Autonomy and the socialisation of architects

Imrie, Rob and Street, Emma. 2014. Autonomy and the socialisation of architects. The Journal of Architecture, 19(5), pp. 723-739. ISSN 1360-2365 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The socio-cultural production of architects’ identities, and their professional personas, is a lively source of continuing debate. At one extreme, there is the claim to autonomy that highlights the distinctiveness of architecture and its cultural and disciplinary specificity. This view is challenged by those who emphasise architects’ dependence, for acting and actions, on their embeddedness into collective, social, settings and relationships. In the paper, we consider what it may mean to be ‘autonomous of’ and ‘dependent on’ in relation to the actions of architects. There is limited specification in architectural writings about what autonomy and dependence are, and we suggest that there is a need not to discount such terms, but to reformulate them by recognising that the socially constructed self is an integral part of individual action. In this respect, we seek to amplify, and evaluate, the concept of relational autonomy that distances the notion of autonomy from individualistic, under-socialised, accounts of architects and their practices. Referring to three empirical examples of practice, we amplify this understanding by, firstly, outlining what a relational autonomous approach to architecture might entail, and, secondly, assessing how far it may enable a conception of the practices of architects in ways whereby, following Tony Fry’s observations, they are conceived as much broader than ‘the specificity of any particular activity’ that expresses their existence.

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Rob Imrie would like to thank the British Academy for funding his research about Frank Lloyd Wright, and providing the means to access resources from the Getty Research Institute (project reference SG-101364). In addition, funding from the European Union, for a European Research Council (ERC) project about universalism and universal design, enabled us to access relevant readings and materials to develop key arguments in the paper (grant agreement number 323777).

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23 October 2014Published

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24 Oct 2014 12:07

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2017 09:37

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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