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Situated Freedom

Exploring the Aesthetic Practice of Rem Koolhaas/OMA

Time: Fri 2023-06-09 13.00

Location: Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, Stockholm

Video link:

Language: English

Subject area: Architecture, History and Theory of Architecture

Doctoral student: Katja Hogenboom , Arkitekturens historia och teori, History and Theory in Architecture

Opponent: professor Robert Somol, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA.

Supervisor: Professor Helena Mattsson, Arkitekturens historia och teori; Professor Sven-Olov Wallenstein, Södertörn University, Stockholm.; Docent Helene Frichot, Melbourne School of Design, Melbourne, AUS.

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QC 20230516


The thesis advocates that architecture can, as an operative medium, situate freedom. Following the work of Michel Foucault, the thesis develops an argument for an emancipatory endeavor, termed “situated freedom in architecture.” Acknowledging the contingency that can be located within power relations, situated freedom works with the positive and constitutive character of power as it shapes how we can be free (and unfree) in particular situations. To exemplify this approach within architecture practice, the thesis looks at the aesthetic practice of Rem Koolhaas/OMA. The research question asked is: How can architecture, as an aesthetic practice, through its own zone of competence, and by means of a singular, situated project, establish an emancipatory endeavor that is oriented towards enrichment, fulfillment, and joy. In responding to this question, the research analyzes three projects—a private pool (Villa dall’Ava), a media building (China Central Television Headquarters), and a public library (Seattle Public Library)—in three different situations. Through “fabulation” (Deleuze & Guattari) and the use of a “messy method” (Law) the thesis draws on multiple disciplines, such as art, film theory, theatre, architecture, and philosophy. The thesis’s methodology mobilizes a reading of architecture that traces the aesthetic strategies employed in the analyzed projects. Exploring the practice of Koolhaas/OMA offers insights into projective approaches in architecture and situates their work in a new context. The thesis aims to develop an understanding of architecture as an emancipatory endeavor of human wellbeing, enrichment, and joy within the complexity of the present reality.