_positions VI: Michelle Chang and Ritchie Yao

Where do you stand in the field of architecture?

The seemingly innocuous question is, in fact, loaded with determining metaphors. To think of architecture as a field entails a horizontal space where other participants are in view, but separated by gaps that can be measured relationally. To imagine taking up a spot on this field is to propose a self-conscious, architectural subject that occupies a particular spot in relation to others and to time: the position-taker comes onto the field, stays for an interval, and eventually passes out of it..

“_positions” is a series of conversations convened by the Department of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design aimed at revealing the positions taken by players on the field of contemporary architecture. The series unfolds the complexity of relations and metaphors to make them explicit, inviting faculty and guests to voice where they stand. Participants are drawn from all facets of the discipline– practicing architects, designers, historians, scholars, theorists, technologists, and those in allied fields of design. The conversations are delivered by pairs of participants to underscore the relational nature of position-taking, although the notion of relationality will supersede any fixed number of speakers. Some positions are singular and will be explained by a single participant, while others are nearer to collectives and will involve triples, quadruples, or more. Regardless of the number of participants in any given session or their respective backgrounds, all speakers are asked to discharge the same task: share three projects that correspond to the development of your position over time.

We think of these three projects as answers to a series of suggested questions. First, what project by a mentor or teacher or school of thought informed the position you occupy today? (Where did your position come from and to whom or what do you owe your line of thinking?). Second, what project of your own was the first to indicate your position? (Where did your position begin and how did it define your stance in a particular spot?). Third, what project indicates where you stand now, and perhaps indicate how you will evolve? (How does the project align with your other work and/or seed future agenda?). The word “project” is of course broadly construed and encapsulates any kind of architectural endeavor. It may mean a building (built or unbuilt), a book, an essay, or other work that its author would consider as such.

“_positions” takes its place in a series of episodes devoted to understanding architecture as a field of relations between protagonists. This series somewhat differs from past endeavors in two significant ways. First, in lieu of crisp binaries from language of a journal like OPPOSITIONS, or the collage-like heterogeneity drawn from a journal like Assemblage, _positions reasserts a manual, spatial sense of architecture’s field as a productive way of reading the present conditions. Projects today are nearer or farther, between or beside one another, qualified by shades of adjacency instead of pure difference. Second, _positions sees these spatial modes of positioning as opening up a way of describing relationships in the field that are not exclusively dialectical, binary, or structured by irreconcilable difference. Taking a position on a field could mean seeking maximum difference, the most space, from one’s neighbors. It could also, though, mean piling on, gathering around, or finding mutualisms across gaps. These are no less taut, no less prone to debate – just debate that articulates the configuration of the contemporary field. _positions encourages debate with new spatial determinations, eliminating the prefix to encourage ways of describing these relationships: im-position, re-position, ap-position, post-position, inter-position, ex-position, dis-position, com-position, juxta-position, contra-position…



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