what is alternative practice trying to achieve?

13 October, 2006

I was wondering yesterday whether alternative practice may be defined by what it is trying to acheive… IYO have spoken about techniques and whether a certain methodology or trait is alternative… and perhaps as kenji points out this is fluid, but maybe there is some continuous thread within the aims of alternative practice…
When I was ‘infiltrating’ the Accrington Live project group yesterday, I discovered that like us they were using a number of devices/ situations to interact with all of the people whom they had made contact with or were yet to make contact with in Accrington… (they were hoping to be in the paper, speak on the radio, attend the plasterers’ college prize giving, have a holloween market stall etc etc) and perhaps if we named these methodologies and what they were hoping to achieve from each one we may get an idea of what alternative practice was interested in as a subject and what it was trying to do… Carolyn (Butterworth, their tutor) spoke of making the richness of Accy visible to itself, not to outside investors like the grand regeneration development plans… each student in the live project meeting had stories of Accy to tell and discoveries about triumphs and humourous interactions that they were delighted by… it is perhaps finding a forum to ‘make things public’ as Bruno Latour may say…
But in doing this the contradictions between each of these aspects of a town must be explored…. Julia Thorne and Anne Dwyer point out in their evaluation of Matirx (a feminist collective, consisting of architects, builders, artists and designers) that it was always unhappy with terms such as ‘equlity’. They sought to explore ‘difference’ as a reality and a creative force rather than form an unhappy consensus that attempted to make eveyone the same. Perhaps alternative practice may be attemtping to make public invisible people’s concerns and desires and rather than solve pragmatic problems…

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7 Responses to “what is alternative practice trying to achieve?”

  1. paulbower Says:

    I think that last sentence is crucial. Perhaps it’s a ‘heart and mind’ thing (in the words of Alan Simpson, former member of ‘Yorkshire Forward’) that deals with, as you say ‘invisible’ concerns and desires.

    Although this is not to dismiss the place/importance of the built architecture (environment), but to provide a soul/spirit into the output of an architectural practice.

    Therefore alternative practice is holistic

  2. Matt Plummer Says:

    I think this is an extremely important angle on the discussion, because the built environment can only provide the settings for human interactions, rather than the interactions between architecture and people being the priority (which Prof. Bryan Lawson argues is a predominant concern for the majority of ‘typical’ architects – Bryan Lawson, ‘The Language of Space’).

    In this thread, therefore, alternative practice can be seen as a process of acknowledging this condition and readdressing the priorities of the concern of the public over those of the ‘typical’ architect and their value systems.

  3. Zoeeee Says:

    In this case, would alternative practice just be as simple as a mid-stage process between normal users and professionals? Loads of thoughts, researches and experiements.

    Process Alternative practice
    Product: Traditional practice
    Performance Feedback

  4. paula sharratt Says:

    I think Alternative Practice must be something to do with the unmapped value of people, a professionalism that is deft and intuitive, disinterested yet connected to the possibilities of people and places.

    Alternative Practice really means what it says and really believes that people have similar gifts, possibilities and creativities. Good luck with your thinking!

    PS I never knew that there was such a subject as architectural psychology………….

  5. Jessica Baily Says:

    As someone who doesn’t know much about architecture, I was in a way surprised that this approach is called ‘alternative’ practice. My first thought was, ‘why isn’t all architecture like this?’. I guess the answer is probably something to do with money. But the alternative approach seems to parallel a lot of developments in other fields (e.g. healthcare) to do with user involvement and representation, so maybe our society is moving that way in general…??? What really impressed me was the creativity of this approach. I don’t know if that’s just because architects are creative people! I suppose that creativity is part of your job.

    Keep up the good work! I’m glad that 5/6/7 years of intensive studying and working haven’t dampened your spirits!

  6. Jessica Baily Says:

    Sorry, I know I didn’t really reply to the question under discussion. I just wanted to have my say!


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