The project is exploring theoretic and practice-based concepts of “progressive passivity” as a critically engaged reaction to “regressive creativity” of prevailing post-critical architectural and theoretical production. The objective of the project is to position the contemporary work of critically-engaged architectural offices with special stress on the French office Lacaton & Vassal in the broader context of current commodification of architectural invention and creativity.
Recent publications on architectural restrain of high modernism (Wallenstein, 2008) and contemporary practices (Aureli, 2008; Goodbun, 2014) address the notions of passivity and silence in modern as well as contemporary architecture and design. A focused research on social, economic and architectural implications of contemporary architectural silence and passivity is, however, still lacking. Giorgio Agamben (1999) writes on the infinite potentiality the Bartlebian famous sentence “I would prefer not to” creates. On the same subject but from a different perspective, Slavoj Žižek (2010) writes on the seemingly passive but in reality radically subversive “Bartlebian act”. In a society urging to be active and to participate at every cost, “the most radical act is to do nothing”. As complete renunciation of action may of course go unnoticed, the role of the architect within such paradigms is to design a perceptive frame that enables the lack of action to be seen.
Articulation of passivity in the midst of contemporary commanded activity and creativity paradoxically can become productive and even violent in the extreme. The renovation of Place Leon Aucoc in Bordeaux (1996) by Lacaton & Vassal is perhaps the most well-known of architectural articulations of passivity. It points to the radical implications of a seemingly passive act of not doing anything. Through such an articulation of “Bartlebian act” the project becomes disruptive towards the established ways the architectural profession, economy and society function. It counters the intuitive conviction that only an activity can be a force of change. In contemporary world of commanded pseudo-activities (Žižek, 2010) that only mask the constant sameness of the underlying structure it is precisely such an articulation of an architectural statement “I would prefer not to” that may open the gap for something unknown. The renovation of the square consisted of precise instructions for keeping the place exactly as it. This architectural Bartlebian act radically transformed it from something to be developed into a sustained state of an already existing reality, discarding the supposed potentialities of the future.
Miloš Kosec is an architect, editor and publicist. He graduated from Faculty of Architecture of Ljubljana University, Slovenia, in 2013 with the Master’s thesis ‘Ruin as an Architectural Object’, for which he received Plečnik and Prešeren awards. The thesis was published as a book in 2013. He is a member of the editorial boards of Praznine, Journal for Architecture, Art and Spatial Culture (Ljubljana) and Outsider Magazine (Ljubljana – Vienna).