How to compose collectivity
If space commands bodies, prescribing or proscribing gestures, as Henri Lefebvre wrote, then the way we order things, bodies and buildings in space is not only the physical manifestation of ideologies behind the form of architecture and the city.
As we wrote in our Little Pink Book:
For people like us who cannot speak or believe, the order we use to compose things still has a value – just ask children who play ring-a-ring o’ roses, or soldiers who go on a parade, or bathers on a public beach, or the inmates surrounded by a Panopticon.
Order organizes relations. It establishes the modes of communication between spaces, it promotes, or prevents, movement, it makes it interact with other movements and flows, it either facilitates or prevents the construction of a map, it either orients or disorients.
The order we follow when we lay spaces – and individuals – out is the very first expression of politics in architecture.
That’s why a recurring theme in our work has always been the experimentation of orders that allow at the same time to build and represent a collectivity while triggering forms of individual appropriation and identification with space. What we call diverse orders (and others have called in different ways throughout the last century) arrange a collectivity as a gathering of differences more than an array of equalities, the type of order sustained as the correct formalization of democracy and/or the disclosure of the abstract rule of capital, according to the architects of the modern movement and some contemporary scholars and designers.
These three projects – a rugby stadium in Bari, an ongoing project of a center for youth in Kilifi, a school in Herat, – among others that we did, configure collectivity as a gathering of individual buildings in a whole that allows for its different elements to be recognized, identified, appropriated.
The breaking of the program in individual building masses articulated in orders with a loose evidence and a weak hierarchy – together with the differentiation of their dimension, position, facades composition, color and material – creates on one hand a series of open spaces to be appropriated with different uses – from those with more collective value to those with a more intimate character – and trigger a process of identification with the single buildings and their programs – my classroom, our gym, the gathering place of my community…
This split of the program in individual buildings loosely arranged around a main collective space allows furthermore, when necessary, to a step-by-step building process, and to further additions and expansions of the ensemble, that is by definition an open system thanks to an organizing principle that doesn’t close the composition of individuals in a defined and fully balanced order, and can welcome the unexpected intrusions of future developments.
Last but not least, as in the project for Kilifi, this gathering of diversities is the perfect strategy for a project with multiple authors, in this case the same of the school in Herat, with different points of view and approaches to architecture.
Diverse orders for an architecture that can be diversely interpreted, lived, narrated.