Transgressing boundaries: UWE academics edit special issue of Architectural Design

Issue date: 17 December 2013


Jonathan Mosley and Rachel Sara

Jonathan Mosley and Rachel Sara from UWE Bristol have guest-edited a special issue of Architectural Design, devoted to re-scoping the field of architecture through examining where architecture's limits are transgressed and how the discipline is currently evolving.

The journal issue includes essays by an international line-up of academics and practitioners including the editors and fellow staff members David Littlefield and Louis Rice from UWE's Department of Architecture and the Built Environment.

Architectural Design presents special issues on themes of contemporary significance and the issue on Transgression pushes at the boundaries of what architecture is and what it could or should be. Its influence is global with a worldwide print circulation of 10,000 and article downloads in greater numbers.

The concept of 'transgression' was first used in an architectural context by New York based architect, Bernard Tschumi in his essay 'Architecture and Transgression' (1976). He identified transgressive architecture as producing a paradoxical co-existence of both mental and sensory experiences.

Rachel Sara said, “Tschumi was particularly interested in the spaces created by architecture. He was as interested by what happens in these spaces as by the architect that designed their form.

“The group of researchers at UWE interested in transgression are looking at who is breaking rules, who is at the cutting edge of architecture, who are asking questions – these are often the people who are the innovators.

“Some of the trends underpinning this are quite political – for example the 'occupy' movement, which made visible the way in which space can be used as a political tool.”

Mosley and Sara write in their introduction to the journal, “The current economic crisis and accompanying political and social unrest have exacerbated the difficulty into which architecture has long been sliding. Challenged by other professions and a culture of conservatism, architecture is in danger of losing its status as one of the pre-eminent visual arts.

“Transgression opens up new possibilities for practice. It highlights the positive impact that working on the architectural periphery can make on the mainstream. Transgressive practices have the potential to reinvent and reposition the architectural profession, whether by subverting notions of progress, questioning roles and mechanisms of production, aligning with political activism, pioneering urban interventions, advocating informal or incomplete development, actively destabilising environments or breaking barriers of taste.”

The group also organised the 10th International conference on behalf of the Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) on the subject of transgression, which will be reported in a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Architecture and Culture on the theme of Transgression: Body and Space, and will form the basis of a new book edited by Louis Rice as part of the AHRA Critiques series.

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