In parallel to Foucault I have been reading a text by Teresa Hoskyns from the book Making Things Public, Atmospheres of Democracy (p798). This large book investigates how democracy manifests outside of the general political sphere. In her text Designing the Agon, Teresa is interested in spatial politics. Her assumption is that space can reflect social relations but in turn it can determine them. With that in mind, determining what the European parliament should look like is both a political and spatial question.

 

Both she and Chantal Mouffe agree that a space for democracy must allow balanced conflict and struggle. (So called agon, from ancient Greek). Agon in spatial terms is a space that allows for a plurality of democratic discourses to exist and debate equally.  She proposes the stadium arguing that ovals have two focal points allowing two groups to exist in two distinct spaces. She criticises the EU parliament for being round; one focal point evokes an idea of consensus, universal values (this was the intention in the construction), which in her opinion is the opposite of constructive debate. She even points out that all the clashes rather take place during summits instead of the parliament. She upholds the British parliament in example for its dynamic front and back benching system which allows you to demonstrate your positioning in the debate. Frontbenchers from both sides form a central consensus and backbenchers voice their reservations.

 

Later on, she evokes the idea that indeterminate spaces favour agonism. They allow a shift in political structures because the space can be repurposed. Quoting the architect Tschumi she defends the view that “defining space architecturally is to determine spatial boundaries.” Embedding ideologies from the current power structure sets it in stone (literally) project the image of authority. Building on this she proposes a world parliament could look like a set of identical buildings (one for each country) positioned in a circle.

 

After reflecting on this I tried to make an initial taxonomy of power ideologies based on spatial organisation.

Top-Down Democratic
Politics Consensus, one unique idea

Opaque, decision making removed from the public

Showcase acts of generosity and punishments

Authoritative

Efficiency

 

 

Plurality of discourses

Elections, public debates

Harder to identify ruling class

Flexible and adaptable

Diversity

Taxonomy  

 

Main entrance

Circular

Imposing façade, High

Obvious surveillance devices

Central open areas

Large corridors or roads

Central alleys

Mostly off limit premises, outside space for demonstration to public

Solid

Determined space

Multiple entrances

Oval

Equal sized units

Windows

Several rooms

Thin corridors

Multiple pathways

Large open spaces

Temporary

Indeterminate space

Examples  

 

Prisons

EU parliament

Castles

Highways

Tall buildings

Shopping centres

Courtrooms

Schools

Market

UK House of commons

Stadium

Transit stations

Here is an attempt a visualising it

Agonistic Architecture 2