Situated knowledges and the science question in architecture and urban design

Katja Grillner

Project Period: 2013-2014
Type: Senior Research Project
Program Area(s): Critical Projections/Material Conditions


In her 1988 article, ‘Situated Knowledges’, Donna Haraway calls for a ‘doctrine of embodied objectivity’, where ‘objectivity turns out to be about particular and specific embodiment /. . ./ Feminist objectivity’, she continues, ‘is about limited location and situated knowledge, not about transcendence and splitting of subject and object’ . We need to move, she argues, beyond those simple dichotomies and understand that empirical knowledge is objective even though it is always situated and embodied. With this view, it is possible to build up objective knowledge on real conditions and to act on this information. Here our concern is primarily with place and spatial transformation. What does it mean to know a place, and who is expected to act on such knowledge? Using Haraway’s notion of situated knowledges provides an opportunity to frame epistemologically what is at stake in conflictual cases of urban transformation.

The project will in particular study the case of western Rosenlundsparken in Stockholm where a planning process is currently on-going involving a housing development on park land and the construction of a new street running through the park. The case has been studied as a research, mapping and design project that concerns this particular site and situation in the midst of urban transformation and gentrification taking place in central Stockholm. Laying out preliminary facts and developing narratives of power and resistance, framed epistemologically through Donna Haraway’s notion of ’situated knowledges’, Rosi Braidotti’s ’nomadic subject,’ and Graham-Gibson’s feminist ’project of belonging’, the project aims at disclosing competing notions of what is perceived to be at stake. What specific values are described as being ‘under threat’ or ‘about to be developed’?

On what grounds, and in whose interests, are these arguments put forward? On a more general level the research project seeks to contribute to an expanded epistemological view on architecture and urban design practice and research in particular relation to questions of siting, place-production and urban transformation. Developing a critique visavi current practices the project wishes to contribute to this field with enhanced conceptual clarity concerning the nature of 'knowledge ground' in relation to architectural projections of possible futures for specific sites and situations.

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