In this chapter, I aim to briefly describe and position the key concepts that form the central idea of my recently published dissertation Architectural Flirtations: A Love Storey. I explore the terms architectural, flirtations and critique, in relation to ideas about architects and their formation, staked out by architect and theorist, Dana Cuff in her chapter “The Making of an Architect” from 1991. Cuff writes: “The ethos of a profession is born in schools.” For me, it’s obvious that the effects are lasting! Although written almost 25 years ago, around the time of my own design education, I am struck by the degree to which my masters architecture students still recognize elements of their own education in Cuff’s text when reading it together in March 2014. In revisiting the central aspects that contribute to making a culture of architects, what Cuff describes as enculturation, “a process that transforms layperson into architect through the knowledge, experience, and authority gained over the course of a career,” with a specific focus on education, I propose an intentional and continuous displacing of what I call the center.  This strategy, what I call architectural flirtations, involves clearing ground for more ethical, socially conscious, and generous architectural conversations.
Certificates: Both the Flirt Aid Kit and the “official” certificate participants receive at the end of the course are Campy, equally silly as they are serious, but the message they carry is not uncritical: Architecture is in critical condition and in dire need of Flirt Aid! Photo by Håkan Lindquist.
Why do I insist on using the word architectural? Situated within what feminist, art and architectural theorist Jane Rendell describes, in “Critical Spatial Practices: Setting Out a Feminist Approach to some Modes and what Matters in Architecture,” as one of the five thematics of current feminist critical spatial practices- performativity, my work is most often a joining of (queer) feminist, literary and architectural disciplines within a theatrical guise, “to explore the ‘position’ of the writer through the spatial and material qualities of the text.” I write stories as an architect, about architects, within and around architecture, inspired by architectural encounters and phenomena. At times, I would even claim that I write architecturally, but it is absolutely a creative and an interdisciplinary endeavor. According to Cuff: “Becoming an architect is about becoming an artist, but a peculiar kind of artist who stays within certain boundaries… The process of becoming an architect is one of learning socially appropriate avenues for creativity.”
I understand Cuff’s intention of evoking the figure of the artist as an example of an autonomous individual, in order to emphasize the incongruity of architecture’s strong identification with and lingering myth of the lone creative (male) genius, in relation to the collective teams necessary to do the actual work. She points to an unresolved conflict between a perceived freedom in the process of design and the more constraining practical aspects of business associated with professional practice. Cuff admits that even most art practices must resolve these very same conflicting roles she is referring to, but states that she uses a stereotypical artist in order to get at the way most architects are fostered to see themselves primarily as the architect-artist, rather than identifying with their managerial or collaborative roles. Jane Rendell, on the other hand, describes a more complex understanding of artistic practice and collaboration, and focuses specifically on interdisciplinary work that offers “a critical feminist alternative to conventional architectural practice.” Noorgheless, could it be these certain boundaries and socially appropriate avenues necessary in becoming an architect and mentioned by Cuff, designating the limitations of the discipline, that Rendell finds constricting in her desire to expand the field through the use of the term critical spatial practice, leaving the term architectural behind?
While I empathize and agree with Rendell’s call for a more interdisciplinary perspective and expansion of the field of architecture, I wonder if there might be another way to approach the disciplinary limits of architecture, or its certain boundaries and socially appropriate avenues? My concern is that in giving up the term architectural, work done under the epithet spatial may be relegated to the margins, leaving the bastion of architecture located firmly at the center, unchanged. Since the word architectural is directly associated to the discipline I intend to affect, Architecture – with a capital A (to signify a self-perpetuating patriarchal discipline and canonical culture that is in need of change), and because I recognize this inherent association with power, I choose strategically to call any and everything I do architectural. In the conclusion of her text on critical spatial practices, Jane Rendell stresses the continued importance in making explicit references to feminism in order not to “partake in the act of obscuring feminism’s political imperative” in an attempt to find “less oppositional ways of being feminist”. In a similar manner, I would suggest that “contemporary feminist practitioners interested in architecture” cannot afford to give up the term architectural, if the intention is to change it.
Supervisors, opponent, and PhD candidate: Shifting the roles of a typical research seminar to enact this fictional course, my role as PhD candidate shifted to head instructor, my academic advisors became training supervisors, my “opponent” performed as the special guest affiliate, while my former students and friends who helped guide those attending, became my Flirt Aid staff. Photo by Håkan Lindquist.
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