Fluidity: Space, Agency and Order

By Nana Last.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

An ever increasing number of urban and architectural projects are associated with the concept of flow. Yet, the use of “flow” remains ambiguous. To begin with, what is it that flows? Is it the material or the inhabitants? Is it that which structures space or the space itself? Or is it the experience of the space? Do the structures form flows, or do they form channels or markers of flows? And, what relation do these ambiguities bear to the construct itself?

This paper explores these questions by laying out interrelations between space, agency and order and flow. Specifically, it examines flow in relation to the dismantling of defining dichotomies, the development of spatial formations under modernism and post modernism and how flow’s operations relate to issues of free speech and agency. This questioning is shown to enlighten, not simply what flow means for architecture and urbanism, but imperatives emanating from flow’s spatiality. Its goal is to examine flow’s formal aspects in relation to its socio-epistemological ones.

To accomplish these goals, the paper discusses the construct of flow in relation to the development of spatial imagery emerging with the theorization of the masses and mass culture. Flow is seen as a central concept in this in both its modernist and postmodern incarnations. Flow is also shown to be associated with specific social purposes, notably, that of smooth functioning in accord with certain principles - some of which are manifest and others, effaced or blanketed over through flow’s operations.

The paper concludes by looking at the possibilities stemming from relations between flow and newly emergent types of formalism that allow flow to be poised between that which smoothes over dichotomies, mediums and other distinctions while opening up interactions with the wider social spheres implied by and through its constructs and operations.

Keywords: Fluidity, Flow, Space, Agency, Order, Formalism

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.75-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 574.929KB).

Nana Last

Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, University Of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Nana Last is Associate Professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Her book: Wittgenstein’s House: Language, Space and Architecture (2008) was published by Fordham University Press. She is currently completing a manuscript on the work of Thomas Struth and is continuing work on the topic of “fluidity”.