Premature gratification and other pleasures

October 1, 2013

Katherine Shonfield, one of the founding members of the collaborative art and architecture practice muf bescribes in the text ”Premature gratification and other pleasures” some of muf’s most important working methods. It’s a special process, which also operates as a reaction against the traditional and linear work with small scale particular instances vs. big scale general themes.

”Muf’s work, on the other hand, develops the particular to the general and back to the particular” (Shonfield, p. 14)

The process detail/strategy = DETAIL together with the principle of premature gratification is the two strategies – or ”takes” which Shonfield highlights. After the brief description of the processes, some examples of executed projects follow where she explains in detail how the strategies have been implied into the projects.

To me, the text serves as an enormous inspiration in my work. The text promotes an inclusive and joyful architecture and as Shonfield points out, muf’s processes is like the antithesis of the mentality of the 1940s and 1950s town planning (p. 17)
I feel that much of my architectural education has been based on ideals from that particular time, and that’s why mufs manifesto works like a fresh breeze for me. Terms like pleasure and satisfaction is introduced, terms that have been held in the dark by the ruling themes of economy, industrialization and proven methods.

The concept of premature gratification was to me completely unknown and I welcome it in to my professional vocabulary, since the joyful and playful can sometimes be hard to argue about. Hard facts often wins over the soft values and humans are logic and reasonable creatures that can put their emotions and instincts at hold. But I think that in every human the child is still there. Everyone wants to start with the good part first, we’ve just been learned that it’s something that grown-ups don’t do..
To create better cities I think we should let ourselves to take the best bite first, and I think the concept of premature gratification can work as an explanatory method and even as a negotation tactic.

To work with the concept of premature gratification also means working in a feminist spirit. As the Swedish journalist and author Katrine Kielos writes about in her book ”Det enda könet/The only sex(My translation, Editor’s note) all hard facts as economy, strategy and logics has historically and traditionally been connected with men, meanwhile soft values as nature, feelings and the body has been connected to women. To introduce and highlight the importance of soft values, of joy and pleasure and to work with erasing these connections to a specific gender is important feminist tasks to work with as an architect.

Matilda Schuman

Katherine Shonfield, “Premature Gratification and Other Pleasures” in This is What we do: a muf manual, London: Elipsis London, 2001
Katrine Kielos, “Det enda könet”, Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2012


2 Responses to “Premature gratification and other pleasures”

  1. Katla Maríudóttir Says:

    In your chapter “premature gratification,” you say you have introduced for new terms in muf’s manual;

    “Terms like pleasure and satisfaction is introduced, terms that have been held in the dark by the ruling themes of economy, industrialization and proven methods.”

    I agree, and I have to say that it seems strange – chilling even – that terms like those are missing from our architectural education where we learn how to shape shelter individuals their whole life, and how people live.

  2. nystromark Says:

    Matildas text makes me want to read Katherine Shonfields text. The emphasis in joyfulness in architecture I think is important to remember. But there is also a risk of mistaking joyfulness with childishness. To do that is to reduce both joyfulness and children. But to not emphasis in joyfulness in architecture is to reduce all of us.

    Andreas Nyström

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