Hot on the heels of this weeks release of ‘Architecture and Space Re-imagined’, today sees the publication of ‘Forgotten Plotlanders’ in the Housing, Theory and Society journal.
This paper marks the first journal publication relating to my post-doctoral research into informal space and housing in the UK. Whilst it builds upon themes of alterneity and informal space theory drawn from ‘Architecture and Space Re-imagined’ it reflects the first translation of these ideas into a UK context.
This trajectory of research supports and frames an upcoming AHRC funding application for ECR’s. Titled ‘Subsistent Places; Productive Lives’, this project will analyse the history of other plotlander sites in order to document the formalisation of space in the UK. This line of inquiry will support a critique of the UK model of speculative neoliberal mass-housing with the ultimate intention of proposing an alternative model of non-speculative development and positive anarchistic informality in UK space.
Once again, if anyone wishes to discuss the ideas raised in the book then please get in touch.
Colin Ward’s discourses on the Arcadian landscape of “plotlander” housing are unique documentations of the anarchistic birth, life, and death of the last informal housing communities in the UK. Today, the forgotten history of plotlander housing documented by Ward can be re-read in the context of both the apparently never-ending “housing crisis” in the UK and the increasing awareness of the potential value of learning from comparable informal housing from the Global South. This paper’s observations of a previously unknown and forgotten plotlander site offer a chance to begin a new conversation regarding the positive potential of informal and alternative housing models in the UK and wider Westernized world.
I am extraordinarily pleased to announce that my first ever monograph book was published this week by Routledge.
Whilst the writing and editing process has been challenging, in the end it has been a fantastic experience.
I hope that it will find its audience, and perhaps in time will become part of a wider discussion of alternative interpretations of architecture and space built upon ideas and practices that emerge from non-Western perspectives.
If anyone wishes to discuss the ideas raised in the book then please get in touch.
About the Book
As with so many facets of contemporary western life, architecture and space are often experienced and understood as a commodity or product. The premise of this book is to offer alternatives to the practices and values of such westernised space and Architecture (with a capital A), by exploring the participatory and grass-roots practices used in alternative development models in the Global South. This process re-contextualises the spaces, values, and relationships produced by such alternative methods of development and social agency. It asks whether such spatial practices provide concrete realisations of some key concepts of Western spatial theory, questioning whether we might challenge the space and architectures of capitalist development by learning from the places and practices of others.
Exploring these themes offers a critical examination of alternative development practices methods in the Global South, re-contextualising them as architectural engagements with socio-political space. The comparison of such interdisciplinary contexts and discourses reveals the political, social, and economic resonances inherent between these previously unconnected spatial protagonists. The interdependence of spatial issues of choice, value, and identity are revealed through a comparative study of the discourses of Henri Lefebvre, John Turner, Doreen Massey, and Nabeel Hamdi. These key protagonists offer a critical framework of discourses from which further connections to socio-spatial discourses and concepts are made, including post-marxist theory, orientalism, post-structural pluralism, development anthropology, post-colonial theory, hybridity, difference and subalterneity.
By looking to the spaces and practices of alternative development in the Global South this book offers a critical reflection upon the working practices of Westernised architecture and other spatial and political practices. In exploring the methodologies, implications and values of such participatory development practices this book ultimately seeks to articulate the positive potential and political of learning from the difference, multiplicity, and otherness of development practice in order to re-imagine architecture and space.
The following is the much revised abstract for the research paper I have been preparing for upcoming publication. Hopefully this paper will be completed within May, allowing me to progress on to other emerging research projects and papers.
The Emancipatory Politics of Informal, Spontaneous, and (maybe) Autogestive Space;
Critical intersections in the anarchist housing practices of John Turner and the socio-spatial Marxism of Henri Lefebvre
Abstract (150 words):
This paper critically re-frames anarchist development practices designed to support and facilitate informal settlements in the Global South as a potentially emancipatory alternative to the economically and politically co-opted architectural processes that produce Westernised space. In order to ground this discussion, the work of participatory development practitioner John Turner in 1960s Peru is posed as a practical realisation of the political potential of autogestive space advocated in Henri Lefebvre’s post-Marxist discourse. This analysis of the grass-roots political action of participatory development in the Global South reveals a critical intersection of autogestion and informal space, and subsequently a re-contextualisation of the socio-spatial contrasts of anarchist and Marxist theories. Highlighting this intersection of Turner’s anarchist self-build housing practices and Lefebvre’s spatial appropriation of Marxist autogestion also frames wider questions of Western assumptions of social and political interpretations of value, autonomy, choice, participation, and social sustainability. Thus, Lefebvre’s much cited post-Marxist proposition of the social production of social space is here critically re-framed against Turner’s seminal anarchist questioning of ‘Who Decides and Who Provides?’
Autogestion, informal space, self-build, participatory, anarchist, Marxist.
This is the outline for an ongoing and long-term research project that I will be pursuing in the coming years. It is currently being prepared for UK research funding applications and pilot funding from my host university.
A critical analysis of the loss of informal space in the UK as a counter-narrative to the UK’s contemporary housing crisis.
This research project will pursue a critical enquiry into the relationships of informal space, land ownership, and housing practices against a framework of theoretical discourses concerning the political policy, ideology, and domination of the social production of space.
Using a GIS mapping methodology, the research will critically analyse a broad narrative of housing and land ownership in the UK, from the 18th and 19th Century Inclosures Acts, the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, through the Allotments Acts of 1908 and 1922, and finally on to the Town and country Planning Act of 1947. This mapping process will analyse a specific range of case studies to produce a critical analysis of key informal spaces in the UK. The intersections of this mapping analysis against a framework of critical theory will be explored in order to highlight the social, cultural, economic, and spatial impacts of these successive acts on the UK’s collective social understanding of land ownership, home, and life.
This research process will conclude by posing critical challenges to the contemporary housing situation facing the UK and wider Westernised space: What are the social and political consequences of the loss of informal space and housing in the UK? What can we learn from the historical successes and failures of informal space in the UK? What political and planning policy changes are necessary to afford a change to this un-sustainable production of spaces and lives? How can we use the principles of informal space to create subsistent spaces to afford people to have productive lives?
Informal space, housing, plotlanders, allotments, anarchism, mapping