(from) the repertoire : an architectural theory of operations. Oral and embodied knowledge in architectural and spatial practices.

Julien Lafontaine Carboni

How can one construct spatial histories and architectural theories from gestures, words and voices, bodies and minor threads? 

This research delves into oral and embodied architectural and spatial knowledge as modes of producing buildings, spaces and spatialities. This knowledge is transmitted body-to-body through the temporalities of performance, its acts of remaining and means of reappearance, and relies on the repertoire as an infrastructure of transmission and conservation, an organic counterpart to the archives.

While hylomorphism—dividing matter/form, thinking/making, architects/crafts.wo.men—has been a dominant paradigm threading the architectural discipline and its history, oral and embodied knowledge, practices and histories have remained neglected. Gilbert Simondon’s theory of operations helps one understand how hylomorphism came from social and labor stratification, perpetuated by the separation of the crafts.wo.man and her operatory knowledge and theories from abstract thought, decision-making and infrastructures of institutionalized knowledge production. In architecture, his critique reveals how the dominant discourse has remained blind to myriad spatial practices and especially to organic knowledge.

(from) the repertoire introduces an architectural theory of operations, opening up the potentialities of oral and embodied modes of architectural production. Epistemological thresholds enable to make contact with the repertoire’s forms of imagination and invention, transmission and migration, historical regimes and potential histories, remainders and agencies. Architectural historiography and image—figurations—are renegotiated in order to consider the ontology of operations, gestures and words. The research engages with operatory dimensions of architectural instruments by looking at how they operate. The versant opératoire of forms leads us to the concept of protofigurations—embodied techniques of spatial design.

The core of this thesis revolves around discussions with older generations of the Sahrawi people, in the refugee camps near Tindouf, South Algeria, within an oral memory preservation program. This manuscript explores how their architectural histories, knowledge and theories, while entirely undrawn and unwritten, are crafted, preserved and transmitted. A discussion with Gorba M.L., a Sahrawi woman who participated in the construction of the camps and the Sahrawi State in exile, unfolds the architectural agency of gestures on plural temporalities and materialities. By sharing her repertoire, she introduces a spatial practice of repair, giving agency to preempted futurities as present corporeality.

The immobilization of the Sahrawi people, a product of colonial violence, short-circuits the repertoire. In this context, the ethics and paradoxes of preserving and archiving the repertoire are examined, and, at the same time, strategic relationships are proposed that escape the toxicity of historical discourses by supporting the re-enactment of knowledge. Furthermore, this research investigates practices that momentarily stabilize the ontology of operations and enable the repertoire to circulate. Coined as architectural reenactments, and together with a theory of operations, these practices open a field, a zone of peaceful reconciliation with knowledge from the repertoire, granting access to its scales and temporalities from within the discipline and in view of integrating it in curricula and research.

Dieter Dietz, Lucía Jalon Oyarzun
Jérome Baudry, Philip Ursprung, Samia Henni, Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi
Architecture, Experimentation, Heritage, History, Society, Theory
CC BY Licence