Page 1

Dear Architect,

A flirt’s scientific autobiography

Dear Architect, A Flirt’s Scientific Autobiography

Prelude (Undressing) Bergamo, 30 July 2013

Dear Aldo, Is it ok if I call you Aldo? I spent my entire architectural undergraduate education hearing you referred to as ‘Rossi’, so I thought I’d try your first name for a change.1 I'm writing to let you know that I've 'moved in' to one of your row house units in Bergamo, the second one from the end, and have been doing some extensive renovations. The Italian authorities are calling it ‘an occupation’, but they’re too busy trying to keep that misogynist bastard Berlusconi out of trouble to really do anything about it.2 I’ve heard you shuffling around up there in the attic and figured that you are probably curious as to what’s going on, so I thought you might like to hear about the work in progress and perhaps some of my thoughts behind the changes. Background/Contents/Disposition (Quick dip) Let me begin by explaining how this project came about in the first place. In planning for the renovations, I used a writing experiment- the methodology I have employed throughout my research and in my teaching, critical fictions- to think through the papers I’d written so far, during the first year of work on my dissertation. The format of this critical fiction is an architectural one, borrowing from the documentation used in building practice, specifically room specifications. It is an attempt to ‘materialize’ my writing, in order to see it in another way. I also borrowed the typical floor plan from one of the Bergamo units, in order to more easily visualize the current state of my project in terms of parts that make a whole, describing the ‘rooms’ and connections between them.3 As you know, the ground floor consists of three rooms in a simple lay-out, with one auxiliary space. The small room in the middle functions as the entry hall, and the changes I’ve proposed here are based on a short architectural feminist manifesto.4 A staircase sits directly opposite the entrance with doorways on either side, leading to two symmetrically mirrored rooms on each side of the staircase. One has been transformed into a room of desire, based on 1

a paper about desire, vulnerability and empowerment in women-only bathing spaces.5 The other, a room for pedagogy, is based on a paper about one particular experience of teaching a master’s studio course, to design a sanctuary for mythical humanimal creatures.6 Stretching across the ends of these two rooms and connecting them, is an indoor/outdoor space resembling a gallery. This space has begun to spill out into the garden and describes the methodology that links all three.7 I adopted the standard organisation used in Swedish architectural offices for the room specifications document, following a series of categories for each room in this order; general description, floor, baseboard, wall, ceiling and other.8 The renovations are ongoing and still subject to change. Situatedness/Memory (Holding my breath) I’ve been re-reading A Scientific Autobiography, and thinking a lot about where the work we do comes from; our motivations, inspirations and predecessors.9 You talk about experiences and feelings, childhood places and memories, objects, people and events- the things that contributed to making you the person you are, doing the work that you do. You write, “Perhaps the observation of things has remained my most important formal education; for observation later becomes transformed into memory.”10 You go on to describe this catalogue of your work as “lying somewhere between imagination and memory.”11 I agree, in so far as growing up on the east coast, in rural, small town U.S.A., with farms, stables and tobacco barns as my playground, may have initiated my affinity for vernacular architecture. Just as the social gathering places of my childhood- the country church, the primary school and occasionally a carnival or county fair, engendered a curiosity for the role of religion and community in the spaces we share, as well as a fascination for the extravagance and fantasy evoked by carousels, ferris wheels and cotton candy. However, I wonder what happens if this relation between imagination and memory also intersects the political and ethical? What happens if we look at the subject doing the imagining and remembering? I would describe this as ‘situatedness’- a state of awareness about where we come from, how we got there and how this affects the decisions we make and the things we propose, but also the privileges and power we exercise. In Notes Toward a Politics of Location, my ‘great aunt’, Adrienne Riche, stresses the necessity and political potential of specificity in the work we do.12 She writes, “The politics of location means that the thinking, the theoretical process, is not abstract, universalized, objective, and detached, but rather that it is situated in the contingency of one’s experience, and as such it is a necessarily partial exercise. In other words, one’s intellectual vision is not a disembodied mental activity; rather, it is closely connected to one’s place of enunciation, that is, where one is actually speaking from.”13 Similarly, ‘mother’s second cousin’, Donna 2

Haraway calls for a break from the assumption of an ‘objective universal subject’ through her concept of ‘situated knowledges,’ which she describes as “…the joining of partial views and halting voices into a collective subject position that promises a vision of the means of ongoing finite embodiment, of living within limits and contradictions, i.e., of views from somewhere.”14 She reminds us, “The only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular.”15 Feminist awakening (Diving in the deep end) As I look back on some of the events in my education and practice as an architect that have stuck with me and perhaps led to what I would call my ‘feminist awakening’, I believe our situatedness also plays a role in the types of experiences we have, as well as which memories remain.16 In other words, our positions allow us to have certain experiences in the first place, as they affect the way we perceive and are perceived, as well as the very space we have to act. My ‘older sister’, Sara Ahmed, describes this as a sort of ‘clearing ground’, putting certain things within our reach and in turn allowing us to be oriented toward them, while others are hidden or beyond our scope.17 For instance, my ‘white’ privileges and middle-class background in a family of educators afforded me the opportunity to study architecture at the university. It helped put this within my reach, both culturally and economically. Likewise, my gender in a male dominated field (even more so 20 years ago), enabled certain situations, rather than others, although it would take me many more years to understand this. At a typical pin-up, in what I like to call ‘firing squad formation’, I stood presenting my project in front of my peers and teachers, with the founder of our school, former student to Max Bill and unchallenged genius- the fiery Swiss guy with wild grey hair and bushy eyebrows, as guest critic. Come to think of it Aldo, he reminds me of you. Anyway, the first and ONLY question he asked me was “Who are your ancestors?.” I was at a loss. I had plenty of references, but Who WERE my ancestors? As in most architectural educations at that time, the overwhelming majority of references to architects, thinkers and writers, were men, as were the professors, lecturers and guest critics. Regretfully, even today not enough has changed. But ancestor implies a closer tie, a ‘familial’ bond, and when I was unable to give an acceptable answer, because they were ‘out of my reach’, the critic simply stood up and walked out. Perhaps this is why part of the current renovations involve re-building my ‘forefathers’ (you), while I try to locate and resurrect my ‘foremothers’? Although you choose to see Professor Sabbioni’s very harsh critique of your own student work as a compliment, as he connected your drawing abilities with inexperience and stupidity in a sarcastic comment and


discouraged you from becoming an architect, I think you have to question the pedagogic savvy in both cases.18 During the final school terms of completing my degree, I worked part-time with a lovely 83 year-old (male) architect, the old-school kind with a twinkle in his eye, mechanical pencils lined up in his front shirt pocket and hundreds of stories about ‘the profession’. The craft of drawing by hand literally sat in his body, and he used to show off by lettering perfectly without any guides and accurately marking measurements to scale by eye. He was also quite fit for his age and duly proud of it, so one day he invited a friend and me to come along to a private swimming pool, where he swam regularly. (I suspect he secretly wanted to show off what great condition he was in, by out-swimming the youngsters who were 60 years his younger… which he also did.) The next time we met at the office, he told me that I was ‘feisty’, “like one of those feminists,” because he had noticed that I dove right into the pool head first, rather than testing the water with my toes and gliding in gradually “like most women”. Although he turned out to be right, I laughed at his deduction, as I didn’t yet identify as a feminist. Little did I know, that bathing spaces would later inspire my work, and that I would eventually convert one room in an Italian row house to wet spaces of desire. Come to think of it, this was probably the first time my love for bathing and my profession intersected… and it made a feminist out of me! Hereness/Place & Time (Floating) You mention the memory of a place, The Hotel Sirena, situated along a lake, as being fundamental to your architecture. In a subtle hint and half-disclosure, at the risk of “leaving the scientific confines of this text”, you admit that although the typological aspect of the hotel has had some influence on your work, that it is in fact a girl, Rossana, and the intoxicating contrast of color, between the rose of her name, her flesh and the acid green of the hotel façade that holds its place firmly in your heart.19 You write, “Truly every architecture is also an architecture of the interior, or, better, an architecture from the interior: the blinds that filter the sunlight or the line of the water, together with the color and form of the bodies that live, sleep, and love one another behind the blinds, constitute, from the interior, another façade.”20 I also believe that our relation to places, people and events are hopelessly intertwined, but have you ever considered how the relation between our current situatedness and our memories is not constant? Since we never only occupy one fixed position and those positions are in continual fluctuation in relation to our context, I propose that even the perception of our memories of place may 4

change. Similar to the way you express reconsidering the concept of “your country” and the realization that life develops in many places at once… “Through my own life or craft I have partly lost this concept of the fixed place, and at times I superimpose different situations and different times…”21 Perhaps ‘Zia’ Rosi Braidotti’s concept ‘nomadic subject’ is helpful in understanding the affect of this constant shifting of subjectivities on place.22 She describes the nomadic subject as a ‘myth’ or ‘political fiction’ that allows her to “think through and move across established categories and levels of experience.”23 “This subject can also be described as postmodern/industrial/colonial, depending on one’s locations. In so far as axes of differentiation such as class, race, ethnicity, gender, age and others intersect and interact with each other in the constitution of subjectivity, the notion of nomad refers to the simultaneous occurrence of many of these at once.”24 Take my relation to Skala Eressos, a tiny village located on the island Lesvos in Greece… For similar reasons, and a little disclosure of my own, for me, this place has represented desire, friendship, playfulness and creative inspiration; it has acquired the feeling of ‘home.’ Because of my social and personal experiences here, I have associated it with a carefree yet humbling submersion in nature, a meeting with spirituality and a strong sense of community and history; however, at the moment, circumstances have saturated this place with a layer of adversity, resentment and disappointment, not unlike the expectations that ‘home’ and families can, at times, afford us. I’m sure you already realize that the connection of conflict, dreams and drama to a place is unavoidable, but believe me, ‘lesbian drama’ is the worst! Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that our shifting positions are tied to the tangled relations and interactions with other ‘nomadic subjects’ and the events that occur between them, in particular places. However, this situatedness is also inextricably bound up with time, a presence, in what I call ‘hereness’. ‘Hereness’ is the experience of situatedness in a specific and present moment, the here and now. As we attempt to capture or record ‘hereness’ into a story or built form, that remains for oneself or others, it slides into the realm of memory. In turn, the memory of this moment is constantly reinterpreted by our current situatedness. So, maybe the memory of a typology of place remains relatively constant, what you call ‘the freedom of typology,’ like when you say “happiness made me think of beaches”, and you express “[your] love for summers spent by the sea.”25 The ‘beach typology’ may have a stable association to the feeling of happiness, but as soon as you approach the ‘hereness’ of a particular beach at a specific time, it becomes momentary and fleeting. (I’ve moved The Cabins of Elba from the Chieti project to the front of the row house, by the way, to use them as storage and as a constant reminder of that feeling of happiness by 5

the sea.26) You touch upon a similar idea in your discussion of the theater and your passion for building a tangible place that captures ‘an often elusive feeling’. You say, “I pause at situations that might very well be my own architecture, where the configuration of time and place, which seems so important, dissolves into habitual gestures and paths.”27 I also wonder if the allure of ‘hereness’ is connected to the act of this renovation? In re-building the interior spaces of the row house, I hope to materially recreate the ‘hereness’ of my stories and make the experience available to others, although it will ultimately always ‘dissolve’ and be filtered through each visitor’s own situatedness. Intentions/Audience (Swimming lessons) By now, you’re probably asking yourself “Why me?” and "Why choose this particular project?.” These are valid questions, and I understand that it may seem counterintuitive to lift yet another male icon into the limelight, in a project with feminist intentions. Nostalgically, I wanted to revisit one of my own previous references from my education as a young architect. One of my colleagues, Anders Bergström- an architectural historian, tells me that the ‘Rossi’ that I’m working with (in light of the writing and project I’ve chosen) is very much the American version from the years you were so influenced by NY. Sentimentally, I've always loved this floor plan (even more so since moving to blindly functional Sweden), it's simplicity and symmetry opens up for what you describe as the “unforseeable in life” and it clearly chooses spatiality over function.28 It's actually a bit of a "Vaffanculo!" to all of those modernist 'form follows function' guys, isn't it?29 Yeah, I thought so! Although today, I would argue that our central problem is a capitalist rather than a formalist one, where architects are encouraged and rewarded for being rock stars and ridiculed for having a social conscience. Likewise, educational institutions use the Bologna process to churn out young ‘employable’ architects to feed the capitalist system, rather than prioritizing experimentation, critical thinking and learning.30 And finally, politically, it’s a very conscious strategic decision. I don’t want to make work that only interests other feminist scholars, or those who already agree with me, and is largely discounted by the very norm I aim to disrupt. Although my primary focus is pedagogical, with an aim to make work that is an inspiring resource to architecture students and teachers, if I make work that excludes the ‘norm’ (i.e. old, straight ‘white’ guys), then it makes it easy for them to ignore. Rather than work in the margins, I’m reworking the center, although you aren’t exactly the center either, even in your own circles. I figure that you’re someone they can relate to, whether they place you mistakenly in the category of modernist or 6

postmodernist, whether they love you or hate you, there is bound to be an opinion, and therefore, an interest. In a way, it’s an act of invitation to those I am most critical towards. Besides, a little resistance isn’t necessarily a bad thing! That’s the whole point of an ‘occupation’, isn’t it? Disruption/Queer (Making a splash) Speaking of resistance and disruptions, do I sense a dilemma in your thinking around the process of your architectural work? It’s almost as if you are torn between the safety of staying close to the discipline and following the rules, although you deny this is an act of conformism, while another part of you speaks of what you call ‘forgetting architecture,’ where the discipline dissolves. As you say, “Once one departs from the norm or from the structure of things, it is certainly difficult to proceed.”31 Yes, but isn’t it worth it? Since you use Shakespeare’s Hamlet in some of your literary references (and we obviously both have a habit of talking to ghosts), I will say this: “To be (queer) or not to be? THAT is the question!” And here, I mean ‘queer’ in reference to the norm-critical thinking that comes out of queer theory.32 You’ve said, “Ever since my first projects, where I was interested in purism, I have loved contaminations, slight changes, self-commentaries, and repetitions.”33 Similarly, I like to think of my own work as a series of ‘disruptions’ that make use of provocations, humor and imagination in order to reveal our habits, and perhaps shift or propose other situations in the way we make and experience places. As I re-read your thoughts behind your architectural decisions, I’m struck by one very important aspect in your approach, something I think I had overlooked (or ignored) in the past, precisely because of this norm of what architecture should be and how it should be made. In a misinterpretation of your use of the theater as a model for your architecture, I assumed that you designed spaces as if they were neutral stages to act as the background for the events of life, BUT you actually begin with the events themselves!34 And that’s critical!35 One of my main research questions is “ If we begin with the most vulnerable, passionate or empowering moments in life, what kind of architecture will we make then?” In other words, what happens if we work ‘backwards’ or look at aspects we don’t normally look at? (One of my students once asked me a terrific question, “If you say that you work backwards, then what does it mean to work forwards?”… more on this discussion later on.)36 Your discussion of the villa project, more specifically its corridor, intrigued me. You state, “The corridor was a strip of space that seemed surrounded and gripped by private acts, unforseeable occasions, love affairs, repentances. …And especially by images which do not leave their imprint on film but which 7

accumulate in things. For this reason, the interior is important: one must always imagine the effect produced by a person who leaves a room unexpectedly. One asks oneself whether there are adjoining rooms and similar questions, which ultimately mingle with considerations about protection against dampness, water levels, roofs, and finally, the soundness of the construction.”37 I ask myself, “Why don’t we teach this way?” Begin at the heart of events that occur on the interior- conflicts, love affairs, and move towards thoughts about construction. Why are all of the first-year students cattle-prodded through exercises about logic, structure and geometry, only to eventually advance to projects about ‘housing’ that have mainly to do with programs and site analysis and no mention of the entanglement of bodies and events in these places? Let me be clear, I don’t deny the importance, even necessity, of logic, structure and geometry, but I strongly disagree with the notion that these are in some way universally primary concepts, and that everything else is superfluous, a bonus.38 Instead, or at least occasionally, they should be spatially choreographing a marital conflict, or staging the scene for a first teenage love affair, and then find the geometry within that. Or even better, renovating one of their ‘ancestor’s’ row houses into a place of their dreams and fantasies! And sure, I’ve heard the arguments before… the students must first learn ‘the basics,’ and only then can they move on to working with ‘more complex’ ideas. Even you chime in with, “It is difficult to think without some obsession; it is impossible to create something imaginative without a foundation that is rigorous, incontrovertible and, in fact, repetitive.”39 I could either interpret this statement as self-contradictory, or as a vote of support in the equal importance of both.40 Unfortunately, I believe that our obsessions, that which we are most passionate about, are all too often discounted, oppressed or illegitimized by a hegemonic belief in things of a more tangible, controllable nature.41 I would argue that this comes more from a fear of the unknown, perhaps even a fear of the affective, spiritual and intimate, and serves as an excuse to practice from a ‘safe’ distance, but more on this later. However, a legitimate question for architectural pedagogy remains: “What criteria are used and which positions are represented to decide the ‘basic’ skills and knowledge required in an architectural education?” Theoretical/Philosophical Framework (Doggy paddle) When I recall the influences I remember from my own time at the university, at least the ones that made a lasting impression, most are works of passion or obsession. They include Grain Elevators, the typological study by Lisa Mahar (your former employee and an alumni of my architecture school) and work by ‘paper architects’ such as the narrative etchings of Alexander Brodsky & Ilya Utkin, the visionary drawings of Louis Etienne Bollé, as well as Lauretta 8

Vinciarelli’s magical watercolors of light and reflection in her imagined architectural fragments. There was also the documentation of more ‘constructed’ projects bordering between art and architecture, like those of Walter Pichler, Mary Miss and Hannsjörg Voth, but all of these interventions in the landscape seemed to be located in an obsessive combination of handcraft and myth. And then there are the films of Andrey Tarkovsky! Although in retrospect, Tarkovsky suffered from the same misogynist ‘affliction’ as many other great male artists, with the female characters in his films usually portrayed as ‘idiots,’ hysterical or bewitched and remaining safely in place at home, while the male characters are out pursuing more important intellectual, moral and spiritual endeavors, his scenes and imagery continue to approach the sublime.42 Architecturally, I would say that my education followed strong currents in the tectonic and phenomenological direction, so we idolized the “Swiss guys,” along with their Italian forefathers, Giuseppe Terragni, Adalberto Libera, Alberto Sartoris, Luigi Snozzi, Aurelio Galfetti, Livio Vacchini, Valerio Olgiati, Peter Zumthor and Peter Märkli, to name a few. Both you, Aldo, and Carlo Scarpa were like wild cards, you were always there but no one ever really knew where to place you. My particular studio also put me in contact with a Scandinavian influence, which I would say stood for most of the theoretical or philosophical positioning, the phenomenology of Gaston Bachelard architecturally applied through the words of Juhani Pallasmaa. Unfortunately, I find it problematic that the architectural theory ascribing to a more phenomenological approach today is complacent with its inherited gender blindness, unproblematized universal (male) subject, and unwittingly stuck in the ideas of race and class from the French Imperialist (yet poetic) world of Gaston Bachelard, despite that the rest of the world seems to be aware of the implications of poststructural theory.43 I would say that my background gave me a solid foundation as a maker and an interest in the philosophical ideas behind formal decisions, but it is only in my most recent work that a political and ethical dimension materializes. However, rather than a deconstruction, I would call it a re-construction. For this reason, I have invited two queer feminist philosophers, my ‘cousin’s partner’ Judith Butler and ‘big sis’ Sara Ahmed as consultants into the row house. Butler has helped me revise the universal (male) subject of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, while Ahmed has taken on Edmund Husserl’s (straight) orientation to his writing table.44 Now, a queer phenomenology emanates from the walls of these renovated spaces, looking closely at orientations, habits and desires with gendered, non-static, non-universal subjects, seeking out disruptions and questions rather 9

than truths.45 Two other features I’ve added to the Studio Salon may interest you, the ‘Braidotti Portals’ and Haraway Cove. The portals provide a transition space for the polyglot (person having speaking, reading or writing knowledge of several languages), nomadic subjects moving in or out of the space of pedagogy, as they are always slightly different each time they pass over the threshold.46 You of all people must understand with your English, French, German and Italian that access to new knowledges and the identity crisis that multiple languages can sometimes bring, require a space for readjustment, as this helps frame and construct our thoughts.47 Haraway Cove provides a comfortable meeting space for all (companion) species.48 The unusually low ceiling height gives a gentle reminder to those of us who stand upright to use humility and compassion toward those species on all fours, as any anger expressed by jumping up in the heat of the moment is met with a bump on the head. The explicit commitment to anti-specism leads to what Braidotti describes as the posthumanist condition, which “…introduces a qualitative shift in our thinking about what exactly is the basic unit of common reference for our species, our polity and our relationship to the other inhabitants of this planet.”49 In a parallel anti-racist endeavor, ongoing work challenging ‘white’ privileges is also in its beginning stages, but is already evident in the elusive tiles of the entry floor and the jingling sound of bell-hooks literally lingering through the space.50 Practice/Drama (Skinny dipping) As I mentioned, the ‘Swiss guys’ were of interest, especially the architects in Canton Ticino, as my school had its European Study Abroad program located in the small town of Riva San Vitale, where the “Who are your ancestors” Swiss critic was in charge. Immediately after finishing my architectural degree, I had the chance to work for a Swiss architect in Tesserete, a small mountain village just outside of Lugano. Without going into detail, let us say that a young, newly graduated female architect, sets off to live in a foreign country in her first ‘real’ meeting with architectural practice, on a little promise and a lot of trust. Then, after a very turbulent time in the office, the ‘maestro’ architect disappears into thin air, only to resurface several years later leading a completely new life- reminiscent of the main character in Swiss author Max Frisch’s I’m not Stiller.51 Let us also say that this disappearance contained some dramatic elements, like a red sports car with a farewell note parked at Ponte del Diavolo at the St. Gotthard Pass (the same one depicted in an illustration you use in The Architecture of the City on page 20), a non-existent work permit and/or residence visa, and an Interpol suicide investigation, just to name a few.52 10

By the way, before all of this occurred, the older architect, who I worked for during my studies and who first called me a feminist, came to visit me in Ticino and to meet (or rather check-up on) the architect who was currently employing me. So, not only did the paths of three of my early, ‘paternal’ professional figures cross in Ticino- the admonisher, the protector and the abandoner, but this part of my history has undoubtedly shaped the way I see architectural practice. Because of my experiences, I recognize the absurdity in ‘reality’ or as you express it, “For this reason, ever since my childhood, saints’ lives and mythological stories have shown me so many things disturbing to common sense that I have forever come to appreciate a certain spiritual restlessness, something latently bizarre in the order of life.”53 For me, the ‘reality’ of practice has always been equally (if not more) entangled with relationships- dreams, expectations, conflicts, not to mention DRAMA, and lots of it!54 For this reason, I am interested in these entanglements and admittedly have a hard time taking the often condescending critique of student work in relation to ‘the real world’ from my more pragmatic colleagues or external ‘practicing’ guest critics so seriously. Rather, I see it as some kind of circular argumentation, used as a shield for their own inabilities to discuss the work presented to them… or simply a lack of fantasy. Some would perhaps claim that I put too much value on fantasy and imagination, just as I presumptuously move myself into your row house and start rebuilding, and that I’m having way too much fun for it to be any ‘serious’ academic work. However, I would argue that ‘research by design,’ or any good research for that matter, if it is to make a meaningful contribution, demands a playful inventiveness and a personal engagement. Gavin Butt, ‘uncle’ and art historian, calls this other way of going about things ‘scholarly flirtation’. He even asks if there isn’t an ethical imperative to challenge traditional modes of doing research, arguing that “…flirtation stalls the moment of definitive judgement and commitment, and thereby makes space for the entertaining of less familiar possibilities, which, in turn, reduces the constricting hold of the paranoid impulse on the production of scholarly knowledge.”55 As for the role of imagination in relation to ethical and political aspects, one of my ‘favorite aunts’, bell hooks, states “Imagination is one of the most powerful modes of resistance that oppressed and exploited folks can and do use. ...Without the ability to imagine, people remain stuck, unable to move into a place of power and possibility.”56 Besides, I don’t see any point in working in a way that is inherently painful, as it inevitably becomes just as painful for those who receive the work, once it’s done.57


Event/Performance/Collaboration (Synchronized Swim) Another important period of ‘practice’ in relation to the work I’m doing now, has been my collaboration with my colleagues and co-founders of FATALE, ‘a group of architects, based at KTH, pursuing research and education within, and through, feminist architecture theory and practice,’ as well as my recent invitation to participate in similar work with my friends and colleagues of the art collective MYCKET.58 The work we’ve accomplished together has taught me a lot about collaboration, performance, and the art of ‘event making.’ As you say, Aldo, “In time and place I have found an analogy for architecture, what I have called ‘the fixed scene of human events’.”59 The events can involve performances, with simple or elaborate costumes, narratives in different characters’ voices, solicited active participation from the audience (personally, I like to use bells), and occasionally, movement throughout a space.60 But even more importantly, the encouragement and support of working collectively, even with our occasional differences, has been an inspiration and catalyst for the way I go about my work and in setting the scene for the presentation and evaluation of my projects. The act of stewardship, and believe me sweets and tea are not to be underestimated, along with a conscious and intentional pedagogical intention, make the events themselves into architectural testing grounds for further research. And don’t think I didn’t notice that a few of the cherry muffins were missing the day I invited everyone to an Open House here, to see the renovation in progress!61 Critical fiction (Chasing waves) I’m an architect who tells stories, and rather than the androcentric “I think therefore I am.” I follow the mantra of bell hooks, “I am because the story is.”62 Keep in mind that the stories I’ve related to you in this letter are only a small sampling of many I could tell you about being a woman in the profession of architecture, something to which I’m sure many other female architects can attest. I’ve made space for the critical fictions in the gallery on the first floor. It is from here the paper airplanes are launched once a year. Critical fictions open up to imaginary locations, allowing us to slide into positions other than our own, to discover other stories and to propose ways in which our experience of the everyday might be altered. By using elements of fiction and theory, telling stories while formulating critical arguments, this method borrows from many writing practices, in order to get at areas of resistance, out of reach to more traditional forms of academic writing.63 I know that you had different figures populating your Gallery of Critical Fictions- Herman Melville, William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Ernest Hemmingway, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Luchino Visconti, Federico


Fellini, Dante Alighieri, but unfortunately, I had to ask them to vacate the premises in order to make room for my own. Of course, they’re still welcome to visit.


Whoness (Snorkeling) In speaking of the loss of identity, or if I may elaborate, the inability to fix any absolute identity, you say “Identity is something unique, typical, but it is also a choice.”64 Somehow this is connected to the characters I mentioned above, when describing the events. Not only are the costumes a way of ‘choosing’ or testing alternative identities, but much of the work I do is about the who, or what I like to call ‘whoness.’ The characters I develop in my critical fictions allow readers to slide into and test new positions temporarily, while I as the researcher am constantly made aware of and questioning my own shifting positions, as author, teacher, researcher, architect, human, etc. ‘Whoness’ is about the positioning and repositioning we do constantly, and an awareness of the ‘roles’ we play and the repertoire we choose to employ, in relation to the situations we’re in. It also exacts a critical awareness of the power and privileges that are associated with these roles.65 You may be wondering, exactly what characters am I speaking of? Sometimes I'm Gizelle Gazelle, the spokeswomanimal for the grass roots, self-initiated collective sanctuary called The Beastlet. Other times I appear as the local Lesbian seagull, watching the mating and hunting rituals of the human animals at sea. At times, I'm even one of Osho's sannyasin, excluded from the 'women-only' swimming group that meets at Zorba The Buddha Café. When I'm feeling more introverted, I'm Aphrodite speaking to Sappho in a secret underwater cave. I've made guest appearances as The Oracle at Delphi, delivering spiritual messages from the angels, as well as the notorious dandy Dolly Wilde, strolling through the Incompatible Modalities of an indoor English garden.66 You’ve said “Certainly, the theater, as a way of life, is a dwelling.”67 Well, becoming all of these characters has certainly informed my design decisions in remaking THIS dwelling. Post-justification/Method of Opportunities (Backstroke) While we’re on the subject of how I make my design decisions, maybe I should tell you something about my working method. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to think of it as ‘working backwards,’ or an intentional post-justification, where one does first, then reflects, analyzes and pieces it all together afterwards.68 The emphasis is on doing or proposing, rather than writing about a certain discourse or subject matter, and usually ends in posing new questions rather than conclusions. I see a potential in your idea of searching for the ‘unforseen,’ as you say “I have always believed that in life as in architecture, whenever we search for something, we do not find merely what we have sought; in every search there is always a degree of unforseeability, a sort of troubling feeling at the conclusion.”69 However, I would describe this process, the more traditional working method 14

with an intended goal, as a ‘working forwards.’ I wonder if that uneasy feeling you describe at the conclusion isn’t the new question that is just under the surface waiting to be revealed, but is perhaps overlooked or remains invisible to a process that is focused on the conclusions of its original intentions? Similarly, the overall organisation of my project largely follows what I like to call ‘a method of opportunities’, in that I haven’t staked out a plan to follow from the beginning, but rather allow the work to take me in different directions, as I follow impulses, get involved in projects and events that interest me and make the most of ‘opportunities’ as they present themselves.70 Whether it’s a conference, a course assignment, a teaching experience or an artistic event, these fixed points serve as inspiration and create intermediate ‘deadlines’ for completing fragments that I then ‘post-justify’, situate and assemble into more coherent parts of my project. Although I suspect that much research involves these kinds of ‘unforseen’ moments, it may seem unorthodox to admittedly rely on intuition and chance, in relation to more traditional research methodologies. My ‘sister-in-law’, Katja Grillner writes “In scientific research the acknowledgement of absence of, or uncertainty in relation to method, would seriously undermine the reliability of the results (as well as the authority of the researcher), which is why methodological reflections rarely capture what happens in the margins of the research process, decisions that are merely coincidental or affected by unexpected turns around the experiment or researcher.”71 In posing questions around the methodologies of art- and design-based research, Grillner also speaks about “the possibility to forget that one might have known what one was doing at an early stage (embracing the seemingly intuitive),” which reminds me of your desire for “forgetting architecture” and in doing so, temporarily freeing yourself from the constraints of the discipline.72 She points out that even though one’s method may feel intuitively driven and even chaotic in the moment of experimentation, that there is usually an underlying (forgotten) ‘compass’ guiding us.73 Another important aspect of my working method is my desire to seek out and directly incorporate the interaction of others in my work. I don’t believe that anything is made without the help and influence of others, whether it be our ‘ancestors’ or the folks we come into contact with on a regular basis, or even one very brief but ‘life-changing’ encounter. This goes against the old myth of the brooding, solitary creative genius (often male) and even the tendency of the media to appoint and celebrate a single figure (also often male) as the creative genius in architecture offices, while ignoring the contributions of the individuals who have done much of the work.74 The portraits I’m in the process of hanging in the entry try to address this problem in a direct way. Even educational institutions are slow to recognize 15

collaborative work and often discourage collaborations, as they are unaccustomed to evaluating projects with multiple-authorship. I mean, Aldo, you had offices in New York, the Hague, Tokyo and Milan simultaneously, so it would be ridiculous to assume that you singlehandedly produced every ‘Aldo Rossi’ project. Right? That’s what I enjoy so much about the form of a scientific autobiography, it allows for the complexity surrounding a body of work and tells of the stories (and people) that usually don’t receive the attention they deserve. Did I mention that I added a wall-mounted mailbox at the front entrance, a green one to match the verdigris roof? Many assumed that it was some form of territorial marking, a sign of resistance or protest when I ‘occupied’ the unit.75 Actually, I think emails and ‘status updates’ can become very tedious, so I sometimes prefer the slowness and thoughtfulness of a well composed letter. Anyway, a few months ago, I received a letter from one of my friends and PhD colleagues from UMA, Sepideh Karami, in response to a letter I had written explaining my ideas about this renovation project. She brought up Émile Zola’s letter, J’accuse (I accuse) from 1898, as an example of “how strongly it performed in a political sense.” She wrote “The format of the letter strongly invites me as the reader to respond… the strength in this format is that it locates the reader in a condition of an urge to reply, to react, to get involved! Whatever reaction one makes to a letter is a statement; even ignoring it is a statement!” She’s absolutely right! What better way to engage people in work that you hope will make a difference, than by addressing them directly in a call to action? Sepideh even suggested that part of my dissertation be written in letter form.76 Since the mailbox was already installed, I decided to use it at the Open House, as well. I asked everyone who attended to write me a postcard on the spot, and leave it in the mailbox before they left. Among many interesting messages I found in there, my special guest, Ramia Mazé, left me several pages of detailed notes and suggestions with possible ways to carry the renovation work further.77 I know that you like theater analogies, so I guess what I’m trying to say, is that all of the different characters are necessary for a drama to reach its full potential, not just the leading role, and it’s possible to set the scene and direct those roles within your own performance.78


Art & science/Fiction & reality/Spirituality & Ritual (Rescue & resuscitate) You mention both Dante’s Commedia and Max Planck’s Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers as inspirations in writing the narrative catalogue of your own work.79 I find the combination befitting, with Dante’s poetic tale of the soul’s journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, alongside a German Nobel prize winning physicist who found it necessary to end his scientific autobiography with a musing on the reconciliation between science and religion, measurement and faith, fact and fiction. Although the expected list of names and achievements, discoveries and explanations of his scientific work are all there, it is the urgency and thoroughness with which Planck ‘proves’ the necessity of faith in our lives that intrigues me.80 I quite enjoyed his writings, a scientist with no fear of the unknown and an explicit contempt for what he envisions as the ‘threat of atheism.’81 Although he too suffers from the dreaded male ‘affliction,’ speaking only about and to men and mankind, with a bit of misogyny thrown in for good measure.82 You know, I spent my first two years of undergraduate education studying Aerospace Engineering before switching my major to architecture, and I can assure you there was never any mention of anything spiritual, in fact hardly anything remotely human! My interest in the spiritual, while at some level undoubtedly linked to my many years of experience as an ‘alter boy’ and reader of the scriptures in the little country church in my childhood community, is intrinsically connected to my desire to reconcile art and science, to combine fact and fiction.83 Or as the mother of 10 year-old character, Brooke Bayoude, in ‘cousin’ Ali Smith’s latest work of fiction put it, to make “a work of the imagination that’s simultaneaously rigourously true.”84 You also link the fiction of the theater to ‘reality’ in an analogy that combines science and magic, as you reflect on your project for The Little Scientific Theater. You say, “Perhaps the magic of the theater especially resides in this mixture of suggestions and reality.”85 Of course, this returns to the earlier discussion of the importance of imagination, but it also has to do with faith and believing in the value of things we can’t measure, like intuition, passion, or quite simply the magic of the world around us. In my opinion, the ‘spiritual’ paves the way for connection, healing and conversations about our most vulnerable moments, as it opens up for possibilities of discovery that go beyond the confines of the scientific experiment (or traditional academic research); however, I don’t believe that simultaneously we must necessarily relinquish the rigour that ‘the scientific’ provides. Is this what you mean when you say, “Today if I were to talk about architecture, I would say that it is a ritual rather than a creative process.”?86 Performing a ritual often presupposes an 17

underlying belief, while the act of the ritual itself relies on following a strict, rigorous and repetitive sequence. Although Planck is quite skillful in finding loopholes to enable the belief in scientific knowledge and at the same time the faith in the unknowable/unquantifiable of religion, I must admit that I was genuinely surprised (and pleased) that he concludes with the idea that the scientific laws of the physical world require just as much faith as those more intangible powers of the religious one.87 This supports the intention behind my idea for the renovation of the spaces in this unit, where dreams, desires, pedagogy and politics are materialized into buildable, measurable spaces. Body/immediate surroundings (Pruney fingers) It’s interesting to be able to live in the spaces as I work on them. The immediate conditions of the rooms I design and write from also affect the work I do, as does my mood and bodily condition. For instance, the melancholy of an overcast, rainy day often proves to be more conducive than a sunny one for writing, while the constant irritation of whining, impatient cats waiting to go outside makes it difficult to concentrate. They escaped this morning! Did you hear the commotion? Mamma mia! And let’s not forget how the things around us influence the work we do. Whether items of practical or sentimental value, they become like talismans and set the scene for our creative imaginations. Even though I had to pack light, I still brought the La conica espresso maker you designed for Alessi that I use daily, some seashells from the bottom of the sea in Skala Eressos to remind me of summer’s inevitable return, some of my favorite fountain pens and a little watercolor kit to sketch and write postcards to loved ones, and a washed out college t-shirt, a favorite wool blanket and coffee mug to get cozy when I seek solace in a good book. As for our physical state, I sympathized with your personal account of the effect your automobile accident, and the subsequent ache in your bones, had on your design for the Modena Cemetery.88 Although not as serious, my recurring back injury makes me only too aware of the possible affect the present state of the body has on the maker and thinker.89 (Whenever I have a relapse, I look to the image of Frida Kahlo painting from her bed as an inspiration.) I’ve written this letter to you either standing at a raised table or with my laptop on my knees, propped up on pillows in bed.90 I can hear the sounds from my neighbors in the unit next door, both classical musicians, through the wall we share, as they practice each string concerto, soothing.91 I wonder if they can hear the (sometimes very loud) complaints from the four-legged members of my family? It’s the middle of the summer, and nothing personal, but I’d much rather be on a Greek island right now, soaking up some sun and 18

swimming in the sea, instead of writing to you. However, the current limitations of the body mean that I’ll miss that needed dose of sun for when I return to Stockholm to teach in the Fall. God, do I hate the winters in Sweden! Affect (Salty Skin) Melancholia is the affective state I usually associate with the impending approach of the Swedish winter, but I do look forward to the start of a new sauna season. I didn’t manage to fit one into the row house, but without the plunge in the ice-cold sea up north, it’s not the same anyway. That immediate sensation that comes from the anticipation (or fear) of this sudden jolt, followed by the shock (or distress) in the actual temperature difference, and finally the realization (or joy) that one has survived, makes for an empowering moment based on a repetitive act of vulnerability.92 These ‘raw’ affective sensations, along with our perceptions and memories, contribute to the experience of the places we inhabit. I’ve been thinking about whether we can purposely make things or spaces that work with/through these triggers of affective arousal, as they are often induced by the element of surprise or the unexpected.93 I find what my ‘grandmother’s half-sister’, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, points out in her reading of Silvan Tomkins, as the ingenuity in Tomkins’ emphasis on ‘the strange’ in his accounts, useful in thinking through material affective acts.94 Your sketching, Aldo, is your way of remembering and storytelling, but I also see your sketches as examples of materialized affect. The playfulness and the unexpected mixing of scales, where private objects become houses or monuments, populated by both human and animal figures, engenders a theatricality or ‘strangeness’. When talking about the struggles of making, whether a drawing, building, object or even writing, you say “Yet it may rather be the happiness of an intense but always definitive restlessness. As a result, every moment of becoming conscious of things is merged with a wish to be able to abandon them, to gain a sort of freedom that lies only in the experience of them, something like an obligatory rite of passage, which is necessary so that things might have their measure.”95 This to me exemplifies the necessary process of balancing intentional intimacy and estrangement, the familiar and the distant, required to produce this affective condition. I’m not sure how successful my renovation changes have been in this respect, or if the novelty wears off after the first encounter, but many of the built alterations have this aspect of ‘strangeness’ or ‘out of placeness.’ They strike a chord that sends a signal to our unconscious that ‘something isn’t as it usually is’ or should be, not entirely different from the way that a funhouse in an amusement park capitalizes on gimmicks that become absurd, but here in a 19

more quotidian manner. Why would we even want to consciously work with affect in architecture? My reply would be that affect reaches us immediately and deeply, as it affects us before we have a chance to value, judge, discount, and for this reason can be a power(ful) tool of instigation or provocation, once our capacity to reason has caught up with our ability to feel.96 Of course, affect is also influenced by our situatedness, therefore, the way triggers reach us and how deep they go depends on a whole variety of constantly fluctuating factors.97 I wonder if change could come about in a similar manner that Tomkins describes the necessary ingredients for the process of learning (in his case a humanlike machine), where our affective responses to ‘out of placeness’ would lead us to cognitive realizations of being ‘wrong’ about an object, and in turn instill the motivation to change one’s assumptions or original notions toward that object?98 The image/Photograph (Drying off) I would venture to say that most of the images you use to complement your writing act in this way, as a ‘power tool’ of affect. The frozen black and white moments you choose to intersperse throughout the words of your scientific autobiography emanate a feeling of stillness, melancholy and reverence. They touch us as a moment in a place, rather than in a documentary or exemplifying way. However, you claim “In my attachment to the image, it often seems to me that to express the life of this image or thing or situation or person requires a kind of condition of interference. That is, everything becomes representable once desire is dead… Almost paradoxically, whenever there is a loss of desire, the form, the project, the relation, love itself, are cut off from us and so can be represented.”99 By placing desire in direct relation to anticipation or unattainability, the unreconciled holds a tension you deem incompatible with the ability to capture the object of desire’s presence. It only remains an obsession, as long as you can’t ever have it. In making or using these images, I would suggest that the desire isn’t gone, but rather that today we are quite skillful in finding ways to temporarily or artificially create that distance to separate ourselves from what we desire, through technology. In doing so, it perhaps makes it feel safer to cross boundaries and become intimate with otherwise ‘unaccessible’ objects of desire, to capture a particular experience in ways that would never be possible otherwise. As actress Ellen Page’s character in the film Hard Candy says, “Cameras, computers, they let you hide don’t they? So safe.”100 When one of my ‘long lost aunts’, Susan Sontag, telephoned the other day, I asked her what she thought about the ethics of photography and desire. Now SHE’s feisty! I guess it runs in the family. I’ll recount a short excerpt from our conversation, just to give you an idea: 20

bb: Hi Aunt Susan! I was just writing a letter to an architect friend of mine, Aldo, where I was trying to explain my thoughts on the ethical implications of making and using images, their affective power on us and the potentially dangerous sense of safety and distance technologies allow us. SS: “There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera.”101 “Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing- which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.”102 bb: But Great-Auntie Eve suggested that every affective ‘tool of power’ not only has the potential to be used for either resistance or repression, but rather that there are a wide spectrum (or finitely many (n>2) values) of possibilities available.103 It all depends on our approach and a conscious awareness in how we use them. Internet activism for example, don’t you think now that cameras exist on practically everybody’s mobile phone, that there is a better distribution of that power? SS: “Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events.”104 bb: Hm, yeah I have to admit that Instagram has made every sunset, pet picture and culinary creation a ‘masterpiece.’ But still, it does allow a greater number of people to share what they’re passionate about, even if the sharing is done virtually and with an audience that doesn’t always fit the level of intimacy of the disclosures.105 My friend Aldo says “obsession is a substitution for desire,”106 but I think maybe he just has some ‘intimacy issues’. SS: “The sense of the unattainable that can be evoked by photographs feeds directly into the erotic feelings of those for whom desirablility is enhanced by distance.”107 “The camera doesn’t rape, or even possess, though it may presume, intrude, trespass, distort, exploit, and, at the farthest reach of metaphor, assassinate- all activities that, unlike the sexual push and shove, can be conducted from a distance, and with some detachment.”108 bb: I guess I’m just concerned with our position as ‘photographer,’ or one responsible for the production and use of images, where both the act of making the image and using it can be very persuasive, even seductive, at worst manipulative and consequently wield a lot of power.109 SS: “Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched by pathos… All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.”110 “Still there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.”111


bb: What a contradiction that the very same instrument that touches us so deeply, also creates distance between us! In terms of the connection between the power of affects and image, photographs have the power to inflict us with that pang of the photographer’s original desire. Just within the field of architecture, I wonder how much images control our perceptions, expectations and appropriation of space?112 Do we perhaps need an ethics of affective practices?113 SS: “Photographs cannot create a moral position, but they can reinforce one- and can help build a nascent one.”114 “Images transfix. Images anesthetize.”115 “In these last decades, ‘concerned’ photography has done at least as much to deaden conscience as to arouse it.”116 “The photograph is a thin slice of space as well as time.”117 “The limit of photographic knowledge of the world is that, while it can goad conscience, it can, finally, never be ethical or political knowledge… The omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensibility.”118 bb: Of course power is almost always connected to capital. What about the cultural and economic implications of using these instruments of affect? When I asked for Aldo’s opinion on the subject, he said “Without desire no certainty remains, and the imagination itself is reduced to a commodity.”119 He seems to think the key is a genuine interest in one’s craft, an honesty in intention and an acceptance of one’s own limitations. Do you think it’s possible to resist forces of consumption and capitalism, while we continue to produce images, simply through what Aldo describes as some kind of ‘obsessive humility’? SS: “Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted… it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.”120 Well, as you can see, she’s one tough cookie. I think it’s about time for me to cook another pot of espresso, but I hope I’ve managed to explain some of my thoughts behind the renovation work and to give you some background as to where the decisions come from. There’s still much work to be done, and I’m sure there are yet some skeletons to clear out of the basement, but I feel this conversation has brought us closer. I look forward to our continued correspondence and will check the mailbox out front with anticipation! With flirtatious architectural affection,

brady burroughs PhD candidate Critical Studies, KTH


Prelude (Undressing) This refers to the practice of calling all male references by their last names only, in the assumption that everyone should know who one is speaking of, while female equivalents are typically referred to by first and last names. Sometimes, in even worse cases, female authors, artists, icons are referred to by first name only, to show a familiarity, often in a belittling fashion. 2 See BBC News webarchive from 24 June 2013 ”Profile: Silvio Berlusconi, Italian ex-prime minister” for list of Berlusconi offenses. 1

Background/Contents/Disposition (Quick dip)

It is both a close reading of Rossi and an introductory description of my work, my background and my position. The original text is titled ”I hate architecture <3”. This is a quick piece I wrote in the beginning of the PhD. Upon later revisions, this began to formulate the WHY for my project. 5 "Meditations on lesbians who meditate on Lesvos" My first paper, presented first at a conference on Contemporary Esotericism, and again in another version at a conference called Lesbian Lives. 6 "Vanity (Fair), conflict, dreams and drama on an ordinary day at The Beastlet" My second paper, presented at the AHRA conference in London and again at our Symposium in Umeå. 7 Rather than a specific paper, this space is based on the methodology, critical fictions, and describes the HOW of the project. 8 The Swedish equivalents are “golv”, “sockel”, “vägg”, “tak” and “övrigt”. This refers to the writing experiment “Open House”. 3 4

Situatedness/Memory (Holding my breath) Aldo Rossi, A Scientific Autobiography, Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: The MIT Press, 1981. Rossi, 23 11 Rossi, 23 12 Adrienne Riche is a poet, essayist and feminist. 13 Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, 237. 14 Donna J. Haraway, ”Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association Books, 1991, 196. Donna Haraway is a historian of science and feminist theorist. 15 Haraway, 196 9


Feminist awakening (Diving in the deep end) To clarify, I would describe my feminist position as closest to a queer, anti-racist feminism, queer in that it problematises assumptions of gender norms and heteronormativity, anti-racist in that it attempts to challenge the privileges of ‘whiteness’ (although I don’t think it’s quite there yet) and feminist in that it has a political intention in the critical problematisation of power. 17 See chapter 1, ‘Orientations Toward Objects’, Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006. Sara Ahmed is a gender and race theorist. 18 Rossi, 39 Aldo Rossi explains that one of his teachers, Professor Sabbioni, discouraged him from making architecture and commented that his drawings ”looked like those of a bricklayer or a rural contractor who threw a stone to indicate approximately where a window was to be placed.” 16

Hereness/Place & Time (Floating) Rossi, 25 Rossi, 26 21 Rossi, 55 22 Zia is the Italian translation for aunt. 23 Braidotti, 4. 24 Braidotti, 4 25 Rossi, 25 The concept ’freedom of typology’ is discussed on Rossi, 75. 26 The Cabins of Elba is a well-known drawing of typical beach huts, elements that also figured in Rossi’s submission for a student housing competition in Chieti, Italy. See Rossi, 25. 27 Rossi, 33 19 20

Intentions/Audience (Swimming lessons)

Rossi, 3 As Rossi explains, “…architecture becomes the vehicle for an event we desire, whether or not it actually occurs… the dimensions of a table or a house are very important- not, as the functionalists thought, because they carry out a determined function, but because they permit other functions. Finally, because they 28


permit everything that is unforseeable in life.” ‘Vaffanculo’ is loosely translated from Italian to the English equivalent of ’Fuck off!’ Rossi makes several statements on his dislike of modern architecture: ”Modern architecture has treated all these things in an insane way, searching for some unknown purity: yet this was our tradition. In reality, everything became so reduced that it could no longer be touched. I do not wish to play the critic, but I believe that after Schinkel’s house at Charlottenburg, architecture became a matter of mere formal cleverness bound up with production…” Rossi, 46 ”Without doubt I owe to this reading of Loos the profound contempt I have always felt for industrial design and for the confounding of form and function.” Rossi, 46 ”But as I have already said, I have always completely rejected the whole moralistic and petit-bourgeois aspect of modern architecture.” Rossi, 74 30 In a lecture held at Stockholm University on 23 April 2013, "The Expanding Field of Education as Creative Practice," Irit Rogoff, professor at Goldsmiths University of London, called the Bologna shift a ”Cognitive Capitalist Take-Over,” pointing to the introduction of tuition fees and standardization as main culprits. 29

Disruption/Queer (Making a splash) Rossi, 54 I usually use the term ‘queer’ in the sense of Tiina Rosenberg’s Queerfeministisk Agenda, Stockholm: Atlas, 2002, definition # 5: queer as a term denoting various non-heterosexual phenomena which can not be clearly labeled/understood as lesbian, gay, bisexual or a trans-position(s), but rather are thought to contain one or many of the aspects within these categories and refer to one or many of them at the same time, often in a “confusing” or dissonant manner (my translation) (12) Queer theory, according to Rosenberg, can be defined simply as the critical study of heteronormativity. (15) However, in this particular instance, I use the term less in relation to matters of sexuality and more in relation to a broader notion of criticality towards- and questioning of- norms and the practice of assuming how things should be done. 33 Rossi, 1 34 Rossi states that without the event, there is no architecture. “The theater is very similar to architecture because both involve an event- its beginning, development, and conclusion. Without an event, there is no theater and no architecture. I refer, for example, to the procession in which Hamlet’s body is carried away, or to Uncle Vanya’s solitude, or to any two people who are talking in some house with hatred or with love, and of course to the grave. Are these events, forms of functionalism, of necessity? I certainly do not think so; if the event is a good one, the scene will also be good, or it should be so.” (Rossi, 48) 35 Here I use ’critical’ in both the sense that it is urgent, as well as in the sense that it is a critical comment on how architecture is taught and practiced. 36 One of my former students, Malena Norlin, attended my 1-year seminar and wrote this very interesting question on one of the postcards I asked each participant to write, with comments, questions or a sketch, and place in the post box at the door. 37 Rossi, 35 38 In a discussion about the possibilities inherent in many methods or ’techniques,’ Rossi states ”To consider one technique superior to, or more appropriate than, another is a sign of the madness of contemporary architecture and the Enlightenment mentality which the architectural schools have transmitted wholesale to the Modern Movement in architecture.” Rossi, 74 39 Rossi, 35-37 40 Rossi stresses the importance of the event in architecture throughout his writing. ”Certainly the feeling of happiness cannot be transmitted except by way of some personal experience or some event; the event, on the other hand, is transmitted through a work. Perhaps only the most academic minds are indifferent to the role of events in our life, yet very few people know how to express them.” Rossi, 55 41 ‘Illegitimized’ is apparently not a real word, but I choose to use it anyway to indicate ‘made illegitimate’. 31 32

Theoretical/Philosophical Framework (Doggy paddle)

The term ‘idiot’ is used in the Dostoyevsky sense of the word. Based on my impressions and memories of the films: Ivan’s Childhood: a female character is present in the interior hiding space, nagging and serving food Andrei Rubylev: no significant female figure comes to mind The Mirror: the dominant female presence is the memory of a mother figure Solaris: the female role becomes a hallucination and source of distress and internal torment for the male character Stalker: the wife of the Stalker stays at home and nags, while the daughter is physically disabled and possesses telepathic abilities The Sacrifice: the wife of Alexander nags and becomes hysterical, the daughter is a seductive tease, and the maid is a practicing, adultering witch



Nostalgia: the female interpreter succumbs to her romantic and jealous feelings, becomes hysterical and leaves her job tranlsating for the male poet 43 For a thorough discussion on my attempt to reconcile phenomenology and a post structuralist, queer feminist theory, see ”Do Bodies Matter?: Stone, water, light, skin and material performativity in Therme Vals”. This is my C-uppsats in Gender Studies at Stockholm University written in 2007. It also serves as 'proof' of my ability to write a 'correct' scientific text that fulfills the requirements of academic form and rigour. This is important, as I am more interested in artistic research and writing experiments today. 44 For Judith Butler’s discussion on the universal subject in phenomenology, see Judith Butler, “Sexual Ideology and Phenomenological Description: A Feminist Critique of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception,” eds. Jennifer Allen and Iris Marion Young, The Thinking Muse: Feminism and Modern French Philosophy, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989 (1981), 85-100. And for Sara Ahmed’s queering of the ‘straight line’ of phenomenological orientation, see Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006. 45 As Ahmed writes, “… a queer phenomenology would function as a disorientation device; it would not overcome the ‘disalignment’ of the horizontal and vertical axes, allowing the oblique to open up another angle on the world.” (Ahmed, 172) 46 Even though Rosi Braidotti insists on calling herself a ‘Deleuzian,’ something I myself find hard to identify with or even understand, I do rely on several ideas and concepts in her writing, such as ‘situated knowledge,’ ‘nomadic subjects’ and the ‘posthuman.’ My admittedly very limited knowledge of Deleuze does not permit me to make a sufficient motivation as to why I can’t ’get on board’ the Deleuzian train; however, I can perhaps offer some first inclinations or questions that instead steer me toward a queer phenomenology, rather than the ’rhizomatic becomings’ of Deleuze. I wonder about Deleuze’s concept of body, as my impression is that it seems to consist mainly of a head with eyes that understands the surface of images, or the visual, rather than a more ’embodied’ sensual experience of space. Secondly, I wonder how ethics and organized resistance for political change works in a mass of swirling rhizomes and impulses, where there no longer seems to be accountable individuals in place? This also creates a dilemma as to where the more spiritual, intangible parts of life should reside, those unexplainable realms otherwise designated as the spirit or soul? Is there room in the Deleuzian system for the unfathomable? Although in her discussion of the Spinoza-Deleuzian mode, Braidotti does state that “You have to be somewhere to be able to engage in political praxis.” (Posman, 2013) And finally, I wonder where queerness finds its place in Deleuzian thought? Or is it consumed (and consequently hidden) by the chaotic, continual fluctuation of impulses? Perhaps it is merely as Rosi Braidotti explains in an interview, that I am more inclined to the Butlerian melancholia than what she claims is the affirmative politics of Deleuze? She says, “Angela McRobbie makes an interesting point when she compares the Deleuzean affirmative politics to the Butlerian melancholia – and she prefers the melancholia, but so do many people, because it’s maybe psychologically more understandable. Depression is considered noble, happiness vulgar.” (Posman, 2013) But then again, Sara Ahmed would argue that ‘happiness’ is the very thing that may be making us depressed. Sara Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010. I also wonder if the ‘joyous feminism’ Braidotti is yearning for isn’t a nostalgic longing for a feminism of another time, one that had its own problems of ‘whiteness,’ middle-classness and heterosexuality. See: Sarah Posman, "Transitzone/Conversation with Rosi Braidotti", nY website en tijdschrift voor literatuur, kritiek & amusement, voorheen yang & freespace Nieuwzuid, 19/06/2013, (accessed 21 August 2013). See also: Rosi Braidotti with Judith Butler, “Feminism by Any Other Name,” d i f f e r e n c e s : A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 6.2+3 (1994). 47 Braidotti, 12-15, for explanation of ’polyglot.’ I have knowledge of several languages, as well, English, Swedish, Italian and the very modest beginnings of Greek. 48 See Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness, Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003. 49 Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman, Cambridge, UK & MA, USA: Polity Press, 2013, 1-2. 50 See bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center, Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1984. and bell hooks, belonging: a culture of place, New York: Routledge, 2009.

Practice/Drama (Skinny dipping)

Max Frisch, I’m Not Stiller, Rochester, McLean, London: Dalkey Archive Press, 2006 (1958). I am reminded that my ‘white’ privileges and my country of origin also helped make it possible for me to live and work in Ticino for a year, without adequate permission and for the architect who ‘employed’ me to neglect helping obtain these documents, as promised. Otherwise, surely the residents of the small village (who were well aware of my presence, along with several other American colleagues) would have notified the authorities. Likewise, the border patrol would have checked my papers regularly on the train, as they did with anyone with even a shade darker skin, on every trip passing between Milano and Lugano. This reminds me of a powerful text 51 52


by Minnie Bruce Pratt, “Identity: Skin Blood Heart” in Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism, by Bulkin, Pratt &Smith, New York: Long Haul Press, 1984. She explains the development and complexity of one’s identity in narrative form, from her own childhood memories to present, and her realization of ‘what she did see and what she didn’t see’ in terms of recognizing one’s own privileges of race, sex, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.. 53 Rossi, 80 54 I have practiced for a number of different offices, in different countries and with varying gender constellations, some pleasant, some not, but the underlying constant in all of these practices has been the amount of drama and intrigue present in the workplace. (And I can’t say that there is necessarily less of it in academia either.) 55 Gavin Butt, ”Scholarly Flirtations: The Serious Scholar”, summit: non-aligned initiatives in education culture in collaboration with Goldsmiths College, London University, 2007, (accessed 16 August 2013). 56 bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom, New York and London: Routledge, 2010, 61. 57 I take a very firm stance on the accessibility of the work I produce, and aim to as much as possible write in a way that addresses an audience beyond academia. The teacher in me says ”knowledge shouldn’t hurt or exclude”.

Event/Performance/Collaboration (Synchronized Swim)

In 2007, I was one of five founding members of FATALE, and subsequently helped build up elective coursework and a Master’s studio with a base in feminist theory, as well as several salons with themes around architecture and feminist theory. For more information on the group FATALE see ( In 2012, I was invited to participate in one of MYCKET’s ‘club scenes,’ Sappho Island, playing the part of the Oracle at Delphi in full costume and telling hundreds of participants’ fortunes. For more information on the group MYCKET see ( 59 Rossi, 78 60 During my presentations at conferences, I employ several elements of performance in order to push the boundaries of “what usually happens” in these academic environments. I put on a simple costume, typically consisting of a mask and a boa, when reading the parts of the narrative spoken in character. Likewise, I provide the audience with small bells attached to satin armbands and ask them to participate in the shift from one mode of narrative to the other by “sprinkling fairy dust,” as they make a tinkling sound. Both the costume and the involvement of the listeners not only make the work more accessible, but they help to break the conventions of the traditional academic presentation. This pedagogically activates those who are listening, while it provides an alter ego for me to reposition myself and to experience the character in a more direct way. Here, the artist and photographer Cindy Sherman is a clear inspiration, with her elaborate self-portraits in costume, exploring gender and identity, vulnerability and empowerment. 61 As noted earlier, my 1-year seminar was staged as an ’Open House’ event in a borrowed office space in central Stockholm, where the participants were led through a guided tour of the rooms according to the Rossi floor plan. The refreshments I provided were cherry muffins and tea. I also had invaluable help with the preparations from two former students, now friends and colleagues, Marie-Louise Richards and Malin Heyman. 58

Critical fiction (Chasing waves)

“I think therefore I am.” is the translation from the Latin ”Cogito ergo sum” of philosopher René Descartes’ famous philosphical statement. For the hooks quote see (hooks, 50). 63 For more insight into creative critical writing practices see Mona Livholts, Emergent Writing Methodologies in Feminist Studies, NY and London: Routledge, 2012. 62

Whoness (Snorkeling)

Rossi, 16 Here ’exacts’ is used in the sense of ”to call for urgently.” 66 All of the characters listed in this section are either narrators I’ve created in my writing of critical fictions or characters I’ve performed at architectural/art events. 67 Rossi, 30 64 65

Post-justification/Method of Opportunities (Backstroke)

My colleague Katarina Bonnevier encouraged “post-justification” in a studio assignment to our masters-level architecture students during the Fall 2011. She writes, “As a method the studio celebrates post-justification, start at the first whim, finish at the doorstep of a new becoming. It is an archaeology in reverse. Do not plan ahead; the method goes; make first, think about it afterwards.” 69 Rossi, 20 68


One of my advisors, Katja Grillner, used this expression to describe my method during a seminar, and I think it fits perfectly. 71 Katja Grillner, ”Reflecting, Writing, and Forgetting: Method in art- and design-based research” in Method, Geist no. 11, 12, 14, Stockholm: GOU, 2007, 212. 72 Grillner, 213 73 In her article ”Reflecting, Writing, and Forgetting: Method in art- and design-based research”, Katja Grillner describes the dilemma of working between two different traditions in art- and design-based research, where it is deemed inapropriate for the artist to explore her own work critically, and rather to remain at a distance and allow the work to ’speak for itself’. Whereas the demands on the researcher are to be able to account for decisions and all modes of operation. Grillner, 218-219. 74 In 2013, an online petition was launched, demanding that Denise Scott-Brown be given the Pritzker Architecture Prize retroactively as the equal partner and collaborator of her husband Robert Venturi, who won the prize in 1991. Only Venturi was recognized despite that all of the work was the result of a joint effort. 75 While writing this text, I watched a video documentation called “To Russia with Love” from the demonstration, organized during Stockholm Pride, outside of the Russian Embassy to protest the newly instated ‘Anti-Gay Laws’ in Russia. The organizers ended by posting handfuls of ‘gay propaganda’ they had collected from demonstrators in the metal mailbox outside of the embassy gates. A direct and physical protest that cannot be ignored. ( 76 I would recommend to any fellow PhD student who is struggling with the introductory chapter (that everyone dreads writing), to try writing it as a letter to someone. Even if you rewrite it in another format later, it’s a good way to trick yourself into explaining what you need to tell someone about your project and makes it a little less painful. 77 An important part of my methodology is to activate participants in a pedagogic manner and to get feedback on my work at seminars and conferences. 78 “In all of my architecture, I have always been fascinated by the theater…” (Rossi, 26) 79 Here, I must also acknowledge two of my own great literary inspirations, Jeanette Winterson and Ali Smith. More specifically, Winterson’s most recent autobiographical work, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, which exemplifies courage in telling one’s own story, along with the usual exquisite use of language, humor and belief in art. Ali Smith’s two most recent works, one a novel- There but for the, the other a collection of essaysArtful, both works of fiction, have inspired me in their clever, unconventional use of language, storyline and complete disregard for the rules of ’reality’. I have a true affinity with and enormous respect for both of these authors. Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, London: Jonathan Cape, 2011. Ali Smith, There but for the, Great Britain: Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books, 2011. Ali Smith, Artful, London: Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books, 2012. 70

Art & science/Fiction & reality/Spirituality & Ritual (Rescue & resuscitate) "For the history of all eras and races teaches us only all too impressively that the candid faith which nothing can confuse, such as that which religion instills in its followers who are busy in active life, is the very fountainhead of the mightiest incentives to significant creative achievements, in the field of politics no less than in the realms of art and science." (Planck, p.154) 81 "Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that the atheist movement which calls religion an arbitrary delusion invented by power-hungry priests and which has nothing but words of derision for the pious faith in a supreme power above man, is eagerly taking advantage of the progress of scientific knowledge; allegedly in alliance with natural science, the movement continues to spread at an ever quickening pace its disruptive influence over all nations and classes of mankind. I need not go here into a more detailed discussion of the fact that the victory of atheism would not only destroy the most valuable treasures of our civilization, but- what is even worse- would annihilate the very hope for a better future." (Planck, p. 156) 82 In the beginning of his text, Planck uses an exchange of dialogue between Marguerite and Faust, two of the characters in Goethe’s novel Faust, to introduce the problem of a possible reconciliation between science and religion. Here he describes Marguerite as ”an innocent girl, in fear for her newly found happiness, to her lover whom she recognizes as a higher authority”. (Planck, 152-153) Strangely enough, Marguerite’s ’simple’ question ”is the one which from time immemorial has innerly moved and worried countless human beings in search of peace of mind and knowledge at the same time.” (Planck, 153) Further on in the text, Planck points to the obvious ’weakness’ of the young girl’s mental capacity, as well as a ’blinded by desire’ factor as the reasons for what he considers Faust’s poor answer to her question. ”If we study Faust’s concise reply, spoken with all care and tenderness of feeling, we find that we cannot give it here as our own, for a double reason: First, we must remember that this reply, both in form and content, is designed for the comprehension of a simple uneducated girl, and is therefore not meant to impress the intellect as well as the emotions and the imagination. But thenand this consideration is of a more descisive importance- we must bear in mind that these words are spoken by a Faust ruled by sensual desire, a confederate of Mephistopheles. I am sure that the redeemed Faust, whom we 80


meet at the end of the second part, would give a somewhat different answer to Marguerite’s question.” (Planck, 156-157) 83 I want the ease of an essay, the rigour of a theoretical text and the language of a poem. 84 Ali Smith, There but for the, Great Britain: Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books, 2011, 352. 85 Rossi, 33 86 Rossi, 37 87 "On the other hand, religion and natural science do have a point of contact in the issue concerning the existence and nature of a supreme power ruling the world, and here the answers given by them are to a certain degree at least comparable. As we have seen, they are by no means mutually contradictory, but are in agreement, first of all, on the point that there exists a rational world order independent from man, and secondly, on the view that the character of this world order can never be directly known but can only be indirectly recognized or suspected. Religion employs in this connection its own characteristic symbols, while natural science uses measurements founded on sense experiences." (Planck, 182-183)

Body/immediate surroundings (Pruney fingers) Rossi, 11-12 Sara Ahmed also mentions the relation of the body to the writer. She describes how the act of writing can affect the body with conditions like a stiff neck, sore shoulders, repetitive strain injuries, etc, causing the body to become the object of its act, ‘the writer’ with ‘a writer’s body.’ (Ahmed, 57) This is similar to Rossi’s idea of the body in a state of ‘deposition’, where the body approaches an object-like state. (Rossi, 12) 90 Inspired by Aldo Rossi, the author- I, has a desire to leave an account of information regarding my own biographical situation at the time of writing this paper, including my own bodily struggles such as living with an old herniated disc injury and subsequent frozen shoulder. ’The PhD candidate writer’s’ body? 91 My new neighbors are both classical musicians and practice regularly at home. For me, it heightens the feeling of a creative atmosphere to hear them practicing their craft while I write. 88 89

Affect (Salty Skin)

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick discusses Silvan Tomkins’ work on affect where he names a range of ’activators of affect’: startle, fear, interest, anger, distress, joy, laughter. See Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, ”Shame in the Cybernetic Fold”, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2003, 103. 93 ”First, systematic knowledges of the creation and mobilization of affect have become an integral part of the everyday urban landscape…” Nigel Thrift, ”Spatialities of Felling”, Non-Representational Theory: Space, politics, affect, London and New York: Routledge, 2008, 172. 94 Sedgwick, 97 95 Rossi, 78 96 Here, ’affect’ is considered more along the lines of what Sedgwick describes as Tomkin’s definition- an immediate arousal or sensation, rather than Thrift’s ’affect’ that is a form of intelligence. Although it does not deny that the effect of affect is dependent on social, cultural and historical factors. 97 ”Against the behaviorists, Tomkins consistently argues that relevant stimulus for the affect system includes internal as well as external events, concluding firmly that there is no basis, and certainly not the basis internal versus external,for a definitional distinction between response and stimulus.” Sedgwick, 104 98 ”Freedom, play, affordance, meaning itself derive from the wealth of mutually nontransparent possibilities for being wrong about an object- and, implicatively, about oneself.” Kosofsky, 107-108. ”The result is that we now have a small space of time which is increasingly able to be sensed, the space of time which shapes the moment. Of course, once such a space is opened up, it can also be operated on.” Thrift, 187. 92

The image/Photograph (Drying off)

Rossi, 57 Hard Candy 2005, director: David Slade, Vulcan Productions, USA 101 Susan Sontag, On Photography, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland: Anchor Books Doubleday, 1989 (1977), 7. 102 Sontag, 8 103 Sedgwick, 110-112 104 Sontag, 11 105 I recently read about a new film project called ”Frame by Frame” by Alexandria Bombach, a documentary about the revolution of photography in Afghanistan. It follows the story of four local Afghan photographers, Massoud Hossaini, Farzana Wahidy, Wakil Kohsar and Najibullah Musafer, after the fall of the Taliban. (Photography was completely banned under the Taliban rule 1996-2001.) The photographers explain how they struggle to remain the voice of the people there and to make sure the rest of the world doesn’t forget their 99



situation, once the international troops withdraw. This, for me, is an example that shows the power the photographic image possesses. 106 Rossi, 65 107 Sontag, 16 108 Sontag, 13 109 ”Second, these knowledges are not just being deployed knowingly, they are also being deployed politically (mainly but not only by the rich and powerful) to political ends: what might have been painted as aesthetic is increasingly instrumental.” Thrift, 172 110 Sontag, 15 111 Sontag, 14 112 ”Third, affect has become a part of how cities are understood.” Thrift, 172 113 Here, the ’we’ may be assumed to represent Euro-American societies, as Nigel Thrift reminds us that affect (and its effect) are culturally and historically specific. Thrift, 173. 114 Sontag, 17 115 Sontag, 20 116 Sontag, 21 117 Sontag, 22 118 Sontag, 23-24 119 Rossi, 72 120 Sontag, 24


13 dear architect  
13 dear architect