Through this project we aim to investigate the spatial representations, practices and experiences of hostile environments in higher education, including but also going beyond the widely discredited but prevailing government policy of hostility towards people deemed to be undesirable immigrants to the UK. Back when we first planned the project, we wanted to create collective ‘readings’ of experiences of hostility in institutional cultures and practices, and we wanted the collective nature of these ‘readings’ to also form an act of ‘public hearing’ - bringing these hostilities to the fore, enacting a different politics in the process, and providing space for an imaginary of how things may be constructed otherwise. This aim linked in with the purpose of our previous events and actions within the Bartlett, which questioned isolationist, individualising working and teaching practices, have sought to understand the university’s complicity as an arm of the state’s violent, racist bordering practices, and enacted and celebrated alternatives, always and already present.
When COVID hit, our plans changed. Instead of hosting events and interventions at institutions, we are publishing these ‘readings’ on the BREAK//LINE website. We hope that this collection will allow for the expression of experiences and a collective form of listening. We hope to build an analysis of the current state of affairs; of the failings of institutions; of sites and practices which must be dismantled; and of existing, nascent and yet-to-be-realised modes which should be celebrated, supported, and imagined. Following K Punk and Ursula K Le Guin, we believe architectural education must be as much about unbuilding as building.
This project seeks to attend to the wealth of knowledge held in the moment when eyes catch, in lived, bodily experience, in intakes of breath and in ambitions for alternative presents. UNBUILDING is active and activated. It will not disappear into an end-of-year-report. Following Rosalba Icaza and Rolando Vásquez’s work at the University of Amsterdam, we seek to attend not only to who is at the university but also the what and how of university practices, ‘governance structures, emotions and life experiences, and ways of teaching and learning’.
This project is further informed by Sara Ahmed’s research into diversity practitioners and on complaint; Lola Olufemi, Odelia Younge, Waithera Sebatindira, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan’s A FLY Girl’s Guide To University; Ahmet Ögüt’s Silent University; Precarious Workers Brigade’s Training for Exploitation handbook, and Michael Kennedy’s Affordability Study at Central St Martins. It draws inspiration from the Graduate School of Architecture’s ‘Transformative Pedagogies’ teaching and research program, Jacob V Joyce’s participatory public-facing workshops ‘Decolonising Drawing’, the ’Queer Anarchy Summer School’ and STORE’s program of educational courses as socially engaged design practice.
This project has received funding from the Bartlett Faculty for Built Environment, UCL.