Architecture’s Poetic Instrumentality. Developing the Critical, Political, and Ethical Capacities of Architectural Artifacts
Doktorsavhandling, 2020

The PhD thesis Architecture’s Poetic Instrumentality is rooted in and driven by an enthusiasm of architectural practice—an enthusiasm for conceiving, constructing and deploying architectural artifacts that, as poetic instruments, intend to have an agency within urban environments. The title puts in tension the two notions of instrument and poesis (from the Greek poiesis, referring to a making activity but moreover to an activity of making up, situated here in those encountering architecture). Preparing the architectural artifact as a poetic instrument then puts the partly contingent adventures it helps affording at the center of the inquiry.

Poesis, as an activity of making up, of sense-making, and agency, as a dynamic able to invoke such acts of poesis, are considered in this thesis as endowed with a transformative potential. They explicitly bring into scope the realm of architectural reception: the many uses, appropriations, occupations, and negotiations of architecture. In order to explore such poesis and agency, a variety of architectural artifacts have been developed within the time span of the research, spread across different collaborations. These artifacts propel the research, giving particular substance to the main methodological approach, that of research-through-practice.

The exploration of a poetic instrumentality has been pursued through an exploration of architecture’s capacity to act critically, politically, and ethically, within situations. Such capacity is often, according to a variety of contemporary authors, atrophied or at least left partly unaddressed. Answering calls to re-activate architecture in that sense, this research aims to substantiate contributions that can help counter this deficit. It does so through edifying a heterogeneous set of architectural artifacts, developed as well as deployed within real urban surroundings and situations, working as acupuncture-like interventions. The research also develops a set of approaches, strategies, and attitudes. The audience is multiple as both those professionally practicing and conceiving of architecture and those practicing architecture through encountering it within daily situations are targeted.

Architecture’s Poetic Instrumentality is edified on two main experimenting grounds. One is the educational design studio COmplicating MAchines / COmplicating INteriors, the other the architecture firm STUDIOLOarchitectuur. Each advances a differently constrained terrain for experimentation, raising different challenges, assembling different contributions. What links the experimenting on both grounds together and characterizes all artifacts of the research is that they all seek to include dynamics often neglected in architecture: critical, political, and ethical dynamics; dynamics of projectivity, negotiation, conflict, dissensus, agonism; para-functional dynamics. Substantiating this inclusion has led to an other kind of architectural artifacts and to other ways of doing architecture, conceived not as an alternative to architecture, but as a promise and capacity that fundamentally reside within architecture and its artifacts.

dynamics of dissensus

critical architecture

ethical architecture

political architecture

architectural agency

agonistic staging

Auditorium SB-H3, SB-building, Sven Hultins gata 6, Gothenburg
Opponent: Professor Tatjana Schneider, Institute for History and Theory of Architecture and City, Technical University GTAS Braunschweig, Germany.


Johan Liekens

KU Leuven


This research project is driven by architectural artifacts, developed within the timespan of the inquiry and unfolded on a 1 to 1 scale within the urban surroundings and situations in which they were conceived and in which they unfolded. They are part of a broader strategy of intervening within socio-spatial situations through small scale, acupuncture-like interventions, as a method. One series of artifacts is grafted on experiments in the educational design studio COmplicating MAchines / COmplicating INteriors, another on experiments close to the architectural office STUDIOLOarchitectuur. Shared across both experimenting grounds notions such as agency and (urban) poesis take a central position, considered in their tension with the idea of architecture as an instrument. Taking a central position as well are some dynamics often underexposed and neglected within the field of architecture, such as dissensus and agonism. In the research, these are developed as dynamics that can help revive and acuminate architecture’s critical, political, and ethical capacities. Accordingly, the architectural artifacts of this research, more than merely constituting aesthetic, functional, or conceptual objects, act as agentic and agonistic stages within public space, with a transformative and re-figuring potential.




Mänsklig interaktion med IKT



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4687



Auditorium SB-H3, SB-building, Sven Hultins gata 6, Gothenburg

Opponent: Professor Tatjana Schneider, Institute for History and Theory of Architecture and City, Technical University GTAS Braunschweig, Germany.

Mer information

Senast uppdaterat