No-thing is possible: Architecture, politics and urban decay
Lucas Pohl (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Paper short abstract:
This paper asks for the potentials and problems of an ANT-view of architecture. By changing the focus from production to decay, it sketches the consequences for a political reading of vacancy and seeks for a dialogue between ANT and other approaches on material space.
Paper long abstract:
In his essay "Imagining Nothingness", Rem Koolhaas (1985: 54) once said: "it is a tragedy that planners only plan and architects only design more architecture. More important than the design of cities will be the design of their decay". To expand the focus on architecture, ANT enables some interesting thoughts. With its focus on the movement of buildings (Latour & Yaneva 2008) and the political relocation of the city (Latour 2012), ANT can be helpful to think about urban decay in a different way. This paper is located at the interface between architecture, politics and urban decay. Against the background of my ongoing PhD-project on "Ghostscrapers" - the abandonment and ruination of significant built structures in Detroit and Bangkok - this paper asks for potentials and problems of an ANT-perspective on vacancy and urban decay. In what sense does ANT changes our view on the city and the material production of buildings in regards to urban decay? And what are the limits of such an approach that calls for 'moving contexts' and 'flowing buildings'? Following Müller (2015: 35) who calls for "co-articulating" ANT with other social theories, this paper seeks for a dialogue between ANT and other approaches on material space. By focussing on the interplay between the city and its vacant structures, 'no-things' can become visible. As things that have lost their intension and relation to the rest of the city, such vacant structures make space for the political, because "where there's nothing, everything is possible" (Koolhaas 1985: 54).
Doing theory by other means: how does architectural production challenge STS and ANT