As someone who comes out of an agit-prop tradition, I use photography, collage, drawing, and mapping, as elements of a critical urban practice. The work that comes out of this practice occupies the intersection between documentary and aesthetic impulses, and in doing so it is neither real nor beautiful, but something else.  That ‘something else’ changes from time to time, but might best be described as a trace of something left behind as a condition of living in the city. Ultimately, since the whole of the city is unknowable, I look for it through its traces: the signals, noises, layers, jagged edges, soft wares, connective tissues, ghosts, hoaxes, fetishes, archives, dreams, and buried treasures that tell us something about the ‘urban.’

Our bachelor students, despite being trained as architects and urban designers, are educated within a more traditional design-engineering mindset. Most teachings are thus based on a systematic-analytical approach and a natural scientific world view, where design projects are informed by empirical data collection and thorough documentation based on metrical measurements, statistical significance, digital simulation, and rigorousness.  We have challenged this traditional engineering practice by raising awareness of the poetic importance and creative value of more intangible and highly subjective qualities of architecture and urban space such as individual sensory perception, shifting emotion, pure fiction, and imagination.   

I would describe my practice as a research-based artistic and spatial practice. Through this practice I’ve been inspired by practices of site-writing, auto-theory and assemblage. I’ve adapted methods of site-writing in my work as a way to speak about my own situatedness and reflect on the importance of architecture to recognise the multiplicity of experiences and identities it holds. I hosted a Table Writing Workshop at NOGOODS in Bergen May 2022, where participants responded to prompts, focusing on kitchen and dining tables, memory, materiality, situatedness and experience of space. I’m interested in such assemblages of site-writing from multiple perspectives. 

Mais toujours et distinctivement je vois aussi La tache noire dans l’image... Yves Bonnefoy

For a long time a plant in my garden flowered beneath the hydrangea, spilling bright green leaves. I would cut the leaves back as soon as they arrived as they crowded and swamped the path. As much as the plant was reduced, it would spring back to life. After a while, I began to admire this persistence and discovered the plant was an Acanthus. The plant did not appear in my writing until, by chance, I came across a story that linked it to the stone carvings of flowers and leaves that often ornament architectural columns. Trees, leaves and stones were already in my writing so it seemed like a good idea to name the collection after a plant that despite effacement, did not want to go away.

An enduring line running through Acanthus is perhaps one that inevitably moves obliquely or sideways. Looking back now, many of the poems traverse the clarity of a dream-like state: diverting from an imaginary centre and meandering across strange ground. As with all poetry, fragments matter; figures and objects – as if on the level of the bee – are significant; unintelligible feelings turn into a blueprint language that errs and wanders in order to find a resting place. Nothing in the collection was fixed beforehand, you could say the writing took place in order to think a way through, think about certain things or events that at the time didn’t have any formal presence in my mind. The central question of the collection could be this inclination towards remembrance; a leaning inwards that – like Icarus – mirrors a leaning outwards, an imperfect zigzag between the reality of a leaf and its allegorical translation into stone.

If there is a context to the collection, then it would be a porous one involving authors I read; in many ways their work makes up the true sense of the writing. The untitled preface is a nod in this direction, to where on the edges something occurs almost out of the corner of one’s eye like an annotation; this insignificance is precious and full of life. As Marianne Moore said, ‘There must be edges’ and I think that these edges, very important to architecture as well, are such interesting places and form a touchstone for this collection; they are like a photograph, albeit on the negative side, where unexplained and forgotten things again find place, become clear and therefore on paper begin to happen.

The site visit is a crucial moment of contact in an architectural project, yet one that is usually cut short. By repeating, iterating, and elongating a visit, we start to linger. With the slow spatial practice of lingering, we allow the place to grow in our perception, in our descriptions – we transform a moment of contact into a place in itself. This can change and unfold unexpected insights, absurdities, and strangeness, which will in turn change our perception, and thus our interaction, and thus the place itself. A variety of writings constructs this site as a multi-perspectival narrative, a complex fabric, a polyrhythmic dance. For writing to be received and experienced – that is, to become architecture – it needs to be read. Every reading of this place elicits new encounters. Every reading iterates a construction.

I move between close and distant readings of the artefacts of our collective production and their environmental entanglements. Regenerative Spatial Dramaturgies (my PhD project) is part of a larger regenerative movement in practice based design research (see the statement of the RAAD research group –, that explores a fluidly organised and decentralised mode of knowledge production, embracing complexities of ‘intra-actions’ (Barad, 2007) instead of working from reduction and simplification in pursuit of objectified research data. Therefore I develop and implement interpretative research methods like scripting and scoring (and more specifically: auto-narrating, dialogue formats and performance scores) to track interdependencies between the involved human and other-than-human entities in my work. 

A book without a language as a sculpture unfolds the temporality of Grain and the materiality of the war condition, shaped by the earth. 

The unpleasant salty sea flavour, the fragrance of fresh earth and even the unspeakable smell of paper pulp might exude from pages as we read it. 

The book narrated by the earth reveals the potential of another archive. 

It addresses the scars remembered by the ground, that have not disappeared, merely become lighter, in the faded military landscape of the Isle of Grain here and now, and borderlands of somewhere from the future. 

Meanwhile, the project unfolds the multiplicities of sites of art between archive, sculpture, and book.

Writing about the site where Nam June Paik’s work was exhibited is the main structural element of the text work which has guided the spatial critique. I go into detail concerning how a particle of dust, travelling from the outer atmosphere ends up inside Paik’s work and this journey into the depths of the work, allowed me to deconstruct the site and to understand why there is no such thing as a completely empty space. 

The installation, to which the writing relates, is, on the other hand, intended to demonstrate this argument and to thus offer a critique on design practices which approach sites in a standard, neutral way, disregarding the ecological and thus interconnected character of any site. 

Throughout my artistic education and practice, my work has engaged critically with the spatial and temporal conditions of the urban encounter and their fragmentary, non-linear nature. This has manifested through situated, itinerant practices; publishing projects; sculptural interventions exploring the display of words and artefacts; and writing in relation to the material and architectural landscape, both real and imaginary. Most recently my work has focused on the porosity of human and non-human bodies in relation to the lands and waters they inhabit.

The propositions of both critical spatial practice and site-writing, and the lineage of practices that inform them, resonate strongly within my research, practice, and arts programming. They have influenced the development of my sense of positionality and helped me to conceptualise the different areas of my practice within a central critical engagement with social/environmental context, subjectivity, and narrative. The work I produced in the Critical Spatial Practice: Site Writing module marked for me a nourishing development of practice and an exploration of this practice as/in relation to research.

Charlotte A Morgan

Four Second Decay understands its work in a long line of practitioner researchers from Sappho and Shakespeare to Lorraine O’Grady and Bill T. Jones. Site-specific work includes two pieces made for Athens, Greece Green Park [] A free clinic by ‘The Centre for the Healing of Institutional Misery’ located in the balcony of the Café and in 2016 ‘Orfeo and Eurydice: How to Save Someone You Can’t See/Orfeo and Eurydice: Redistricting Hell’ a site-specific work in the park itself with G4S guards guarding Hell – in recognition of the Park as a refuge for those newly arrived and living on the streets of Athens.

Four-Second Decay

I denominate all my research practices ‘practices of very slow observation’ – practices that provide conditions for destabilizing perception instead of something to perceive. I develop my concept of ‘aesthetics’, and more particularly of ‘aesthetic action’ and ‘aesthetic research,’ as a specification of the concept of cognition as outlined in the enactivist approach. My main references in this regard are the work Francisco Varela and Evan Thompson but I refer as well, among others, to the work of Shaun Gallagher, Thomas Fuchs, Alva Noë and Ezequiel di Paolo. On this basis, my concept of observation draws upon the phenomenological tradition with special reference to Edmund Husserl and, principally, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. I address the concept of practice from a systemic perspective. I understand a practice as a systemic set of actions – aesthetic actions, in the case of aesthetic research practices – realized in specific media, that enable reiterative, although varied, performances that constitute the core of subject-matter specific methodologies understood as ‘ecologies of practices.’  In the project presented here, I combine practices in three media: ‘exploratory essay writing’ (in the media of language), video recording and re-framing (in the media of recorded moving images) and the practice of configuring a dispositive (in the media of the research catalogue). For a display, description and clarification of my practices, see: and

The project aims to make an original contribution to the discussions of China’s one child policy. It borrows from auto-theory, as discussed by Lauren Fournier, to explore the politics of positionality and performativity through one’s lived experience. Due to its intimate and sensitive nature, the creative part of this work was developed in parallel with ethically-aware methodologies guided by Jane Rendell, David Roberts and James O’Leary, and strongly encouraged by fourth wave feminist practitioners, such as Maggie Nelson, Carolyn Lazard, Chris Kraus, Johanna Hedva, amongst others.

The methodology allowed me to analyse the difference between the ‘imagined’ Station F described by political figures such as Anne Hidalgo and President Macron, overlayed with my own photographed site visit. The moments where the photographs and transcript align, allows for a new way to understand the site. Through this method, I hope to critique its inaccessibility and contradictory narrative of the ‘disruptive’ start up culture with its capitalist nature. Using film-making and podcasting as a form of situated practice brings into play the ‘distance’ between the site and the subject operating the camera and the voice recorder, making this an interesting lens for site-writing.

In my work, I explore an embodied, spatial architecture-writing, drawing from the work of Hélène Frichot and Naomi Stead, Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis, Emma Cheatle, and Jane Rendell. I am stimulated and inspired by the opportunities identified by Frichot ‘both within and alongside the discipline of architecture, both within and without buildings and places,’ at the intersection of the discourses on architecture, literature, film and photography. 

In terms of site-writing, our journal pays specific attention to the relationship of the reader to the writer and the materiality of text. For example, to read issue one of our journal requires a level of performativity on the part of the reader, as they are required to rotate the journal in their hands in order to engage with the content. You are spun out of place – spinning allows one to de-stabilise yourself from your particular space and arrive at new ways of thinking. ‘I was experimenting-experimenting with the camera in the room, with the mind, with the props and the actions. I was experimenting when something seemed to happen. Then I would repeat it, refine it. The refining usually meant heightening the experience. I was interested in spinning, and I would often spin in front of the camera. I got to a point where I could spin for 30–40 minutes. I would bang my outstretched hands against the wall, that helped me from getting disorientated and dizzy. The intuitive action that I kept returning to became an involvement. I still make actions and sculpture that relate to spinning … There’s this aspect of getting into something repetitive, going with that repetition to the point of discovery, and then sort of letting go in that space.’ Paul McCarthy, ‘Kristine Stiles in conversation with Paul McCarthy,’ Paul McCarthy, (Phaidon, 1996), p.8 and p.16.

This piece was written as part of the Critical Spatial Practice: Site-Writing module, and that mode of thinking and making became and continues to be instrumental to my writing practice. For me, it offered a playfulness to hold disparate strands of thought and observation in conversation. Considering the interconnectedness of my embodied experience and the histories and physicality of the spaces I live in has become a key focus to my writing. For me, homing in on language, here through etymology, became a mode to offer up these connections while still allowing space for their ambiguities.

Honor Vincent

While Rendell’s own practice focuses on developing the critic into a particular kind of art user, I take Mariza Daouti’s site-writing suggestion of the critic as social user – a user of historical codes and the imbalanced violence of city space. Adding fugitive thinking from Black Radical theory, a White or property-owning user of social space becomes very different from a Black or homeless user. I try to find the construction of violent social codes (gender, race, ability, etc.) in the architecture of city space and the architecture of subjectivity. 

Elliot C. Mason

Through works such as Between Our Words... I’ve been ‘inhabiting’ different manifestations of silence: phenomenal, institutional, textual and interpersonal, at different sites, in an attempt to uncover the relationships and the stories of repression and disavowal, which characterise those silences. As it has developed, my work has compelled me to question both what I mean when I talk about ‘site’ as well as my own subject-position in relation to the objects of my inquiry and I’m particularly interested in site writing's framing of the notion of ‘site’ to encompass ‘sites – material, political and conceptual – as well as those remembered, dreamed and imagined.’

Ed Hollis writes stories about buildings and interiors. There are two rules: the stories must read as if they were fiction; but the author must not, in fact, make anything up. The functioning of these stories is contained in their form, which is carefully designed act as the verbal analogue of the spaces they purport to describe: the stories of historic buildings which are passed from generation to generation are expressed as folk tales, similarly transmitted; those of interiors, such as the one presented here, as fleeting assemblages of little vignettes. The ultimate purpose of these little works is to do what drawings cannot: to set spaces into time, driving, and driven by human actions, and the traces it anticipates and forms around them.

Edward Hollis & Rita Alaoui

I work with writing as a critical spatial practice by making use of narrative life writing genres, and recommend the article ‘Narrative writing as art-based practice’ published in Synnyt/Origins: Finnish Studies in Art Education (3/2018) as an example of such a practice. The main question is: What are the potential possibilities of narrative life writing genres to contribute to shape creative and performative art-based practice for scholars across the arts, design and science? In my practice I explore epistemological questions about the author as creator and storyteller is useful as a catalyst for such practices. Inspired by auto/biography- and life writing, feminist theory and literary fiction, I promote the idea of artistic self-portraiture where the writers at work perform their writing selves in specific situated locations, power relations and inter/disciplinary contexts.

I understood the way I was writing when I first read Marguerite Duras. Before that, I had no reference points. I also discovered the language writers of North America: Nicole Brossard, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Lyn Hejinian, and others. I’m also a fan of Blanchot, Barthes, Derrida, and Jullien (and others). Writing spreads out, sites are endless. 

I do not differentiate clearly between practice and thought. A differential exists, but the exact moment of transition is as unknowable as the moment of coalescence into form: awareness here is retrospective. Boundaries have their uses, but they are ultimately restrictive, especially when elevated to principles. So writing may evolve into painting, film, and so forth. These factors define for me Jane Rendell’s understanding of “site-specificity” within site-writing, which isn’t a matter of inter/cross-disciplinarity, but a rather generously expansive mode of exploration that enables both freedom and structure, because it is its own site, yet it is interconnected.

Constantly questioning and developing my practice, the main focus of my research lies in the relationship between architecture and the lives of the people. Through personal engagement, conversations, and testimonies my work aims to disturb hierarchies; to challenge accepted ideologies, histories, and truths; and to question notions of what can be considered a source or an archive of architectural history. Operating at the intersection of architecture, anthropology, art, and politics A Non-Aligned Narrative in and Around KSEVT, developed my interest in non-alignment as a methodology as well as an ideology– where the former has become instrumental to my practice. This has allowed me to focus on the notion of non-alignment itself beyond its political and literal meaning – to explore its creative potential – and thus to co-create a new narrative surrounding the architectural object in question.

This play script, based upon a recalled memory of one night and one morning spent in a windowless hotel room, develops a site writing methodology to interrogate the universality and subjectivity of the room in relation to its temporary inhabitants. The three fragmented narratives of this memory converge to form a three act script, comprising stage directions and dialogue. In this scripted form, the narrative and the roles enclosed await occupation by the reader. Manifested physically and graphically across the scripts’ open pages, the reconstituted memory finds physical site here.

For me, ‘site-writing’ becomes a tool and an avenue for counteracting the suppressive narratives of pure objectivity and academic writing. By combining the ‘critical spatial practice’ tenet of asking both the reader and the author to question their relationship (physically, ethically, emotionally, and politically) to the subject of the writing, and Donna Haraway’s ‘heteroglossia’, one that imagines ‘a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the supersavers of the new right’, we can write well researched, factual, and comprehensive studies, but still force the reader to place themselves into the work, to confront the topic from the perspective of self, regardless of its universality. 

Max Olof Carlsson Wisotsky

As writers, artists and thinkers, our work is a palimpsest of those who have inspired us, as well as our subjecthood.  For one who journeys through a practice such as site-writing, it is near impossible for this approach to thinking not to bear huge influence over what comes after.  I, for example, am indebted.  Since site-writing, my work contains a more localised and ethical approach to histories of architecture, and those who inhabit architecture’s tangible and intangible spaces.  Further, site-writing has expanded my definition of what the history of architecture means and what architecture can be; from the micro of buildings, up to the scale of the urban; now from policy, systems and discursive encounters, to people, communities, habits and more.

Maria McLintock

By constructing a spatial response as a sonic environment which lives in digital space, site-writing becomes an open-ended dialogue that enables the simultaneity of the intersecting meanings stemming from the account of the dispersed cultural object and the utterances of the ‘displaced’ people, to create a space of unity and co-existence.

My writing and research practice is often situated around texts and documents that establish, construct and create spaces, laws, materialities and identities. Writing from these documents and the sites that they create through site-writing makes it possible to shake them, turn them upside down, unsettle them and see them in a different context in the interweaving of experiences, poetics, and theory. Site-writing not only situates a site but also the writer herself, making evident the importance of questioning what sites, voices and stories we choose to engage with and in what ways we decide to do so. 

My work is always navigating between things; in between the disciplines of architecture and archaeology and anthropology and the undisciplined, between the representational strata within archaeology itself and here, in Metropolitan Salem, through disciplinary and cartographic layering. Here critical spatial practice provides a set of tools for making work within the ‘spaces of writing itself’ (Rendell 2011:162) between the strata of the ‘visual and the verbal’ (Cheatle and Mejía Moreno 2015); providing a palimpsestuous (Dillon 2007) space between.

My work is rooted in site-specific approaches to performance making. During the 1980s and 1990s, I gained an appreciation of potential relationships between performance and architecture through collaborating with Clifford McLucas; and between performance and archaeology through contact with Michael Shanks. In 2000, I created Bubbling Tom – a guided tour of the landscape I knew at the age of seven – and this lead to contact with cultural geographers. Performance has no mission to explain or enact the perceptions of other disciplines, but it can create both information and emotion rich expositions that reveal the qualities of places and their inhabitants.

Collaboration is a key methodology for me. I often quote my favourite teacher, Professor Jane Rendell who said: ‘I discover parts of myself in my encounters with others’ - Jane Rendell, ‘Travelling the Distance/Encountering the Other’, David Blamey (ed.) Here, There, Elsewhere: Dialogues on Location and Mobility, (London: Open Editions, 2002) pp. 43-54, pp. 53-54. My other favourite comment on collaboration is by the American artist Mark Dion who said:  One great thing about collaboration is that it’s like taking a vacation from yourself, if you’re honest about it. I have a way of doing things and other artists have their way of doing things, and I learn a lot from that. Sometimes methods are very contradictory and it has to be their way or my way. It can be a struggle, things turn out differently. If I design a collaboration and it comes out exactly the way I thought, then it wasn’t a productive collaboration. If it looks nothing like how I imagined it would look, then it is really successful. The best test for me, personally, is how much the idea evolves with the influence of another person. My collaborators have always been strong personalities with definite positions, and so, while it is always rewarding, it is not always easy. Some collaborations are also simply good excuses to travel and spend productive time with friends. We enjoy working together even if it is a challenge.  Mark Dion in conversation with Zina Davis and Chris Horton, Collaborations: Mark Dion (Hartford CT: Joseloff Gallery, Hartford Art School, 2003) pp. 3-4. Over a number of years I have regularly contributed  to Professor Jane Rendell’s MA Situated Practices Module: Critical Spatial Practice: Site-Writing delivering lectures and leading workshops and seminars. It has always been a real privilege to work with Jane and her colleague, Dr Polly Gould and a wonderful experience to spend time at the Bartlett School of Architecture. The students are very intelligent, receptive, generous, international and highly motivated. It has been a real pleasure to work with them.

Mafia is a sensitive subject to deal with in Sicily. The spatial qualities of writing have been a strong tool to mediate the difficulty and danger of raising any critique of it in public. The critical choice of the intervention site remarked the personal value of the house among the family members, while the metaphorical usage of the balcony helped the public to reconnect their personal memories with the community.  The phenomenon of the mafia draws its strength from the 'code of silence'. For this reason the public reflection activated by this practice can be considered already a small but significant step forward.

The insertion of new text into the Prism’s original shape works as a form of temporal montage that creates a sense of disruption. As Jane Rendell says in Art and Architecture (1), the type of operation that puts together ‘what has been and the now’ allows the creation of a space in between past and present, where the repressed historical aspects of objects and sites can emerge.   (1) Jane Rendell, Art and Architecture, A Place Between (I.B Tauris. 2006).

My practice is based on contesting existing perspectives on the relationship between Capital and academia, and curating modes of dissemination to create an outreach to the relevant audience. This is done through a close engagement with non-canonical accounts of history that present an alternate perspective and positions and thereby render the times with multiplicity. The transmedia works attempt to create a mode of scholarship which is art and create art that is a mode of scholarship. 

Through my practice I care about the deep connections and relations that surround us. Learning with practices of site-writing, and growing from my own position, I enjoy writing, observing, and listening to the relations in and between our spaces, bodies and languages, stepping out to find connections and relate with others.

Jane Rendell’s site-writing module offered a valuable opportunity to conduct my research in collaboration with tutors and students who recognize the complexity of arts and humanities research which functions beyond conventional disciplinary boundaries and scholarship. I developed a ‘palimpsestuous’ method, which combines an interdisciplinary and creative practice-based approach to writing about architecture and archives. Site-writing engages with the limits of criticism and the situated presence of the critic. It is important for me to continue working within this space, which is somewhat at odds both with distinctions between traditional scholarship and practice-based research, and disciplinary edges. 

What to tell of the site and how to narrate this are the biggest challenges in site-writing. Each step, word, and even process in this project must be related to the site, a delicate and careful approach that binds the whole idea of site-writing. For me, site-writing provides an opportunity for grasping spatial experience: producing an artwork that can embody the true meaning of interiority.

Elita Nuraeny

Site-writing allowed me to write for real – that is, write in a way that attempted to encounter the world, which is still very much an ongoing and everyday attempt. While my practice has remained textual, for the most part, the objects and modes of relation it tries to bring into correspondence are anything but. In trying to fashion a frame through which materials may appear to speak for themselves or others, site-writing has provided an invaluable grammar for doing so in a way that registers the ethical stakes of those encounters, and (hopefully) makes something of them.

(adapted from the exhibition text I wrote for ‘Gutter’)

Joanne’s work celebrates the ‘in-between’ qualities of the site-writing module as an interdisciplinary critical spatial practice by reflecting on her own northern, working class heritage to translate and democratise architectural and social histories that are often marginalised. Whether in-between the public and the domestic, class racial, and gender binaries, to be in this space is to be out of place and not quite belong.  In this moment of increased polarization, the in-between is a place that holds optimism and promise. It is from here that we can understand multiple points of view, making it an important space from which to mediate, form new connections and build empathy.  

For me, site-writing blew open the bounds of disciplinary practice, allowing me to delve into the site of writing itself as an intensely rich and inherently productive space from which narratives can unfold. My practice now seeks to remain resiliently indeterminate, slipping between architectural criticism, prose and poetry in an attempt to evade categorisation.

My work has evolved a critical-creative form of history/theory writing in architecture. It responds to the critical thinking of feminist, philosophical, psychoanalytic and social researchers such as Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixous, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Jane Rendell, Walter Benjamin, Rosi Braidotti, Kath Shonfield and Michel de Certeau, the art writing of Meike Bal and more recently the creative ethnographic research of Trinh T. Minh-ha. The critical is positioned in dialogue with creative and fictional pieces which establish the often lost or silent voices of women protagonists into histories of architecture – these draw on the literary writing of Virginia Woolf, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Maggie Nelson, and on the architectural drawing and art practices of Jennifer Bloomer, Diller and Scofidio, Sophie Calle, and Sharon Kivland.

To attempt a landscape history of this Indian Ocean island requires the layering of three analytic strata – the geologic, the historical, and the biographical, each with their preferred timescales. As such, the historiography of the site emerges not only in spatial terms, but also as a particular chronology: a series of events located at the intersection of disparate timelines. 

I am interested in fiction, writing that insists on a text’s affective charge, and the role of personal memory in experiencing architectural and urban sites. I am increasingly drawn to experimenting with ways of subsuming theoretical and historical material within literary fiction.

This project has evolved into a form of transcoding that explores the spatiality of a given piece of writing by revealing its underlying infrastructure of punctuation. By practicing a close reading of a text’s infrastructure, systems of signs are revealed which allow additional interpretations beyond common reading methods. All this leads to a method of partially deleting, yet adding, literary meaning to selected literature. In other words, by exploring the spatial quality of chosen textual ingredients, transcoding opens up unexpected layers of interpretation.

Exploiting the author’s material and tools, the aim of this site-writing project is to explore the potentiality of the critical act not in writing about the object, but in writing as the object.  I conducted close readings of this specific book in order to apprehend it. This engagement allowed me to go as far as to utilize it to the extreme – interfere with its materiality and reconfigure its fragments. Criticism as a process suggests to me an interaction with the artwork that allows a reformation of the criteria of criticism, rearticulating the critic’s position. The Arrival’s Reader manifests the experience of critical reading, as an invested activity, and criticism itself as a form of practice.

Collaboration is a key methodology for me. I often quote my favourite teacher, Professor Jane Rendell who said: ‘I discover parts of myself in my encounters with others’ - Jane Rendell, ‘Travelling the Distance/Encountering the Other’, David Blamey (ed.) Here, There, Elsewhere: Dialogues on Location and Mobility, (London: Open Editions, 2002) pp. 43-54, pp. 53-54. My other favourite comment on collaboration is by the American artist Mark Dion who said:  One great thing about collaboration is that it’s like taking a vacation from yourself, if you’re honest about it. I have a way of doing things and other artists have their way of doing things, and I learn a lot from that. Sometimes methods are very contradictory and it has to be their way or my way. It can be a struggle, things turn out differently. If I design a collaboration and it comes out exactly the way I thought, then it wasn’t a productive collaboration. If it looks nothing like how I imagined it would look, then it is really successful. The best test for me, personally, is how much the idea evolves with the influence of another person. My collaborators have always been strong personalities with definite positions, and so, while it is always rewarding, it is not always easy. Some collaborations are also simply good excuses to travel and spend productive time with friends. We enjoy working together even if it is a challenge.  Mark Dion in conversation with Zina Davis and Chris Horton, Collaborations: Mark Dion (Hartford CT: Joseloff Gallery, Hartford Art School, 2003) pp. 3-4. Over a number of years I have regularly contributed  to Professor Jane Rendell’s MA Situated Practices Module: Critical Spatial Practice: Site-Writing delivering lectures and leading workshops and seminars. It has always been a real privilege to work with Jane and her colleague, Dr Polly Gould and a wonderful experience to spend time at the Bartlett School of Architecture. The students are very intelligent, receptive, generous, international and highly motivated. It has been a real pleasure to work with them.

Through artistic, research and teaching practice, I seek to explore spaces of resistance – the spaces of the page (font, format), subject (positionality, voice), writing (situated intervention), communities (situated knowledges), university (decolonized curriculum), and art in relation to the social, historical, material and formal qualities of a site – and how they contribute to a broader political challenge to the neoliberalisation of space. These are some of the ways in which I have been thinking with and through ‘critical spatial practice’ and ‘site-writing’. Jane’s ideas have continued to ripple out into the world in the form of reading lists and site-visits with the students I have been fortunate enough to meet and teach. 

The Death of the Chemist: Installation (2016) springs from a longstanding interest in Jane Rendell`s method of site-writing and her definition of critical spatial practice.   She considers the critical practices in spatial, temporal and social ways, which I build upon as I engage with the architectural history of the building in question. I consider the story about the chemist`s death in a spatial way, where finding the exact location of the accident is of importance. For Rendell ‘writing a site’ can ‘challenge criticism as a static point of view, located in the here and now.’  In my work, the difficulties I face when encountering archival material and building, as I attempt to find the exact location of the accident, is emphasised in other to questions the positionality of the historian. The spaces where encounters with works take place, and the way we talk about them, are of critical potential to Rendell, as she argues how the ‘critic encounters with the work influences the process of criticism.’ Our movement through the building, captured by audio and reintroduced into the building, depicts a historian who faces uncertainty. The project spans from 2 February 1926 to 23 May 1926, and again 2 February 2016 and 23-26 May 2016, accentuating the temporalities at play in history: the way I follow and come after Norberg-Schulz, or the way he never met his father, who died month before he was born. 

Beyond the specific work in question, I have specifically explored the critical and spatial potential of the essay form in film and writing through a focus on the key terms framing, mobility and self-reflection, in my genre invention the fenestral essay film. 


1. Jane Rendell, ‘A Place Between Art, Architecture and Critical Theory’, Proceedings to Place and Location (Tallinn, Estonia, 2003) 221-33; Jane Rendell, Site-Writing: the architecture of art criticism (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010) 193.

2. Jane Rendell, Art and Architecture: a place between (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006). 192.

3. Rendell, Site-Writing, 18. 

4. Rendell, Site-Writing, 12. 

5. Anna Ulrikke Andersen, ‘Ten Windows Following Christian Norberg-Schulz: framing, mobility and self-reflection explored through the fenestral essay film’, PhD Thesis in Architectural Design, the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, 2018. 

I tried to tackle one of the concepts that we frequently discussed during our site-writing classes: subjectivity. I realized through this project, that the concept of subjectivity manifested itself in the physical qualities of the spaces, cultural gestures and language (of the interviewees) as well as in my position as the researcher and finally the gaze of the viewer. This work explored the articulation of a site that ‘revealed’ itself through site visits. During and after these visits, I had to bodily engage with and develop a response towards the site, which was essentially how I understood site-writing.

Key to the work of Photolanguage is the construction of a particular relationship between the ‘real’ and the ‘represented’ at the intersection of the photographic image and text. Our projects draw insight from the reflective nature of site-writing’s engagement and re-presentation of site as a contested space of desire and identity.  Often working in the context of regional histories of architecture and land use, we seek to bring to the surface suppressed narratives of identity, to revaluate the outmoded, to construct new meaning from the overlooked in a way that questions established hierarchies and encourages a productive suspension of the borders between fact and fiction, evidence and associative fantasy.

We write from our home on stolen land in lutruwita/ Tasmania and from all the other places we find ourselves compelled to go. We have a name for this process of conscious roaming. We call it fictiōneering. From fictiō to make-with (rather than its contemporary iteration, to make-up). In this process of speculative eventing, we use language and experience to construct new events – encounters with assemblages of real people and places; theoretical and conceptual ideas; objects, images and words. We fictiōneer – bringing to an eventful resolution the creative potential of these assemblages through writing. 

The work is an attempt to practice not only storytelling and storyshowing, but also storyperforming. It challenges the ways in which some certain sites, memories, and meanings could be manifested into spatial object and thus enabled them to be disseminated to wider audiences. 

I had long been interested in making writing that related to and with other practices in a non-hierarchical relation, so that the one is not interpretive and the other interpreted, but both are considered as parallel practices. I wanted to work with Jane as my PhD supervisor as I admired the way that site-writing engaged with the situated and embodied presence of the critic, and their relation to the site and the text. In my writing I have adopted a spatial manoeuvre of Entstelling or distortion from Freud’s dream analysis, along with the chiastic literary pattern to write about archives of Antarctic exploration.

As a European architect practicing within the ‘development’ environments of Sub-Saharan Africa I struggle to find a neutral-objective voice. Development is fraught with civilizing pathologies of colonialism that are obscured by neo-liberal discourses of humanitarianism and prosperity. Through critical spatial practices, my work has been able to find a distance between my traditional role as designer of buildings in these contexts and this voice, but within close proximity to understand the relations between ‘development’ built environments and colonial histories, discourses and sites of exploitation.

My work has adopted site-writing practices that focus on the encounter between the work and the researcher; specifically, as Jane Rendell suggests, employing ideas of how one might write with the work or to the work. I have borrowed this site-writing technique to explore multiple sites (‘works’) such as sites of listening, reading, architectural sites and the site of my own body. This has been developed to encompass spatial practices such as hair cutting and transgender transitioning. The performative aspects of site-writing have been particularly influential, asking how the text itself can enact aspects of the spaces, places and locations being researched.

The work presented here, whilst engaging with a painted picture and the writing that appears within it, also takes the painting and its reworking as a site for critical reflection and argumentation through writing, linking the notion of site-writing to an artistic practice beyond the above-quoted ‘word-image opposition’.

Emma Cocker’s practice is shaped by an interdisciplinary, hybridised approach, operating restlessly along the threshold of writing/art, including experimental, performative and collaborative approaches to producing ‘texts’ parallel to and as artistic practice. She asks: How do we read / write / converse as artistic researchers? Against utility, against informational acquisition: what other critical-poetic practices might we cultivate; what different kinds of sense making become generated therein? How does the ‘how’ of reading / writing / conversing – the very act, event or process itself – organise us and shape our understandings? How might we reorganise ourselves differently through reading / writing / conversing conceived as aesthetic practices?

Emma Cocker & Clare Thornton

Designing Architecture as a Performing-Ground was influenced both by the notion of writing as an object within site-writing, and the relationship between this textual object and the reader/writer generating new ways of knowing. Within the work, the text manifests as a set of complementary and contrasting ‘voices'. The design of the page itself permits for spatial relationships within the text to be visualised and experienced by the reader. 

The practice of site-writing is also expanded within the work. Combined with the structure of aleatory performance, site-writing is used to act as a generative design tool for architects to reflect upon and overcome ethical design quandaries. 

In Urban Literacy. Reading and Writing Architecture (2014), I developed three ‘scriptive’ approaches to architecture – Description, Transcription and Prescription.   ‘Description’ refers to the capacity of the literary writer to evocatively describe. Poetic writing is the tool I use to reveal the site-specific atmosphere and sensory perception of places.  ‘Transcription’ focuses on the investigation of the interactive relationship between author and reader, and consequently, between architect and user. As a mode of writing, scenes of daily narratives highlight the connection between architectural spaces and the spatial practices of their use.  'Prescription’ deals with the field of tension between reality and imagination, as indeed architects and planners are involved with the making of a not yet existing situation. Especially surrealist and magic realistic literary modes of writing come to the fore as approaches merging reality and imagination.

Since my early studies in architecture I have held in consideration the problem of criticism and the question of its agency, depending on its methods of production and distribution. Facing the broad range of methods, instruments and channels to share ideas in architecture, academic writing has seemed to me as limited, both in terms of its proper language and in terms of audience. Challenging – but also activating – the academic context of the module, the concept of site-writing helped me to rethink criticism by establishing more links between theories and publishing practices, in particular by defining the concept of ‘critical editorial devices’ as methods to create critical contents other than the typical essay, in a close relation between ideas, design, support and audience.

I’m interested in the performance of fieldwork in the sense of exposing myself to phenomena and contexts that challenge my habitual modes of thinking. My writing is underpinned by a strong element of affect; affect as in being jarred to think and feel, generating creative energy. I resist any hierarchies or distinctions between empirical work, practice and theory, since a phenomenological experience is always (already) framed by preconceptions, norms, language, feelings and ideas. I also confront the distinction between diachronic (over time) and synchronic (in time) approaches when investigating the built environment, since any material culture (like architecture) carries links – directly or obliquely – to what once was and was intended to be that continue to exert an influence on the present. I find the notion of method (from Greek: “the way”) especially interesting in being key for scientific knowledge production while remaining fundamentally ambiguous. Method holds the potential of escaping the confinements of subjectivity but is equally undermining notions of objectivity in being situated, contiguous and “messy”. In this essay, the question of method is intentionally queried since I’m being “set off track”. The criticality of this mode of writing is both directed towards allegedly neutral forms of academic representation, and freer and more “creative” modes of expression that ignore the depth of existing knowledge and the multiplicity of voices. Hence sources, references and footnotes are of crucial importance for what I call “transversal writing”. 

My work explores the idea that certain forms of play can also be critical.  Drawing from the concept of critical spatial practice I have coined the term critical play, which I understand as a relational situated process that is both highly engaging while allowing the distance for self-reflexive criticality. I see in the practice of critical play a useful methodology for dealing with contexts of social and urban conflict, or as a tool for enhancing our perception and relation with the built environment. 

Catalina Pollak Williamson / Public Interventions

Since hearing Jane Rendell give a talk about her writing practice when I was a postgraduate student, I have boldly adopted her method of site-writing whenever I can as a way of experimenting with writing (as opposed to writing ‘about’) my own and other’s work, as well as found objects and places that have been particularly inspiring to me. Whatever I call my writing now (sometimes creative-critical, sometimes commemorative), it stems from the seed of the idea that Rendell planted all that time ago: that to respond in writing can be to produce an artwork in its own right.

My practice draws upon Jane Rendell’s concept of site-writing to address human relations with other-than-human worlds. Site-writing’s emphasis on situatedness and embodiment offers a multifaceted framework through which to observe and note how different species occupy, use and produce space. Site-writing’s reflexivity allows me to speculate on the potentials, limits and performativities of writing, including inscriptions produced by other-than-human agents, as well as my own performative writing experiments.


Tideline captures multiple stories and experiences of an undervalued space in east London. Using the Japanese poetry form, Renga, I wrote texts based on stories I was told, creating four multivocal, co-authored poems, which were installed along routes from Lower Belvedere to the Thames. The work looks to represent the rich history and personal stories no longer evident in the physical landscape, inserting text into the environment which invites the reader to imagine and understand different experiences of the space and to move through it in a quiet, reflective, attentive manner.

In my current research I ask questions about what constitutes evidence in my own artistic-historiographical practice. The notion of site as produced by site-writing: made complex by taking in the “remembered, the dreamed and the imagined, as well as observations of the ‘real’” (Rendell, 2011) provokes questions for architectural history about what stories might figure in historical narrative; where these might arise from and what voice or voices are situated in the telling. The thinking introduced by questions of situatedness in site-writing, for me, offers a productive place from which to challenge the totalising voice of the historian.

David Roberts collaborates with community groups to re-enact and reactivate emancipatory spaces and ideals, drawing on critical acts of writing and performance as a mode of design, as a method of engagement, and a means of activism. On site, he gathers residents around their radical social, political and architectural histories to open a social, discursive and imaginative space from which to build collective knowledge and experiences and share this publicly through artworks, interventions and campaigns. This critical spatial practice brings site writing in dialogue with dramaturgy and devising to raise questions and amplify voices.

David Roberts

For some time, and more present in my recent work, I have adopted a mode of working which I frame as ‘working differently,’ and that draws upon Luce Irigaray’s, Hélène Cixous, and Rosi Braidotti’s ‘difference,’ Taking Place’s practising ‘differently,’ and Griselda Pollock’s ‘differencing.’ It is a working method that aims towards making visible power structures and normalised constructs, in order to raise awareness of their existence, their role in architecture and architectural culture more broadly speaking, but also of their partial nature. Doing it ‘differently’ is therefore a means to interrupt and disrupt them, to destabilise their normalisation, and to relate the ‘doing’ to the subjectivity of the tutor/student/researcher/artist through site-specific practices that can be material, performative, written etc.

Writing for me has been a way into developing a critical spatial practice (Jane Rendell) around ageing – a practice that situates itself both on and off the written page. I started out using writing as a tool for collaborative documentary-making (mapping out the infra-ordinary geographies of growing old). This has since turned into a generative tool (briefs for acted-out interventions), as a tactical device (that experiments with the boundaries of mainstream public policy and marginal forms of spatial practice), as a gently disruptive tool (that destabilizes the received language and vocabulary around ageing). Borrowing from and parodying different forms of writing across fiction, art and public policy writing becomes a way of drawing in diverse and varied readerships with the intention of creating a public space of communication and critical reflection around ageing. 

Back to Top