Events » SHARE Conference Aarhus 2014 » Research Presentations » Architecture as Initiative

Veronika Valk

Architecture as Initiative

Head of Research & Curator
Estonian Academy of Arts, Faculty of Architecture

My recently completed PhD in design practice research offers an alternative way to research a versatile practice in the realm of ‘architecture as initiative’. I provided an account of what my practice is based on, through data as well as through stories about projects, hinting at where such a practice might lead or how it might evolve. I started by providing a more global picture of my driving concerns and of the socio-political and geographical specificity of my work, followed by selected illustrative projects (‘samples’) in which I showed how my research proceeded and what led to the discoveries and clarifications. Thereupon, I teased out conclusions and provided a manifesto for future versatile practice.

Before starting the PhD process I was not so aware that, through my practice, I have been (unwillingly) re-inventing an Estonian ‘publicness’ relevant to those fields of architecture and urbanism. The PhD process helped me to crystallise how I  have been searching for opportunities to do this in a ‘joyful’ and ‘playful’ way, using a multiplicity of ‘tools’ to do so.

The body of work presented offers ways for architecture (as a field of behaviours) to accommodate and to recognise a species of architect: the architect as initiator. These initiatives tend to unveil alternative ways of tackling challenges, thus blurring some of the traditional discipline boundaries and using accessible ‘devices’. These initiatives emerge by creating transdisciplinary spaces of professional collaboration. ‘Architecture as initiative’ occurs in a loosely-defined (open) transdisciplinary intersection where it can serve as a strategy to strengthen, evolve and expand practice.

The search for functional realities – which not only incorporate but immerse themselves in, and build upon, other disciplines as well as institutional, ideological and structural processes – guarantees that a multi-modal architectural practice becomes versatile. The benefits of a versatile practice surface in the physical implementation of (design) ideas, (architectural) concepts or (urban) scenarios: in the practice’s ability to tease visions into tenable, physical existence. But the research also points out the importance of tools of reflection, such as workshops, carried by “the scientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown, to be explored.”
The research presents how a practice’s substrate might shift in response to contextual change and how the practice continually re-invents itself to maintain its authenticity in those crossed contexts. Finally, the research points to the potential for some specific open-ended ‘protocols’ to emerge from these observations.
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