All the mewing and barking…

October 9, 2013

My teacher used to say that one profession mews and another angrily barks back. Needless to say, that discussion leads nowhere if those two professions don’t go out of their safe sphere and try to listen to the sounds the other animals in the forest make. It will take time to develop an understanding, but with willfulness to cooperate and a dash of patience they will start understanding each other.

Our world has gone far since modernism with its efficiency sorted everything into shelves and boxes – in everything from separating different parts of the house all the way to extreme specialization within professions. That leading to a isolation of the disciplines in its language, maybe again leading to a less cooperation between and beyond disciplines.

That was. But how will it be – how should we work in order to leave the status quo? How do we want to work? “As bell hooks has put it, the question of ‘yearning’ is not about ‘who we are’ but ‘what we want to become’; the Altering practices are about what we want the world to become…” (Petrescu p. 4)

I dare to believe that there is an increasing understanding of the necessity of transdisciplinary (and/or multiplicity) approaches to problem solving. Multiple voices to be heard and acknowledged. This is one of the things Atelier d’architecture autogérée/studio for self-managed architecture (aaa) have realised and work with. aaa uses what they call ‘urban tactics’; “encouraging the participation of inhabitants at the self-management of disused urban spaces, overpassing contradictions and stereotypes by proposing nomad and reversible projects, initiating interstitial practices which explore the potential of contemporary city (in terms of population, mobility, temporality)”. (

For me this sounds like a lot of common sense. But taking a step back to my education that is about to accumulate in a degree in architecture – this is not how we are taught how to do architecture. To work in the manner that the aaa and muf (to name a few who ‘do architecture in another way’) takes a lot of courage. It asks you to put your ego aside and let go of your preconceived aspirations in order to engage fully and wholly in the project – in order not to overlook voices that are less strong. And at the very least it requires that you know where you are coming from and what ‘luggage’ you carry – to realise who’s vision is being created (Brown, p. 4). Altering practices takes the perspective that architecture is not a noun, but a verb – not the outcome but the process, even though most houses, squares and streets are built to last a human lifetime or so. It is a ‘becoming’ discipline. “Ultimately, this is one of the primary goals of Feminist Practices; to think outside and beyond the practice of architecture in order to broaden and expand architecture’s role and engagement within our everyday world for everyday people.” (Brown, p. 6)

Katla M.


Doina Petrescu, ‘Altering Practices’ in Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space, London: Routledge, 2007.
Lori Brown, ‘Introduction’ Lori Brown, ed., Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture, London: Ashgate, 2011.
Atelier d’architecture autogérée (aaa) official website. Retrieved October 9, 2013.

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