Architecture and Politics: The Ideology of Consensus Versus the Reality of Dissensus

by

Alice Finichiu

&

Augustin Schoenmaeckers

Keywords

  • politics in architecture
  • the political
  • police
  • post-politics

This article argues that architecture, by its essence – designing the spaces where life can take place – has always thought in political terms, while political theory always thought in spatial terms. But what means thinking in political and spatial terms?

The political strategies of architects have always been diverse, although how the architecture that results is political is a separate question. Those who entered the workplace after 2008 have found themselves in an era of austerity, and without very much opportunity for agency. This can explain the popularity of “the local,” “the participatory design” or “community” architecture, which takes as its subject the politics of the small group. At the other end of the spectrum, there is a completely different dynamic to projects like Grand Paris or Brussels 2040, which we could also call an engagement with the political.

This distinction, between politics (non-institutional engagement) and the political (the democratic attempt at consensus), is central in political theory (Arendt, Freund, Rancière, Mouffe, Laclau, Žižek, Badiou) and will be the main argument for the paradox of politics in architecture, that we would like to point out: as a a profession, with its division of labor, and with its own presentation in the public sphere, architecture is a tool for the expression of hegemonic orders (that is, authority structures) – the ideology of consensus – as a praxis – action oriented towards changing society – architecture can disrupts a predefined order and make visible that which is not perceivable – the reality of dissensus.