Reactivating the Social Condenser


In May 2015, with Dr Michal Murawski (SSEES, UCL), I co-organised a conference called,Reactivating the Social Condenser; Architecture against Privation. The conference was funded by the UCL Urban Laboratory, and the UCL Grand Challenge: Human Wellbeing, and co-convened with Dr Michal Murawski.

Speakers included: Nick Beech (Oxford Brookes/CCA) social condensations in 1960s London
- Jonathan Charley (Strathclyde) on radical architectural memories
- Udo Grashoff (SSEES, UCL) on ‘schwarzwohnen’ in East Germany
- Owen Hatherley (London) on ‘actually-existing’ social condensers
- Michael Marriott and Richard Wentworth (artists) on the ‘laundry room’
- Michal Murawski (SSEES, UCL) on Stalinist social condensers
- Andrea Phillips (Goldsmiths) on housing, art and activism
- Jane Rendell (The Bartlett, UCL) on the social condenser and the setting
- Lukasz Stanek (Manchester) on Lefebvre and the social condenser
- Andy Willimott (SSEES) on everyday life in Soviet house communes
- Victor Buchli (Anthropology, UCL).

We followed the conference, by co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Architecture, introducing the issue like this:

‘In the centenary year of the Russian revolution, this special issue is devoted to the idea of the ‘social condenser’ – the powerful architectural concept produced in Russia in response to the revolutionary events of 1917. The idea of the social condenser proposed deploying architecture as a way to forge radical new kinds of human collectivities – collectivities of cohabitation, of co-production, of intellectual work; as well as collectivities of affect, beauty, empathy, and passion. Suffused with vivid connotations pertaining to electricity, radiation and magnetism, the social condenser is a concept with an extraordinary, totalizing reach. In its very formulation, it encompasses society’s economic and material infrastructure, the humdrum minutiae of everyday life as well as the unruly domains of the transcendental and fantastical. Crucially, it also encompasses the entire domain of architectural endeavour: from dwelling and work to public space and everything in between’.


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