Inner Worlds: The Politics of Affect

Project Description

This project explores the potential of affective design to disrupt and alter the feeling of an existing space. Walter Benjamin said of architecture that “it has always represented the prototype of a work of art the reception of which is consummated by a collectivity in a state of distraction”. He did not mean this to detract from architecture, far from it: “A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it. In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art.” Architecture has this distinct power, precisely because it can insinuate itself into, and hence shape, the being of those who use it without requiring their conscious attention. Through this project I sought to establish specific affective devices and a theoretical framework to understand their operation on the subject.

The site is an underpass in London, below a busy road, that connects two neighborhoods and provides a shortcut along the route to the local tube station. The space is cold, lit by a dirty greyish light, and promotes a sense of suspicion and unease between those who use it. The insertion of a soft topographical form manipulates the ‘social field’ of the space, gently pushing people together at a compression point, forcing some interaction even if fleeting. This modulation of a space that was previously undifferentiated and purely one directional, also alters the perception of time as one moves through it, creating a liminal moment. Along the edge, heating elements replace the lights, with the temperature peaking at the moment of compression. Hence, those passing each other at this pinch point are literally warmed and perhaps also metaphorically ‘warmed’ towards each other. The sense of the space is quite dramatically altered through minimal means.