Agency and gift of architecture

Gough, Tim (2009) Agency and gift of architecture. Field, 3(1), pp. 146-152. ISSN (online) 1755-0068


If agency signifies (first definition, and amongst other things) the ability to act, then architecturally this power is complex in the sense that it is deployed at one remove, that is, via agency (second definition), and such in at least two directions or registers: the agent acts both through others and for others. Taking its clue from an early written building contract, this paper discusses the role of the architect as agent in this light. On the one hand, the role of agent can be seen as a parasitical one, an unnecessary burden (financially and morally) on the �real� act of construction. In this sense, we might think of the ideal of a direct and perhaps more natural relationship between construction and inhabitant � a relationship unmediated by the law, the contract, and agency, a relationship where the architect is redundant. This status of the agent/architect is discussed in relation to Saint Paul�s notion of �sin� and the possibility of a salvation which is linked by Badiou to the gift, kharisma; and the paper concludes by positing what the nature of an architectural gift might be.

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