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Key Notes on the Unruly City

Social, Material, and Spatial Transgressions

Time: Wed 2023-09-13 13.00

Location: F3 (Flodis), Lindstedtsvägen 26 & 28, Stockholm

Video link:

Language: English

Subject area: Art, Technology and Design

Doctoral student: Adam Bergholm , Arkitektur, Art, Technology, and Design

Opponent: Associate Professor Robin Wilson, The Bartlett School of Architecture, Faculty of the Built Environment

Supervisor: Docent Catharina Gabrielsson, Stadsbyggnad

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QC 20230822


This research departs from three intersecting field studies in Berlin, Copenhagen, and Paris, and includes both my interventions in the urban texture and integrations with existing communities working in the subject field of the Right to the City (Lefebvre 1968). The projects explore the mutable “nature” of cities and build on political philosophies which describe egalitarian actions that have shaped what those places could be. Laid out across three chapters (X, Y & Z) are descriptions of work processes for multiple projects that locate a social and spatial phenomenon which I call “the unruly city.”

Manufactured keys, trapdoors, dug-out tunnels, informal dissemination, bricolaged furniture, loopholes, pulleys, hatches, and shacks recur throughout the thesis; each of these tools, methods or architectural elements support a praxis of transgressivism and stealth. Even if the practical constructions, historical investigations, and cultural theory analyses explored in the thesis do not give access to the physical places themselves, they unlock rooms in the reader’s political imagination, by showing that such spaces exist. 

At the core of Lefebvre’s philosophical and political argument is the call for action. Praxis is understood here as holding the potential of critical performativity: the possibility to merge culture and politics with claims of creating access to the urban and the production of space. A promise of going beyond philosophy and theory to arrive at praxis. Jacques Rancière (2019) theorizes that which is recognized as (im)possible through sensation. In effect, Rancière addresses a regulation of what can be done. By departing from such an aesthetic order of distributed sensibility, there is the possibility to make a true politics; one which can peel off the foreclosing façades of Western democracy, where the order of things is contested by, as Rancière frames it, the part which has no part. This would be an active politics that challenges the policed order of inclusions and exclusions regarding of what is felt, seen, heard, and perceived. A politics of affect, accomplished by spatial, material, and theoretical practices. In order to imagine the unimaginable—whether it is about spaces, living conditions, or coded systems—imagination must transgress into praxis: speech acts that contributes to our perception, and the other way around. Here, each work becomes a monument to the is-possible—a concrete, non-abstract refutation of any arguments which claim another way of creating or engaging with the city beyond that which is commercially sanctioned to be impossible.