The limits of the useful: Revising the operational framework of usefulness in architectural production

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This output is a design-led, peer-reviewed research paper composed of TWO interrelated pieces: A text-based component using the conventional format of a peer-reviewed journal an additional piece intended to show design-research material in a suitable format. The assessment of the work involves reading across these multiple modes, and allows for various formats to take the lead in communicating the means, outputs and methods of design-led research.

The content is best viewed online at http://drawingon.org/issue/01 (Article 06 - Miguel Paredes) however Appendix 1 and 2 provide an experience as close as possible to online viewing.
Appendix 1: Text-based piece, published in: Drawing On: Journal of Architecture Research by Design, 1. September 2015
Appendix 2: Design piece, published in: Drawing On: Journal of Architecture Research by Design, 1. September 2015


This paper attempts to broaden the conceptual framework of usefulness in architectural production beyond the limitedscope of classical utility that has its origins in Vitruvius' notion of utilitas, a notion that still constitutes a prevailing
criterion for the evaluation of any work of architecture. The starting point of this task is the examination of a series of contemporary critical positions concerned with the subversion of conventional relationships established by space, function and time. Hence Bernard Tschumi’s interplay of body and event, Peter Eisenman’s antifunctionalism, Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of the dandy
and Georges Bataille’s notion of expenditure are discussed insofar as the operations they describe challenge the direct, univocal relationship between spatial arrangement and functional performance embodied by classical utility.
Their arguments are then fed into the characterisation of the mechanisms of the obsolete, the dysfunctional and the dissipative, which are presented as opportunities for a radical departure from conventional notions of usefulness.
The paper continues by arguing that in order to consistently evaluate such mechanisms without resorting to a binary categorisation of the useful and the useless we might tap into the conceptualisation of phase spaces elaborated by
Manuel de Landa in the context of his readings of Gilles Deleuze. In so doing, the useful becomes a multidimensional range of positions populated with a multiplicity of diverging lines of departure from the asymptotic limit represented
by the classical notion of utility. In an attempt to further demonstrate how this conceptual approach can be used to mobilize architectural design methodologies, two projects from my current design research practice are described in the form of an additional, juxtaposed narrative voice that
both extends and embodies the theoretical apparatus of the paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-98
JournalDrawing On: Journal of Architecture Research by Design
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015

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