University Of Tasmania
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Contesting Design in the General Terrain of Contemporary Public Space

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conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 04:48 authored by Loo, S
Public spaces in the age of speculative capital have been described as extraterritorial and a-contextual as they arguably suspend or make unavailable communal life. Precincts of generic architecture can be described as places in which the socio-political system of the nation/state cannot fully mediate and transform extant life into local sovereign sense. The ontological constitution of the modern subject is marked by an Agambenian indistinction between the imperative to act according to the sovereign norms, and the radical potentiality not to (be or act). This paper investigates the implications of indistinct belonging to contemporary cities for design as an act of resistance. Using the work of Italian political militant and philosopher Paolo Virno on the relations between potential and act, the paper draws a diagram of design which is not an actualization of potential (say the material appearance of generic forms of architecture as testament to the constituent power of the general public), given by historical contingency (say the codes, legislations and normalisations that are in force owing to the constituted power of the sovereign). Rather, to Virno, the historical is given by a relation, postured in time, between potential as an unactualisable permanent not-now, and the act which is altogether incommensurable with potentiality. Virno's reading unleashes a negativity that cannot be absorbed by the synthesising capacity of the dialectic.


Publication title

Contested Terrains (SAHANZ 2006)




Terrance Mc Minn, Dr John Stephens, Dr Steve Basson






School of Architecture and Design


The Society of Architectural Historians

Place of publication

Fremantle, WA

Event title

Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) Annual Conference

Event Venue

Fremantle, WA

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Rights statement

© Society of Architectural Historiansl Australia New Zealand 2006

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in built environment and design

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