The Architecture of Power

Location: Westminster, London
Type: Walking tour, Research Project
Client: Architecture Foundation
Collaborators: Merlin Fulcher, Sorcha Mcgarry-Hunt, Klaus Platzgummer
Duration: 2017-present
Status: Ongoing

We devised the Architecture of Power research project and walking tour in Westminster as part of the Architecture Foundations’ Tale of Three Cities series, created by Merlin Fulcher. The script was conceived in collaboration with Fulcher and academics Sorcha Mcgarry-Hunt and Klaus Platzgummer.

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On the walk, which connected the tripartite of Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Wesminster and Trafalgar Square, we discussed the ambiguity and complexity of land ownership and told the story of the uneasy contract of power that has evolved over time between monarchy, parliament, church, private sector and public.

We viewed Westminster as a gestalt, a sequence of constructions, destructions, inflections and duplicities: altogether a demonstration of Venturi’s complexity and contradiction and reading of architecture as media and symbolism, function and performance.

To help communicate this complexity we devised a series of two-sided playing cards with a specific location and an “ownership suit” on one side, and its location on the overall map on the other, creating a simple puzzle. Within the narrative of the walk we introduced metaphorical themes, specifically the vase metaphor and the parchment metaphor (or palimpsest), which relate to symbolism versus functionality (or dysfunctionality) and a way of interpreting the city as a perceptible layering of its history.