The illusion of permanence
Subject: Living environments in an economy of change
Society is marked by ever-changing and wide-ranging needs, circumstances and conditions. Yet, when it comes to the question of dwelling, the same patterns are applied over and again, or at least so it seems. Not only social and cultural conventions but also architecture itself has tried to avert continuous change by resiliently wanting to create order. Niklas Luhman’s system theory, however, teaches us that the stability of a system can only be achieved if the system itself prepares for continuous and on-going change. What does this mean for the built environment?
Restructuring and emerging practices such as self-organisation, participation and empowerment are creating whole new urban dynamics that come to value the spontaneous versus the planned order. These new lifestyles are shifting the operating frameworks of architecture from order, stability and durability to relentless motion and the temporary. As exchange and journey come to dominate as the most essential tools in the creation of the self, the ways of inhabiting the world consequently change. Nomadic ways of freedom and self-realisation come to light, pursuing experience over possession, seeing situations, dwelling included, as contingent. Their only inflicted limit is the un-flexible built environment in its current state.
This contingency can only be accommodated through shifting frameworks in architecture, whose vision for change and transformation will no longer stand in the way of a nomadic life, but will enhance its experience within it. It is not as much the shelter, security and hub factor that will be looked after, but the transformable, ephemeral character that will facilitate the move and hence the realisation of the self.