Alan Smart at Public School, Brussels


April 20, 2016
The Public School for Architecture Brussels

In the administrative structures of building codes, planning codes, and the systems of laws and policies governing property ownership, housing distribution, etc. urban space is literally “coded” into existence. Cities are however layered with many other sets of formal and informal codes, programs and languages that script, choreograph and mediate the social relations of urban life, and the way that urban space is produced and value is produced in it. As much as the practice of Architecture involves producing objects and images, it also can be framed in terms of the code writing, scripting and choreography that operates within the semiotic structures of the city.

In forms including instructions, rules to games, and ‘recipes,’ explicitly articulated scripts became a central element of performance art in the 1960s. From there, script writing was taken up by architects and others involved with radical experiments in spatial practice and built environments and would inform an array of handbooks, guidebooks, cookbooks and catalogs that communicated instructions and practical information aimed at enabling readers to do new things or live in new ways. These kind of publications are iconic hallmark utopian projects seeking to leave the city and inscribe new forms of community, but they would also play an important roll in radical urban movements synthesizing spatial and political practice.

This workshop will consider the form of the “squatters’ handbook” as it has appeared in different iterations in contexts from Amsterdam to London to New York City. These handbooks, or guides will be used to frame a discussion of the relationships between publishing and media production practice, building and material intervention in the city, and articulations of politics and political practice in urban space. This discussion will consider the possibilities of imagining radical modes of architectural practice that writes into, rewrites, or hacks the various code system that create and organize the city.

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