Micropolitics and Architecture

author: Andrew Ballantyne, Newcastle University
published: Jan. 20, 2020,   recorded: January 2020,   views: 11

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Politics is interpersonal relations; it originates as a word at the scale of the city – the polis – at a time when the city was the state. Governments take decisions about infrastructure and commission buildings that can represent or dissimulate the power of the state. At a smaller scale, we have the politics of the workplace or the family, which are worked out in tensions and alliances, rivalries and murders – the stuff of drama, comedy, and tragedy. The Royal Houses of Thebes and Atreus – Oedipus and Orestes – enact intensely things that go on more mildly in our own homes – the walls and rooms make meetings and separations at the domestic scale, which can be seen translated to the scale of the city, with its streets and markets. Within the individual’s unconscious there is micropolitics, which informs our moods and inclinations. In moving across the different scales, from molecular to molar, unconscious assemblages to the psychology of crowds, we cross thresholds of architectural awareness. We can think of some buildings as autonomous objects, but only by not noticing that they are always political through and through, linked into infrastructures and housing micropolitical organisms that are already crowds within themselves.

Andrew Ballantyne is professor of architecture at Newcastle University, UK. He became an architect and then a writer. His books include Architecture Theory: A Reader in Philosophy and Culture, Deleuze and Guattari for Architects, Key Buildings from Prehistory to the Present, Rural and Urban: Architecture Between Two Cultures, and Architecture: A Very Short Introduction.

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