epresentation they also organize and influence very concretely how legislative bodies work. The 13th edition of The Art of Assembly looks at how architecture shapes decision-making – and at what alternatives there might be. David Mulder van der Vegt, who has researched the design of the parliament halls of all 193 member states of the United Nations, reflects on the correspondence between their layout and the type of democratic structure they represent; Markus Miessen proposes the concept of “crossbenching” as a practice of independent individuals acting without mandate, and without having to respond to a pre-supposed set of protocols or consensual arrangements.
Parliament is the space where politics literally takes shape. Here, collective decisions take form in a specific setting that organizes relationships between political actors through architecture. The architecture of spaces of political congregation is not just an abstract expression of a political culture – it participates in politics. Since 2010, architecture office XML has explored the double-sided relationship between space and politics in a series of projects, ranging from art installations, and research, to an interior for a meeting hall of European government leaders in Brussels. In 2016, the office published the book PARLIAMENT, that documents and compares the plenary halls of the parliaments of all 193 United Nation member states. Looking closer at the settings of these deliberative spaces and exploring their tactile and symbolic meaning, also raises questions about the ability of political spaces to envelop collective-decision-making for the specific challenges of today. Parliaments seem to be merely expressions of the past that anchor the political status quo. What role can architecture play in rethinking our models of collectivity? Can the architecture of parliaments provoke another politics? Comparing settings between East and West, North and South, democratic and authoritarian regimes, allows looking at national assemblies as more than mere ornamental and symbolic representations of national values, taking them seriously as actors in the shaping of future times.
“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.
Hospitality – with all its seeming generosity – is a complex concept: Who is invited into our societies, our assemblies? What are the relationships between guests and hosts? Is unconditional hospitality possible? The architecture of public space, the infrastructures of coming together, the borders and thresholds around them inform how we come together, what is prevented from happening, what is possible. The 11th edition of The Art of Assembly looks at the physical relations of gatherings, how bodies and objects are organised, how radical concepts of democracy can be represented in space. Architect and researcher Merve Bedir since long researches infrastructures of hospitality and mobility as well of the residue of solidarity in urban and public space. For raumlabor architecture is a tool, in search for a city of possibilities, considering themselves activists, operating within the urban landscape. And for architect and scholar Marina Otero Verzier is concerned with how the work of architects, in coordination with other social and institutional techniques, produces differential spaces that either facilitate or prevent their encounter of bodies.
Hospitality is first and foremost a social practice and can be situated in any place and become manifest in many ways. Hospitality is a design factor for buildings with rapidly decreasing relevance. Security, commercial value and hygienic measures are becoming the ruling flavours of our time. Many buildings that are designated to perform hospitality such as hospitals, airports, welcome centers, border posts, fair grounds, stadiums, governmental institutions or climate summit halls fail completely in this respect. We are surrounded by the multiplication of growing fortresses that strive to protect us from the rest of the world and the rest of the world from us. We can only steer against this trend if we make hospitality a spacial practice.
Architecture, as a biopolitical and normalizing technique, participates in constructing distinctions and categories. The work of architects oozes Cartesianism. It produces differential social spaces that either facilitate or prevent their encounter of bodies and their movement. For the work of architects often involves drawing abstract, assertive lines that define insides, outsides, ups and downs. Lines that support historical forms of exclusion, and discrimination. Yet, these capabilities, I would argue, could also be deployed to dismantle the boundaries that currently define, enclose, and exploit the world and the common interest; the boundaries on compassion; the compartmentalization and instrumentalization of relations. This, in turn, requires imagining other architectures to come. A non-Cartesian architecture that might not be designed to quantify, control, categorize. An architecture difficult to describe under dual categories. An architecture for the encounter and assemblage between animals, humans, plants, machinic and inanimate beings. An architecture of radical hospitality.