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The Kinematic Building: Broaching Animacy

30 November 2012

Derek Thomson

Last week I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present to and participate in the “Building as Object and as Project” workshop hosted in Torup, Denmark by Copenhagen Business School’s Centre for Management Studies of the Building Process.  What a tremendous opportunity to engage with the latest thinking and works in progress of pivotal academics with a sociological perspective on construction project complexity!

It seems that, in this particular community, Actor Network Theory is flavour of the day and it does seem to be yielding insights.  As the theme of the workshop was design orientations towards a ‘building as project’ view and, never one to hoist my methodological flag on any particular pole, I attempted to argue for a conceptual linking of Ingold’s taskscape (which underpinned his ‘as project’ view), Brand et al.’s Long Now, Brand’s prior ‘shearing layers of change’ work, and kinematics (but with movement conceived temporally rather than spatially).  All of this allows, I think, a new conceptualisation of buildings as constantly shifting entities that need to be nurtured, rather than conserved (or even preserved) over time.  They can be thought of as animated; of having the animacy and constant ‘becoming’ (rather than simply ‘being’) that (the few) Architects seeing modality emphasise.

I’m not sure if I hit home, but I did notice a few delegates picking up on the animacy concept the day after and several were already using Brand’s shearing layers model in their work.

Anyway, a copy of my working paper is here (please get in touch if you would like to cite it, as my thinking continues to develop around these topics and hopefully the paper will soon become out of date).  The slides from my talk are below. Some of these slides are taken from colleagues’ work at Loughborough, looking at new models of adaptable building provision (i.e. ways of practically responding to this conceptualisation, and others).

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