Socrates Stratis

Public role of the architect in liminal conditions
publicness, infrastructure, translocal, urbanity, hybrid

This presentation investigates the public role of the architect in liminal conditions in the contemporary society. Reference is the organic intellectual as defined by Antonio Gramsci and revisited by Edward Said. The organic intellectual in contrast to the traditional one, as Gramsci refers to, is a sort of intellectual who participates directly into the making of the society. Said revisits this definition by emphasizing the public role of such intellectual who is emerged in the “dirtiness” of everyday life rather than taking a distance .

What is characteristic in liminal conditions is that the notion of publicness in terms of public institutions, public space but also shared references, is often contested, see absent. The architect usually operates within terms of reference of such public institutions, thus he/she is unease to operate within liminal conditions.

This presentation focuses on one of the recent projects of AA+U, a partnership of architecture, art and urbanism that operates in such conditions. The aim is to explicit alternative roles of the architect, within a broader system of actors and disciplines, which produce forms of publicness in liminal zones. It is in fact, a self reflective approach since the author is a founding member of AA+U.

The project to talk about is called “KillingFreeTime@Cyprus” and it is the AA+U contribution to the Cyprus participation to Venice Biennale of Architecture 2008. What are the different forms of operations such a team can have in a place like Cyprus?

Looking back to the last International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam but also to some of the participations in the Italian pavilion of the current Venice Biennale of Architecture, one can see a lot of such forms of operation. Architecture in this case becomes a political strategy, even more so, political tactics, with aim to confront the status quo of neoliberal characteristics in the contemporary society. Usually such forms of operations are in nature parasitical, piratical, guerilla like .

In the case of AA+U, the operative aim lies in the sphere of counter-cultural tactics against prevalent existing conditions, as Pelin Tan mentions in her text of the same roundtable (Neighborhood Resistances and possibilities of counter-cultural spaces in Istanbul). The “KillingFreeTime@Cyprus” project has piratical characteristics since it is a project that critically takes over the theme “In Cyprus Relax”, employed by the curator of Cyprus participation in Venice Biennale of Architecture 2006, Sir Peter Cook.

The project uses the infrastructure of a public institution that of national participation in Architectural Biennales, in order to make things public, in order to explicit existing conditions: that of the paradoxical proximity of military and tourist infrastructures in Cyprus.

Architecture in this case has been employed as that discipline that provides tools for constructing “images of the possible”. Can those “images of the possible” reveal the real relationship between military and tourist infrastructures in Cyprus? Can that fictive construction become a catalyst for making reality public in such liminal zones?

View images of other Projects:
Call#192 project:

Pyla Master Plan project:

The archive on transgressing borders project:

He is a lecturer at the Department of Architecture at the University of Cyprus. He was born in Nicosia, in 1964. He obtained his architectural degree (B.Arch and M.Arch) in Cornell University, USA, and his doctorate degree in Urbanism in Paris 8, France. He is a member of the Scientific Committee of Europan Europe. His research lies on establishing connections between teaching, research and practice in architecture and urbanism. Emphasizing such hybrid structures through his work, it becomes possible to incorporate social and political issues in the sphere of architectural creativity. In this way there is an emphasis for architects to seek a new role within a broader system of institutions dealing with architecture and the city especially in spaces of conflict. He deals with the possible role of architecture within spaces of borders. Become a vehicle of revealing existing conditions between spatial and political contexts and an agent of initiatives for public engagement within institutional voids. More specifically, he is studying “trans-contextual” issues produced by relations between physical, temporal and pragmatic contexts in urban environments but also in project based actions. He uses as vehicles for such “trans-contextual” studies the notion of “publicness” and that of “translocal”. He exhibited part of his research in both 9th and 10th Biennales of Architecture in Venice in 2004 and 2006 and he is currently exhibiting in the 11th Venice Biennale.

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