. Architectural ‘disciplinarity as autonomy and process, as in the case of Eisenman … and disciplinarity as force and effect, as in Koolhaas’2. Architecture as accepting dissensus as in autonomy and architecture as reaching consensus as in participation. These views are seen as opportunities by architects committed to re-inventing the violence of power to criticise the various forms of violence that evade society.

Through this essay I will define these concepts against more extreme examples of architecture at either end of the spectrum, say Zaha Hadid and Studio Mumbai. Comparing these architects at either end of the spectrum to ARM I will assess the effectiveness of the ‘Portrait’ proposal in engaging with issues of civic power.

1 p.208 Intellectuals and Power – Foucault & Deleuze (GD)

2 p.75 Notes around the Doppler Effect and other Moods of Modernism – Somol & Whiting



Homo Sacer – Georgio Agamben

Intellectuals and Power – Foucault & Deleuze

Notes around the Doppler Effect and other Moods of Modernism – Somol & Whiting

Dissensus, On Politics and Aesthetics – Jacques Rancière

The Project of Autonomy – Pier Vittorio Aureli

Supercritical – Peter Eisenman & Rem Koolhaas (Ed. Brett Steele)

Architecture’s Public – Giancarlo De Carlo

The Violence of Liberal Democracy – Slavoj Žižek

New Patronage – Ashton Raggatt McDougal

New Landmark For Melbourne – Jeff Turnbull (The Age online 14/09/10)



Ashton Raggatt McDougal’s ‘Portrait’

Zaha Hadid’s ‘China Opera House’

Studio Mumbai

NMBW’s ‘Elwood House’

OFFICE and Bas Princen – 12th Venice Architecture Biennale




One Response to “Choose Your Violence”

  1. See Log, Somol and Whiting.

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