“Crossbenching” is a practice of individuals acting without mandate, a conceptual frame that he generated out of the necessity to come to terms with a critique regarding normative forms of participation. His work as an architect has interrogated everyday spaces for pluralist governance and the spatial choreographies of how to set a setting. Crossbenching, as a practice, acknowledges the critical importance of social gathering based on the performative, the choreographic, and space as its mobilizing agent: the potential to think the question of democratic becoming through the physical scale (and design) of assembly. By presenting friction as a productive variable, he emphasises the emancipatory potential of architecture and design as a tool to shape what he calls “Cultures of Assembly”, a democratic setting, which is highly choreographed, while dealing with questions of physical proximity and accountability generating productive friction between its oppositional bodies. In a Mouffian sense, this produces a space for choreographed agonistic debate. Here, architecture and design become an enabler: both in terms of how an audience may react to it, but also in terms of how a setting influences the way its members talk to each other, and the way in which they interact. This is not to be mistaken with a form of social engineering. But rather: the power of the object.
Markus Miessen is an architect, writer, director of Studio Miessen, and Professor at the University of Luxembourg, where he holds the Chair of Urban Regeneration. He received his PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, London, supervised by Eyal Weizman. His work revolves around questions of critical spatial practice, institution building, and spatial politics. Miessen has previously taught at the Architectural Association (London), and has been a Harvard Fellow. Most recently, he has held a Stiftungsprofessur for Critical Spatial Practice at the Städelschule (Frankfurt) and was Distinguished Professor of Practice at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles). Amongst many other books and writings, Miessen is the author of The Nightmare of Participation and Crossbenching: Towards Participation as Critical Spatial Practice, both Sternberg Press and Merve Verlag, Berlin. Together with Nikolaus Hirsch, he is the editor of the Critical Spatial Practice book series.