• Making cultural infrastructure

Bingham-Hall, John and Kaasa, Adam, 2017, Printed Publication, Making cultural infrastructure

Abstract or Description:

Making Cultural Infrastructure starts from an argument that artistic cultures are produced in different modes, impacted in distinct ways by the conditions created by the city. Typologies, networks, economies and infrastructural conditions of urban space create sets of possibilities and constraints that affect the way artists work, and thus the kind of public cultural realm that the city can support.. To examine this argument, the report is divided into three sections: Inhabiting Cultural Infrastructure; Designing Cultural Infrastructure; and Conceptualising Cultural Infrastructure.

Inhabiting Cultural Infrastructure investigates three distinct realms of artistic and cultural production: performative, material, and virtual. The research brought together three workshops each convening a set of practitioners defined primarily by one of these modes of work. The focus was on the spatial or infrastructural settings in which the labour of production and development itself takes place, though evidently public-facing institutions featured as far as they are elements in shaping the experience of this labour, and a public language of value. Three sets of conditions affecting the use of production spaces are identified. Firstly, the importance of the immediate architectural qualities of spaces for artistic production. By this we mean whether spaces are visible or audible to or from the public realm; the degree to which spaces can be made messy and inhabited with a personal archive from which to work; and, if in
these spaces people work alongside or separate from one another. These kinds of qualities are described as the material conditions of cultural infrastructure, and often remain invisible in city-wide strategies that guide the geographical conditions of new production spaces through distributional planning. Material conditions of artistic production spaces are key to the kind of work they can support, and could hypothetically be guided through planning conditions for
cultural infrastructure. Secondly, attention was drawn to the conditions around spaces for artistic production. Conditions such as whether their immediate urban environments are noisy and messy or quiet and sanitised; the density and typology of other nearby commercial and cultural activities; and how they relate to other infrastructures such as housing or transport. These are described as ecological conditions, relating to the way cultural production is understood to be part of and reliant on a network of flows of materials, people, and activities in the city. Finally, the issue was raised of thinking about the way ideals and regulations are applied to spaces for cultural production, in terms of labour protections or minimum pay. The shaping of these immaterial conditions relate to the role applied to cultural production at a societal level: whether it is seen as a professional or an amateur activity, for example. Together,nthe workshops demonstrated the necessity to think about the relationships between these sets of conditions when positioning cultural infrastructure as a political and planning
priority in the city.

Designing Cultural Infrastructure centres on four hypothetical propositions put forward respectively by the architecture practices Assemble, DSDHA, We Made That, and Haworth Tompkins. We challenged each practice to propose a design approach to cultural infrastructure in response to the evidence-based working paper emerging from the workshops. Overwhelmingly, their tactics were to create planning guidelines or strategies that could play out across the city, rather than to focus on specific forms of space or architecture. For example, one proposition suggested a required 10% redundant, unprogrammed space in all new buildings over a certain size. This slack space could allow for multiple kinds of unforeseen cultural production to take place alongside the intended uses of those buildings, which in turn could shape the particular material and ecological conditions created by those uses. We argue that a non-performative cultural urbanism increases the possibility for artistic creation without mobilising its products for the kind of culture-led placemaking that has been associated with some of the destructive aspects of urban regeneration.

A Language for Cultural Infrastructure builds a framework from the issues raised in Inhabiting Cultural Infrastructure and responded to in Designing Cultural Infrastructure. It intends to stimulate critical thinking in design and planning strategies supporting cultural production. We argue that conversations around the way infrastructure is provided need a diversified terminology to account for the implications of the social, cultural, and political conditions created by different conditions brought about through design and planning. We propose four broad concepts that contain within them productive tensions. Value refers to whether cultural production is seen as craft or labour. Stability highlights the degree to which infrastructures are temporary or permanent. Determinacy asks whether infrastructures are adapted from found space or purpose-built. Visibility addresses the level of publicness or privacy that cultural
production operates within. The way each of these tensions is managed within the provision of cultural infrastructure suggests different design strategies, and has different implications for the kinds of political, economic, and social conditions it creates.

Official URL: https://theatrum-mundi.org/wp-content/uploads/2017...
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Architecture
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2020 17:06
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2020 17:06
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4614
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