Markus Miessen

(b.1978) is an architect, researcher, critic, and writer teaching at the Architectural Association, London. He is the editor of Did Someone Say Participate? An Atlas of Spatial Practice (MIT Press/Revolver 2006, with Basar), author of Spaces of Uncertainty (Müller+Busmann, 2002, with Cupers) and currently acts as a spatial consultant to the European Kunsthalle, Cologne. Markus Miessen frequently contributes to international journals such as Contemporary, Domus, Tank and Bidoun and is editor for international projects at Build, a German architecture and urbanism periodical. He studied at Glasgow School of Art, graduated from The Architectural Association, did post-graduate research at The London Consortium and is currently a Doctoral candidate investigating conflict and non-consensus based forms of participation as a form of alternative spatial practice at the newly set up Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University of London.


The violence of participation

Spatial practices beyond models of consensus

In view of increasingly fragmented identities, we need to find a form of co-existence that makes it possible for conflict to work as a productive confrontation: “a model for unconventional participation that allows outsiders to judge existing debates without the fear of rejection.” Markus Miessen on the necessity to break with the “consensus machine”.

Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (1997) marked the end of the modernist ideal of the architect as master, writes Markus Miessen. New practitioners are acting, networking, and shifting interests in a way unburdened by twentieth-century tradition; they have rediscovered a localism based on the belief that certain problems need tailor-made solutions rather than philosophical meta-agendas.

Made in Washington

Spatial practices as a blueprint for human rights violations

The US Supreme Court’s ruling that the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay violate both American military law and the Geneva Conventions confirms what international human rights campaigners have been arguing for years. Some of the severest criticism has been directed at the spatial conditions in the camp – spaces that might be too hot, too cold, or too small induce in prisoners severe depression, anxiety, hallucinations, and loss of motor skills. Markus Miessen describes the increasing tendency for governments to create a legal “meta-level” where spatial and physical humiliation becomes everyday practice.

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