On Being Withheld:
Risk, Regulation and the Architecture of Reflexive Modernity
Our current phase of modernity is characterized by its reflexivity; today we are less concerned with the liberative potential of technological productivity, more concerned with its inherent risks and unintended side-effects [Beck].
This historical shift is evidenced by the increasing scope and complexity of building regulations; where Modernity sought to ground architecture within the technological potential of building [Wallenstein], the possibilities of contemporary practice seem rooted within networks of standards, codes, ACoP’s and guidelines.
My research and teaching at ESALA studies the diagrams, techniques, rationalities and identities of contemporary building regulation; It studies the forms of visibility, ways of thinking, and kinds of subjectivity that are produced by this governmental apparatus.
It is concerned, on the one hand, that the ‘govern-mentality’ [Dean] of regulation captivates us within an economic way of thinking; regulations do not necessarily democratize technology, but are disposed to ‘productivity-raising knowledge interests’ [Habermas].
Nonetheless, we might see a community-forming potential in such self-imposed limits; in its being withheld, and its being withholding, architectural design is a medium through which humanity confronts its biological, sociological and ecological finitude, through which we become ‘capable of our own impotentiality’ [Agamben].
Image: Domestic Handbook Standards 4.3.2 / 4.3.11 / 4.8.3, Liam Ross, 2013