Urban Literacy (2013/2014/2016)
  • Klaske Havik | Writingplace

  • Writingplace book (2016) Writingplace journal, issue 2 Urban Literacy
  • Urban Literacy (2013/2014/2016)
  • Klaske Havik | Writingplace
  • between land and water 

    between dancing and falling 

    between dream and thought 

    between now and later and then


on ever these same edges 

    we build and write

    because the lines

    own us as we own them

    Literary Writing as a Mode of Architectural Investigation 

    In my work, I aim to address crucial architectural themes related to the experience, use and imagination of places. To find appropriate methods to address these issues, I turned to literature. In Urban Literacy: Reading and Writing Architecture (2014), I proposed a literary approach to architectural and urban questions.

    The traditional tools of architects, often foregrounding rational and formal modes of thinking, fail to address the fundamental ambiguities of architecture, such as the seemingly opposite notions as subject-object, author-reader and reality-imagination; fields of tension which relate to the question how architecture is experienced, used and imagined. By developing a literary way of writing as a mode of architectural investigation, such ambiguities can be addressed. Literary writing deals almost by definition with subjective experience and may give objects identity; it experiments with the interactivity between the writer who initiates a story and the reader who co-produces it; it balances between a given reality and the imagination of other possible situations. 

    For this website I present three examples of how I have used my own literary writing for architectural investigations. The three modes of writing are closely related to the three ‘scriptive’ approaches to architecture I developed in Urban Literacy: Description, Transcription and Prescription. 


    Klaske Havik holds the chair of Methods & Analysis  at Delft University of Technology. She has developed a distinct research approach relating the experience and use of architecture and urban space to literary language. Her book Urban Literacy. Reading and Writing Architecture (Rotterdam, nai010 2014), based upon her PhD, developed a literary approach to architecture and urban space. 

    Klaske initiated the platfom Writingplace and organised the 2nd conference on architecture and fiction: Writingplace. Literary Methods in Architectural Research and Design (2013), which resulted in the book Writingplace. Investigations in Architecture and Literature (Rotterdam, nai010 2016). The Writingplace journal for Architecture & Literature was launched recently.

    As editor of the Dutch-Belgian peer reviewed architecture journal OASE, she edited, among other issues, OASE#91 Building Atmosphere (2013), OASE#85, Productive Uncertainty, (2011) and OASE 70 Architecture and Literature. 

    Havik’s literary work has appeared in Dutch poetry collections and literary magazines.

    Other publications include Architectural Positions: Architecture, Modernity and the Public Sphere (with Tom Avermaete and Hans Teerds, SUN 2009), ‘How Places Speak’, in Sioli and Yoonchun (ed), Reading Architecture, Literary Imagination and Architectural Experience, (London: Routledge, 2018) and ‘Writing Atmospheres’ in Charley (ed) Research Companion to Architecture, Literature and the City (London: Routledge, 2018). 

    For her contribution to the architectural debate, she received the Dutch Architect of the Year Award in 2014. Currently, Havik is Research Leader of the Department of Architecture at TU Delft and Action Chair of the Eu Cost network “Writing Urban Places”.


    Writingplace Journal for Architecture&Literature
    COST Action Writing Urban Places
    TU Delft Methods&Analysis website
    OASE Journal for Architecture


    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.

    Architectural experience, Urban literacy, Atmosphere, Architectural imagination, Poetic writing, Writingplace


    Alvar Aalto / Finnish architecture and design
    The work of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, for its combination of international modern architecture and local sensitivity. Also less known Finnish architects are of interest, such as Pietelä (expressive, unconventional public buildings) and Juha Leiviskä (strong rhythmic quality and play of light, see also my description in OASE#91). Finnish architect and theorist Juhani Pallasmaa has been a mentor of my work, he was one of the supervisors of my PhD, and we worked together on several occasions. I studied in Finland in 1998 and since remained a frequent visitor. In 2015-17, I was visiting professor of architectural design at the University of Tampere.

    Literature: magic realism
    I find great inspiration in literary descriptions of places, especially in magic realistic literature in which facts and fiction merge. For instance, the work of Gabriel Garçía Márquez depicting life in cities and villages in Colombia, Hubert Lampo’s descriptions of Belgian urban areas, or the recent novel Malva by Dutch writer Hagar Peeters about the physically and mentally impaired, disowned daughter of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

    Poetic landscapes.
    Poetic impressions of landscapes in poetry and painting. For instance the thin Dutch horizons in the work of painter Jan Mankes; the South American, Spanish and Dutch landscapes in the poems of Fleur Bourgonje; the meadows of Groningen in the work of poet Rutger Kopland.


    Plecnik’s Story, describing Ljubljana through the eyes of Plecnik (2014, epilogue of Urban Literacy) is a text includes all three ‘scriptive’ approaches – Description, Transcription and Prescription.

    My literary analysis of some works of Aalto and Salmona:

    Some poetic sitewritings, which relate to Description, are posted on Writingplace

    A series of poems on the Ciudad Abierta terrein of the School of Architecture in Valparaiso, Chile

    Site-poem – Amsterdam harbor

    A series of poems and photographs on Scotland related to the works of sculptor Andy Scott.

    (Book covers: Urban Literacy, Writingplace, OASE #70 Architecture& Literature)

    Other projects
  • Signal/Noise: Ambient Text in the Urban Landscape (ongoing project)
  • Site Stories: explorations of urban spaces through drawing and animation (25–29 April 2022)
  • Rainbow Palace, Bergen, Norway (March 2022)
  •  Acanthus, (March 2022)
  • Unter der Hohen Brücke. 
digging in a ditch, writing for a place 
  • ‘Reading-writing alongside HALL08,’ HALL08 (2021)
  • Nothingness Beyond Blossom (2021)
  • Angelo Ciccaglione, ‘The back of the dust-machine, where the visitors pour the dust in,’ Rotterdam (2021)
    The Deposition of Dust (July 2021)
  • Skye Edge (April 2021)
  • Corvid-19 (15 March 2021)
  • 1_5
    Glòries_(Eixample). A dispositive for very slow aesthetic observation, (January 2021 –)
  • As Lightning to the Children Eased (January 2021)
  • Station F (October 2020)
  • It’s Just a Matter of Time (2020)
  • 1
    Inscription: the Journal of Material Text – Theory, Practice, History,
    issue # 1: ‘beginnings,’ (2020)
  • Homekeeping-image_sml
    Homekeeping (2020)
  • City Embers (2020)
  • Between Our Words I will Trace Your Presence (February 2020)
  • What Remains (2019)
  • Situated Writing as Theory and Method (2019)
  • Parts Apart Read Together (2019)
  • Fields of Awareness, (2019, 3min 18 secs)
  • A Non-Aligned Narrative in and Around KSEVT, (2019)
  • 21 Orientations: An Atlas of Geographic Promiscuity (2019)
  • The Windowless Hotel Room (2018)
  • Spaces of Grief (2018)
  • Soft Landing (2018)
  • Shared Remains (April 2018)
  • Poetic Water Boundaries: towards a possible borderless sea, (2018)
  • Metropolitan Salem, Liuerpul (9 June – 18 August 2018)
  • Things Come Apart (21 – 24 March 2018)
  • Learn to Read Differently (2018)
  • Il Balcone. A site-writing performance (2018)
  • History begins with the vanity of kings (2018)
  • Dear Mr. Jung: Inhabiting Carl Jung’s ‘The Red Book’ (May 2018)
  • A Lunar Perspective, (2018-2020)
  • Heaton Hall: A Palimpsest (2017)
  • Location (+) (2017)
  • There’s Sand in My Infinity Pool (2017)
  • Talking Quilts (April 2017)
  • fifteen ways to cross the desert (2017)
  • Between Landscape and Confinement: Situating the Writings of Mary Wollstonecraft (2017)
  • Agency at the threshold, (2017)
  • A Ficto-Historical Theory of the London Underground (2017)
  • The Glorious Tomb to the Memory of Nothing (2016)
  • The Arrival’s Reader; A Visual Literary Criticism on The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2016)
  • Reading as Art (27 August-19 November 2016)
  • Re: development (London: Silent Grid, 2016)
  • Kjemikerens død [The Death of the Chemist] (23 – 26 May 2016)
  • Kingsland High Street (2016)
  • Foray in a Modern Reserve: An Impounding Portrait of Landuse (2016 – 2018)
  • Fall of the Derwent (2016)
  • Away from Home – Home from Away (April 2016)
  • Penguin Pool (2015)
  • Geography Lessons: Liberian Landmarks 1953-2013 (2015)
  • Women’s Anarchist Nuisance Café (2014)
  • The Writing on the Wall (after Rembrandt) (2014)
  • The Italic I (2014)
  • Designing Architecture as a Performing-Ground (2014)
  • Urban Literacy (2013/2014/2016)
  • The Disappearance: Manfredo Tafuri’s The Sphere and the Labyrinth (April 2013)
  • Folded Ground: Escape from Cape Town (2013)
  • Phantom Railings (2012 – 2017)
  • In The Emptiness Between Them (2012)
  • 10/08/12 (multispecies event) (2012)
  • An Arcades Project (2011)
  • Tideline (2010-2012)
  • The Museum of Breath (2010)
  • Slab (2010)
  • One wound. Two wounds. The body as site for writing (2010)
  • The Fluid Pavement and Other Stories on Growing Old (2006)
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