Ramia Mazé presents at 'Architecture in Effect'!

10 February, 2013 - 13:00

'Architecture in Effect' is a symposium held at the Umeå School of Architecture on Feb 6-8. In the symposium track themed 'The Politics of Things', Ramia Mazé presented a paper entitled "Design Practices and the Micropolitics of Sustainability", and she moderated a session in the track 'Towards New Subjectivities'.


Design is increasingly taking on roles in sustainable development – and, thus, in its politics. At the macropolitical level, design may be commissioned for the UN Environment Program, a Green Party, or grassroots political action; by companies implementing corporate social responsibility, product developers applying environmental certification standards, or cities implementing Rio Local Agenda programs. Micropolitical roles of design, the focus here, involve instituting discourses and practices of sustainability deeply in the everyday life of consumers and citizens. Embedded in the intimate spaces and embodied routines of everyday life, design mediates access to and control over resources, and it shapes how people identify and comply with particular ideals and ways of living.

Here, I evoke two general areas in which the design role is growing – ‘sustainable consumption’ and ‘sustainable communities’. In these roles, design is engaged in mediating how and by whom resources are accessed and controlled, and which or whose interests are made visible in sustainable development. Design represents ideals and (re)produces behaviors that become ‘normalized’ into bodily and social practices. In selecting and staging particular forms of relation within households and communities, design is part of (de)constructing social norms and ‘life models’ in society. Design is thus complicit in how sustainability is formulated, by, and for whom it becomes practiced, normalized, and institutionalized.

This is my basic argument here, and I will delve into this by posing a series of questions, inspired by political philosophy and critical theory, that I use to reflect upon a series of design examples. Posed in terms of  ‘we’ and ‘other’ relations, the questions highlight how design takes part in the (re)production of social order. These questions frame my retrospective reflections on two practice-based research projects in which I’ve participated (Static! and Switch!, at the Interactive Institute). To delve further into these questions, I also point to further design examples – by the New Beauty Council and EcoBox by atelier d’architecture autogerée – as featured in DESIGN ACT (Ericson and Mazé, eds, Berlin: Iaspis / Sternberg Press, 2010).

ABout the symposium

Architecture in Effect, hosted at KTH School of Architecture, accentuates a critical understanding of the built environment and its societal context. It assembles a core group of researchers in architecture, societal planning, urbanism, landscape and philosophy from nine Swedish universities and institutions, and engages a team of international advisors based across American and European univeristies. Architecture in Effect is a strong research environment in architecture theory and methodology funded by The Swedish Research Council Formas.

Photo (above) of the panel discussion concluding Architecture in Effect on Feb 8.




The symposium reader