Revolution as the Moment of Silence. The Encounter of Formal and Informal and the Revolutionary Aesthetics

Sepideh Karami

Project Period:
Type: Affiliated PhD research
Program Area(s): Critical Historiography/Material Conditions


There is an urge of rethinking architecture in our segregated and fragmented cities all affected by capitalist space production, where informality is the flipside of exclusion and segregation. The urgency of the discussion does not end and is not limited within informality. However what counts is the encounter of and the relation between informal and formal worlds. There are forms of emancipation emerging in this encounter, and I believe practices of architecture can play a significant role in enhancing and mobilizing these emancipating potentials that exist between formal and informal.

Revolution is the vigorous infiltration of informal action to formal structure, an encounter of formal and informal without negating any side but transforming each side anew. It creates a space of “Andness” a space of encounter or the “spaces of silence” as Saskia Sassen calls it. Revolution is an unalloyed moment of encounter of the informal and formal. Hence, the revolutionary aesthetics can best describe the aesthetics of architecture in this context.

The very moment of revolution is an authentic model of the realized revolutionary aesthetics, which carry with itself, a robust body of emancipation, a collective imagination, a continued passion for change and a realization of the established impossibilities. It is a dialectical moment of tranquility and agitation, pause and movement. However, in pre-revolution phase the potential is not amounted to that authenticity or in post-revolution phase it starts to be trapped in neutralization and de-politicization.

The formal structures of modern cities according to Henri Lefebvre are the sites of the revolution. Without the formal structures, the revolution cannot be embodied in a robust body as such. There are many spaces in the city that have the potential of being used differently by people, by their everyday invention and informal action. During the revolution and through infiltration of informal, spaces of power could be de-territorialized and decolonized by a spontaneous participation and presence of people and these decolonized spaces are articulated through duration of action and movement to create chains of resistance and change. Decolonization and articulation of decolonized spaces are also becoming important in the revolutionary aesthetics; that is what can be extended and expanded through architecture aiming for enhancing emancipation in the encounter of formal and informal.

Recalling the Situationist architectural proposals, such as Fun Palace of Cedric Price, there has been a vast effort before for creating such architecture; however all those exciting ideas stayed to a great extent unrealized. The automatic decolonization of space by the informal flows or actions can be a base for decolonizing architecture that enhances the potential of informality. Here the question is how can the aesthetics of revolution be applied in architecture? How the moment of revolution can be expanded by architecture, and how architecture performs through the processes of decolonization and articulation to create continuous conditions of encounter, exchange and dialogue between social classes?

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