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Users and creativity: actions of architecture: architects and creative users.


By Jonathan Hill, London: Routledge, 2003, [pounds sterling]25

The creativity of the user is typically overlooked in the production of architecture. In an effort to redress the balance, Hill takes as his starting point the assertion that 'architecture is made by use and design'. The term 'user' is taken in its widest sense, essentially meaning everyone that may come into contact with a building. Similarly, the creative act may range from a shift in the perception of a space, to physical interaction, to material transformation of a structure. Central to the argument is a reading of Roland Barthes' The Death of the Author, in which he argued for a writer aware of the reader's creativity.

The book is split into two sections which, broadly speaking, divide the theory from the practice. 'The Role of the User' introduces the passive, reactive, and creative user, and carefully outlines the ways in which architectural production can place increased emphasis on user creativity. These means to inspiring appropriation include designing in flexibility, and the pursuit of uselessness and disjunction, these last two drawing on Tschumi's work. The second section 'Montage After Shock' draws heavily on the writings of Walter Benjamin, which advocate montage as a means to the dissolution of the autonomy of art, and its projection of bourgeois values.

However, in contrast to Benjamin's focus on the shock value of montage, Hill emphasizes the montage of fragments, which can encourage interpretation, revision and appropriation. Three of six case studies demonstrate Hill's ideas in built form, including Diller and Scofidio's Swiss Expo Blur Building, Hecker and Segal's Tel Aviv Palmach Centre, and Holl and Acconci's Storefront for the New York Art and Architecture gallery. The other three projects--two intriguing proposals by Hill, and Electromagnetic Weather by Dunne + Raby--focus on the manifestation of phenomena not normally recognized in design, but arguably with the ability to inspire creativity in the user. A book as important for its theoretical grounding as for its relevance to the future of the profession.
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Title Annotation:Reviews
Author:Open, Bobby
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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