Acting in Everyday Life

ARTICLES

16MAR 2017
# TITLE: Acting in Everyday Life
# STUDENTS: Eleni Mastrogeorgopoulou, Christos Polymeris
# SUPERVISOR: Dimitris Fragkos, Evi Athanasiou
# DATE: 2015
# COURSE: Research Thesis
# SCHOOL / DEPARTMENT: Architecture of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Acting in Everyday Life - Abstract

The idea for this work arose through a willingness to rethink upon the current architectural practice and with an intention to redefine the so-called architectural design process. Refusing both the academicism of the university and the system of society, we place ourselves as otherness among the multitude, where we seek for encounters with others. Rethinking on the architectural process we redefined the diptych of analysis - synthesis through the concepts of wandering and re-inhabitation, as we borrowed them by the situationists, and the street artists and the guerrilla urbanists respectively.

Initially, trying to approach conceptually the process, we structured a theoretical scheme that is divided in three parts:

1st: Self
Subject

2nd: Others
1st: Wandering (Derive)

Praxis

2nd: Re-inhabitation
1st: Writing

Object
2nd: Work (not Project)

Praxis 1st

Considering the city center as a major field of encounters and conflicts, we performed a praxis of double wandering (dérive) in the center of our home city, looking for vacant - uninhabited spaces (empty buildings, uncovered spaces, unbuilt lots, terraces, dead-end streets, construction sites) and observing signs of re-appropriation or abandonment (persons, traces, patina, remnants, limits). We intended to rediscover our city from the perspective of an observer, wandering around the streets among the multitude. Then, through several experimental technics, we compared 4 vacant - uninhabited spaces in different areas of the city in order to examine the possibility of an intervention and eventually we chose an uncovered space in Agia Sophia street, 82B.

This space is surrounded by big blocks and contains in the middle a small old house and a vacant lot. In fact, this lot is the remnant of the demolition of another house that shared a common wall with the first one. Now both spaces remain abandoned. In the area of Ag. Sophia street we recognized a peculiar situation, where state intervention is decreasing while auto-construction is also missing. At the same time, the consumption and inhabitation of space coexist creating a deconstructed place. We regard that the deconstructed place of the neighborhood as well as the inhabitants` inaction highlight the necessity of a transformation and the potentials of an intervention inside the frames of our practice.

Praxis 1st ½

In between the praxis of wandering and that of re-inhabitation, we inserted a praxis of collection of raw material, without which our installation would never be possible. Instead of purchasing materials from the market, we decided to collect discarded objects from the streets of the city and reuse them. Eventually, we chose as raw material the wooden windows and shutters that contemporary buildings throw in the streets.

Praxis 2nd

Afterwards, through a praxis of re-inhabitation, acting solitarily - on the footsteps of graffiti artists - we attempted to perform an architectural event. However, the literal translation of the street art practice in our case is infeasible insofar as the (direct or indirect) communication with the inhabitants of the neighborhood is inevitable. At the same time, the real involvement of the inhabitants in the work seams also difficult insofar as the local community is unready to organize themselves around such ventures. Playing with the words performance and installation, we called our event `performed installation`. Our intervention was meant to be a step towards the re-appropriation of space and create a moment of exception in the daily life of the neighborhood, which builds a potential total change of city and society.

During the design and construction of the installation, we maintained (from a physical point of view) the primary structure of our material, namely the 180ο rotation around a vertical axis, but we rejected (from a social point of view) its` use, namely the connection or separation of an `inside` and an `outside`. Furthermore, we detached the items from the blocks and transferred them in the open space, questioning the value of privacy and forming potential personal and collective spaces in the common area of the vacant lot. We ordered our items on the traces of the demolished house creating subspaces in order to evoke the memory of a situation of the site in the past, to allow a personal and collective play of transforming space in the future and of course, to create an everyday place for encounters in the present.

Communicating with neighbors, passers and friends, we felt that most people appreciated our work, but on the other hand, passing quite a lot of hours in the installation ourselves, we noticed that people hesitated to appropriate the space. Everyday routine always distracts people from such ventures. Furthermore, nowadays, the poverty of the population at this area of the city renders such ventures into secondary priorities. However, this act definitely motivated people to rethink upon common space opening the way for the next potential ventures.

Anyway, our work was never meant to be perfect. It is just a part of a constant effort towards the change of city and society that is based inevitably on the method of trial and error. The performed installation belongs now to the past but we suppose that it remains alive on the collective memory of the inhabitants of the city. It certainly remains open as a process of re-appropriation of vacant - uninhabited spaces in the contemporary city though acting in everyday life. We now look forward to continue our effort in another place, in any city or country.