After Empirical
February 27-28
230 College St. Toronto

Session 4
Saturday February 28, 1:30 PM

Fictions Of The Ordinary

Tobias Armborst - Vassar College
Marshall Brown - Illinois Institute of Technology
Alex Lehnerer - Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
+Michael Piper - moderator - University of Toronto

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown presented their studies of Las Vegas and Levittown as an effort to “withhold judgement” of the commercially produced American city to identify new potential in a very particular, ordinary, everyday urbanism. Through both their analysis and design proposals, they sought to demonstrate how the architecture of the strip and subdivision could perform as a system of communication: engaging popular sentiment and the new subjectivities produced by the widespread use of the automobile. Proponents of ‘Everyday Urbanism’ have continued to “look at the city”, finding – for example – expressions of public life within the quotidian commercial space of garage sales and street vending in Los Angeles. Incorporating technics from ethnography and other fields of research, these urbanists have opened up a broad spectrum of the built environment to study. Yet, the very choice of which particular as-found conditions to focus on – and their curation for analysis – constitutes a mode of judgment, or a critical lens.

Recently scholars have developed analytical techniques that more explicitly reframe the ordinary through the subjectivity of such lenses. Some urbanists create fictional narratives of existing everyday space, while others locate alternative urban visions within popular media. Amongst practitioners, some have developed design methods that exaggerate the ordinary as a method of invention. For this Panel, we are seeking to present work in this field and to turn a critical eye toward the problems and potentials of accepting fiction as an operative aspect of analysis and story telling as a mode of design.